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Hip-hop at CSU bounces back with Vision Dance Expo

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Collegian | Daryn Whitmoyer
King Carlo and Brother Josh pose after receiving their reward for taking third place in a two-versus-two dance battle bracket during Vision Dance Expo March 30. The event included multiple workshops and performances as well as the battles.

Hip-hop is a way of life. 

Created in the 1970s, hip-hop started as an underground dance movement that permeated mainstream pop culture. It has come a long way from its start in the Bronx, New York; however, its roots are still intact, most prominently through dance battles.

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Dance battles started soon after Clive Campbell, often referred to by his stage name, DJ Kool Herc, began his gig as a hip-hop disc jockey, and they were used to blow off steam as much as they were to showcase a dancer’s skill.

“I think (this event) brings groups together more, especially Hip-Hop Club and KDCSU. This past semester, we’ve been working together a lot.” -Elle Robinson, KDCSU co-president 

“The origin of battles was a way to prevent gang violence,” Colorado State University Hip-Hop Dance Club officer Donovan del Rosario said. “Back in the early days of breakdancing, crews used to be gangs. So it was a way for people to settle beef without any violence.”

Though battles are still important, camaraderie is the only thing seen between dancers, wishing each other luck before every turn.

The all-style approach taken at Vision Dance Expo left the floor open to every kind of hip-hop. Dancers could use locking, popping, breaking, waacking, house and much more, making it difficult to assess the material presented. 

“For me, I judge on musicality and understanding how the movement fits with the music,” said Kevin O’Keefe, aka KO, battle judge for the event. “If you’re going to battle, it’s a learning lesson because you’ll lose more than you win. … And I think students need to know that battles should be about growth.”

Losing more than winning seems like an unattractive prospect, but for dancers all around Colorado who participated in Vision Dance Expo, it was an opportunity to improve.

The crowd of dancers included CSU students, dance crews from Fort Collins and beyond, dancers who had never participated in a battle before and young kids who were all invested in the performances in front of them.

“We push for anyone, no matter how much dance experience they have, to come and observe,” CSU Hip-Hop Dance Club Vice President Matt Bishop said. “See what it’s like. See what the hip-hop dance world is like. Even if you’re not participating, we encourage you to come watch.”

It starts with just showing up. Whether you have 20 years or two months of experience, battles are a place that accepts all who wish to dance.

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In that same vein, many other groups performed, including the Hip-Hop Dance Club, K-Pop Dance at CSU and Fort Collins Foco Flava.

“I think (this event) brings groups together more, especially Hip-Hop Club and KDCSU,” said Elle Robinson, KDCSU co-president. “This past semester, we’ve been working together a lot. I’m not going to lie — people don’t take K-pop covers very seriously, so we’re very new to it.”

The Fort Collins dance scene was underground for many years, blossoming in the 2000s, and the community took another hit because of the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to the Vision Dance Expo taking a two-year break.

After the two-year break, officers of the CSU Hip-Hop Dance Club took the initiative to revitalize the event.

“Hip-hop was never supposed to be here that long,” O’Keefe said. “It was a survival thing in New York (City) and everywhere else. … Being part of the Fort Collins scene in the ’90s, there weren’t organized breaking crews or companies. Back then, everyone was just living to go dance with their friends and socialize.”

And that spirit of living to dance isn’t lost on those who participated in the event.

“Part of the Hip-Hop Dance Club, in our mission statement, talks about community,” Bishop said. “That’s ultimately what the club is about, and this event is about community. To see all these performers here is really special, and (so is) the power that dance has to bring all these people together.”

Reach Liv Sewell at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @Liv_sewell22.

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