Arts / Young Canberra hip hoppers take on the world

Project Beats… off to Phoenix.

A LIVELY crew of young Canberrans have made it into the World Hip Hop Dance Championships in Phoenix, Arizona, where they’ll be representing Australia in the World Battles from August 5-11.

“CityNews” catches up with two motivated movers from the “Project One” crew, Ryan Telfer and Amanda Vanderkleij and their manager/choreographer/teacher Chip Lo, who directs a thriving hip hop business, Project Beats, in Civic.

Hip hop dancers Ryan Telfer and Amanda Vanderkleij.

Telfer and Vanderkleij are both 17-year-old, year 12 students. He heard about Project Beats through his best friend, now also a crew member, who found it online in 2014. Vanderkleij’s older sister took a casual class and told her about it.

They’re busy saving up and later this month will be on stage for a benefit show at Erindale Theatre to which they hope hundreds of fans will come.

It’s been a gruelling process. Project One first competed against other crews in Canberra, then at the nationals held in Brisbane during May, where it was chosen according to strict scoring rules, which tally up points for “breaking”, “popping”, “locking” and the more aggressive “krumping”.

In Phoenix there’ll be 4000 dancers from 50 countries in a truly international event where, as well as the main competition, there’ll be “Urban Moves” dance workshops presented by celebrated hip hop dancers and choreographers, and a lot of fun activities, too.

Lo describes “the right moves”, the tried-and-true styles of hip hop dance, but says he’s not averse to incorporating other styles such as the “down-down” dance of the 1980s.

He is quick to point out that the term “hip hop” spans not just dance but a number of different practices – MCing/rapping, DJing, breakdancing and graffiti art. But what Project One does is a sophisticated version of the urban street-dancing which he began years ago. Lo himself never danced in studios, but rather in car parks, later moving into competition. He was also part of the crew that performed at the 2012 World Hip Hop Dance Championships in Las Vegas.

“There are different opinions about what hip hop should be,” he explains.

“Some groups do urban street jazz but there are also heavier dance styles related to rap… people get confused by the labelling.”

At the Project Beats studio he aims to focus on dance, but says that many young people who come to him are troubled. “This place is an outlet, a community when you can be heard,” he says.

Dance director Chip Lo. Photo by Helen Musa

“Some people have had a rough period, but we’re not judgemental and we have lots of people with expertise here to help.”

Amanda agrees, saying: “There’s a family here, you can explain yourself no matter what you’re feeling… I come into the studio and immediately there’s a smile on my face.

“What we do definitely brings a lot of changes, we put positive energy into people, it doesn’t matter what your upbringing is.”

So will it be a lifelong commitment for Vanderkleij and Telfer? She intends to continue dancing, but says: “My main passion is dance but I do want to go to uni and maybe study journalism or psychology.”

Telfer is interested in video and editing as well as dance.

It all seems to support Lo’s theory that “dance is a metaphor for life…you can grow through dance.”

Project One Benefit Show, Erindale Theatre, Wanniassa, 2.30pm and 6:30pm, Saturday, June 23. Bookings to trybooking.com

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