Hip-hop hustle

Karla Hayward
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B-boy Tony Ingram is participating in Hustle to Get Here, taking place at MUN’s Field House this weekend. — Submitted photo by Becki Peckham

Most 30+ Newfoundlanders vividly remember the day they got cable. Suddenly, Saturday morning cartoons were exponentially better. There were far more programs your parents outlawed. And, best of all, MuchMusic and MTV came into your life. With a turn of the dial (literally), Newfoundlanders were exposed to a whole other world of music and culture.

For many, it was their first exposure to hip-hop culture, including what was then called break dancing (today’s practitioners prefer the term breaking). And soon enough, arm waves, the moonwalk and terribly executed centipedes broke out in basements province­wide.

Hip-hop culture in Newfoundland has come a long way since those musty dens and rec rooms. Today’s dancers are polished artists, travelling the country and beyond to compete, win awards, teach, learn and take part in a distinct community that’s based not only on dance skill, but on mentoring and support.

Here at home, those same dancers flock to Hustle to Get Here, our very own breaking and hip-hop event. Founded in 2009 by Matt Power and Paddy Greene, with support from their fellow East Rock Crew members and Bold Creative, Hustle was, in its first year, one of the largest events of its kind in Atlantic Canada. Now in its third year, Hustle is all about two things: drawing attention to all this awesome province has to offer and growing the hip-hop culture within it.

Hustle is broken into two parts: a breaking battle and a hip-hop showcase. For those unfamiliar with the art form, a battle is essentially when two dancers take turns on the floor, showing off their moves in a mostly unscripted fashion. It’s all about reacting to what your competitor is doing and one-upping them in any way you can, to be declared the winner by a panel of judges. At Hustle, there will be 16 competitors working their way up to a Number 1 position, tournament style.

 

Power, a dancer, says, “At the competitive level, the culture is all about the battle. Battle is huge. Not only do you get to practice and express yourself, but you do so under pressure in response to another human. … (You’re) performing in front of your peers in a situation where it can be responded to. It’s a dialogue.”

At an event like Hustle, the audience is also a big part of the experience, Power explains.

“When you’re dancing, there’s an energy involved. When people are feeling it, you feel better and that translates into a better performance. Better snap. More musicality. It gives you confidence. … I know it sounds hokey, but if I perform up on a stage, I don’t feel the same energy as when I’m on the floor close to people.”

If you’re wondering how the judges evaluate a b-boy or b-girl, Power says at Hustle, “It’s based on universal understandings like cleanness within the dance, dynamics, your movement, difficulty level, confidence, personality and musicality.”

Beyond the battle, there’s Hustle’s hip-hop crew showcase. At this year’s event, five crews made up of local dancers will perform. Unlike a battle’s freestyle approach, these are carefully choreographed and exhaustively practiced numbers designed to highlight each crew’s distinct personality and skill set. One winner will be selected by judges from among the five. The judges include Kojo (Tuch) Mayne, Leftelep, Fil Fury, Kaze and Spicey. They’re joined by Mariano Palamares as MC and Jon Deck as DJ.

There’s also more to Hustle than dancing, Power notes.

“This competition is about giving people a goal to work with (and) bringing skilled competitors and judges from away to share knowledge. It’s more about bringing everybody together and trying to increase the power of the community rather than, like most competitions, to just showcase the best dancer.”

With knowledge-sharing in mind, Hustle has invited physiotherapist and b-boy Tony Ingram of B-Boy Science (www.bboyscience.

com) to lead a workshop on how to train, and dance, in such a way as to avoid injury.

Its also hosting a roundtable discussion that competitors and non-competitors alike are encouraged to join. In it, all manner of dance-related topics will be floated: how to make a living as a performer; related careers such as event organizers or teachers; how to brand and market yourself; even how to find funding. The list goes on.

 

While Hustle co-founder Paddy Greene can no longer break due to an injury, he remains very close to the community.

Asked how the idea for the event came to be, he says, “We’d spent a lot of time travelling (to competitions) and always wanted to have one on our home turf. Early in 2009, Matt and I had done a couple of bar events together. And we were like, ‘Let’s give this a try. Let’s try to do something people will come to Newfoundland for.’ We knew if they came they’d have an amazing time. ... Then, we were hanging out with our friend Jeremy White one day, trying to think of a name, and he said, ‘Well, people have to hustle to get here, so you should call it Hustle to Get Here.’”

Greene explains breaking is still relatively new on the island.

“One of the differences between Hustle and any other competition is that our community is so young. If you’re talking about places like New York or Toronto or L.A., they’ve got 10, 20, 30 years plus in a dance community.”

That said, things are changing fast, thanks in part to Hustle.

“There’s a different vibe (this year),” Power says. “We have a lot of people coming. Our attendance rate for competitors will be the highest we’ve ever had. There’s also been a shift in our approach. I think we’re trying to have an event that’s less about name or whatever and more about people who will work within our culture. It’s important for us to bring in someone who not only has a skill that’s valuable, but will also understand our scene: the level of maturity it’s at and also Newfoundland itself.

“The culture of Newfoundland has always been tied to Hustle. We always want to showcase this place. It’s the added bonus of throwing a jam here, for people who have never been here before.”

Whether you’re an experienced breaker or someone who’s never danced before, both Power and Greene say this is a very welcoming and open community.

“There’s people who’ve been doing this for 10 years and people who just started this year,” says Power. “They, for the most part, all practice together. They get together every Sunday night, they practice Tuesday and Thursday.”

And the Hustle event is the perfect opportunity to get involved if you’re interested.

“Just come up and talk to us after the show,” says Greene.

You can also connect on Facebook through the Hustle to Get Here page.

The main competition happens Saturday at the MUN Field House. Doors open at 6 p.m. and the competition will start at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 and are available at the MUN Copy Centre and Ballistic. Related events happen Friday through Sunday, however, so check out www.hustletogethere.com for more information as well as to see the promo video.

Organizations: MUN Field House, MUN Copy Centre

Geographic location: Newfoundland, Atlantic Canada, New York Toronto

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