Who knew that a dance inspired by the ’80s hip-hop scene would turn into a global craze? Back then, on the gritty streets of New York, rival gangs would make up their own breakdance routines and perform them in the alleys of the Big Apple. Nowadays, however, the love of street dance has spread across the world and, since those hazy underground days, the dance genre has flourished and even established its own official body, the United Dance Organisation (UDO), which, with more than 34,000 members, has the largest street dance membership. With championships set to take place in Dubai later this month, it’s clear the UAE has got talent and it’s children throughout the city who are popping, locking and head spinning their way to athletic glory.
At the moment, GEMS Wellington Silicon Oasis is the only school in the city offering the UDO Street Dance syllabus in its entirety. But that isn’t to say many of the other dance programmes and troupes are not incorporating part of it into their programmes, too. According to Emma Tate, dance coordinator at WSO and UDO Academy, classes in UDO choreography, in particular, are lots of fun with no exam pressure. “The students learn all the techniques and foundations of each style, including house, hip-hop, breakdance, locking, popping and choreography,” she tells us. “At our school we also offer the specialist dance syllabus programme so that the more confident students can complete exams and get accreditation.”
This month, excitement is building as children prepare to bust a move at the UDO championships and Tate is expecting a full house over the course of the weekend. “This is the second year for the competition to run here in Dubai, with our school hosting it, and we are expecting it to be bigger. This year, the competition will be focusing on UDO solo battles in the morning and then primary and secondary team competitions in the afternoon, all adjudicated by professional UDO judges,” she explains.
Another performing arts school with a troupe of street dancers is IMPACT International Music & Dance Centre, where classes take place weekly. Sara Bardakji, general manager at IMPACT, says the big attraction is the freedom street dance offers, with performers being able to express themselves in a much more unstructured way than disciplines such as ballet. “The benefits are endless when it comes to street dance,” she tells us. “The ability to learn more than one type of dance, getting to know and differentiate between all these genres, learning about different music, as well as gaining knowledge of each different dance style, its foundations, techniques and where it is rooted from – this is hugely advantageous for children.”
There are health benefits, too. In fact, one session incorporates a pretty serious cardiovascular workout. And it is very social, with dancers being part of a tight-knit team as they learn the dance moves together and enjoy the shared experiences of mastering tricky routines.
Back at GEMS Wellington Silicon Oasis, Tate and her troupe of dancers are busy putting the final touches to the routines that they will be bringing to the championships. They are continuously challenged to reach for their personal goals and potential through dance and constantly acquire new skills that help them to improve in the competitions. According to Tate, street dance empowers her students to learn new routines in all styles of the genre and it also nurtures positive and competitive values that helps build their confidence levels.
The dancers, although a little nervous, are also very excited to showcase all their hard work and adrenaline levels are currently very high. We’ll be there to cheer them on, and maybe try a little popping and locking of our own.
Price and timings on request. UDO street dance championships: Sat April 29. GEMS Wellington Silicon Oasis, firstname.lastname@example.org
Three top Dance classes
Diverse Performing Arts
Each class starts with a technical warm-up and floor work to build strength. Pop, dance fusion and street jazz will get your twinkle toes grooving.
Dhs940 (per term). Tue and Sat, timings vary. The Curve Building, off Sheikh Zayed Road, www.diversechoreography.com (04 330 7338).
Dance for joy
Impact Centres keep little ones fit while allowing them to learn all about street dance. Performances put them on the road to becoming professional dancers.
Dhs70 per class.Tue 6pm-7pm. Control Tower, Motor City, www.impactcentres.com (04 361 5002)
Bust a move
Step Up Academy
Step Up Academy brings street dance to the masses. This is for little dancers who just want to have fun right up to the more serious mover.
Dhs55 per class. Sun 3.30pm-6pm. 113 Apex Atrium, Motor City (04 453 4360).