Editor's note: Josh Kim is a member of The Collegian staff.
A well-known form of dance for decades, hip-hop is constantly being reinvented and reinterpreted by different groups and productions. From "The Hip Hop Nutcracker" to "Hamilton," the dance style has been experimented with by numerous artists who wish to present a story or issue in a new light, with the help of the form’s innovative flair.
Hip-hop has been featured and restyled to fit different communities’ messages, and that same trend has happened with Block Crew, a dance team at the University of Richmond.
Block Crew has been on campus for nine years and continues to attract members. Originally, Block Crew stood for “breaking” and “locking,” two notable characteristics of old-school hip-hop. However, over the years, the team has shifted from the signature old-school approach to urban hip-hop, expanding to incorporate even more genres of dancing.
“I feel like hip-hop is an umbrella term, so it’s the overarching term that we use when we talk about dance or music in general,” said senior Josh Kim, the president of Block Crew. “Urban hip-hop is very specific in that it’s this combination of a bunch of different subgenres so it takes the best of each genre and marries it into this beautiful dance style.”
For the last decade, Block Crew has remained underneath this general style of hip-hop, but the team has continuously experimented with other categories of the genre. Block Crew is particularly influenced by hip-hop choreographer Scott Forsyth and the dance crew Kinjaz. Because of the team’s mix of stylistic features, students from a variety of dance backgrounds are attracted to the organization.
Choreography team leader Violet Zeng, junior, started dancing in kindergarten in the traditional Chinese style and later developed an interest in K-pop in high school. She auditioned and joined Block Crew her first year of college and was surprised to find that the team’s style evolved with the new members.
“When I joined it was 90% urban hip-hop,” Zeng said. “But up to now, it’s more like 40% K-pop because most of us are K-pop fans.”
Block Crew has evolved, but what has not changed is the dedication that goes into the routines, and the members’ passion for sharing their dancing. Two years ago, Block Crew’s doubled its membership from 15 to 30, and while the team is currently at 25 members, the dance group is constantly on the look for new talent.
Block Crew holds auditions once a semester to seek prospective members who are both enthusiastic and hardworking. The members emphasize that although their routines seem difficult, they encourage people from all dance backgrounds to audition and learn a new art form.
“I view Block Crew as one of the representations of diversity, not just in terms of ethnicity, but also in terms of passion and interest,” junior Eljoy Tanos, Block Crew’s head choreographer, said.
“I feel like sometimes this school can overemphasize their athletics team or their science fields, and I think that Block Crew is one of the clubs on campus that tries to show that the student body also has a passion for performing arts, that people may not be able to see on the front page of the University of Richmond website.”
Like other dance teams on campus, such as Ritmo Latino and the Bollywood Jhatkas, Block Crew attracts a diverse group of UR students. Although there is a stigma surrounding Block Crew and its predominantly Asian membership, Kim said, he is proud that the team can be a supportive community for international students who have to adjust to living in a new country.
“My only hope is that we can further that and expand so that even more people on campus can feel at home at Block Crew and find that sense of community,” Kim said.
Every year, Block Crew hosts a spring showcase in which the student body can expect to see over 20 student-led dance routines. The show has free admission and will take place at the Camp Concert Hall on March 30.
Contact lifestyle writer Sydney Collins at firstname.lastname@example.org.