VAIL — The Hot Summer Night’s free concert series is shaking it up, literally.
As an unofficial kickoff to the Vail International Dance Festival, the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater is bringing dance crews from around Colorado to the stage to break it down Tuesday night.
“It’s like what you would see in the movies, a battle of the crews,” said Anna Ziverta, who helps with public relations for the Vail International Dance Festival.
Six different dance crews will compete, all who have gained significant notoriety for very physical, energetic dance styles. Four B-Boys — slang for break dancers — will also go head to head.
One dancer to look out for is B Boy Alex Milewski (aka “White Boi”).
“Alex has danced with a lot of the people who are also going to be there,” said Ziverta. “It’ll definitely be a neat network of dancers that are coming together.”
And keep your eyes peeled for Larkin Poynton from the Side by Side Dance Crew based in Boulder. Side by Side, known for its contemporary hip-hop movement, is influenced by every style of dance, even ballet.
“We’ve been trained in the hip-hop world with breaking, popping, house and wacking,” said 22-year-old Poynton.
No, it’s not a Dr. Seuss book, although that’s what the names of the movements might sound like. But Side by Side does aim to tell stories on stage.
“As a team and as a company, we aim to convey a message, and make people feel something,” said Poynton. “Our cohesiveness as a family shows and shines through when we perform.”
The B-Boys will compete in one-on-one competitions on stage, and those winners will then battle each other. The winning dance crew will pocket $1,000, while the winning B-Boy will take home $500. The winners also will receive an invitation to perform at the final performance of the Vail International Dance Festival, Dance TV, slated for Aug. 10.
If you’ve never seen break dancing — also referred to as “breaking” — it may seem somewhat intense, almost as if it could end in a fight. Perhaps it’s the stereotypical hip-hop clothing, or the hard facial expressions.
“I think there’s a lot of misconceptions for us B-Boys when we’re battling; it’s actually a form of positive expressionism,” said Milewski. “It actually started as an outlet for kids who didn’t want to fight anymore.”
Milewski looks forward to showing some dynamic moves tonight, especially for a type of dance battling that’s evolved a lot in the last 40 years.
“It’s sharing my life; breaking all day and influencing a new group of people each time,” said Milewski.
Even though it’s a competition, that doesn’t mean the crews aren’t cheering each other on. It’s a relatively small dance community and the individual dancers have a lot of respect for each other.
“Minus the competitive field, it’s a great opportunity to get people together and see the support they have for each other,” said Arianne Autaubo, the director and producer of the 8150 Urban Dance Challenge.
But every dancer will likely agree, it’s the audiences reaction that fuels the performers energy.
Autaubo was previously the manager of Break FX, a dance team who won MTV’s America’s Best Dance Crew. An entire Break FX show was brought to Hot Summer Nights a few years back and the crowd went crazy. Because of the positive reaction, the 8150 Dance Challenge was born, with the idea being to bring more variety to the stage.
Speaking of judges, some well-known dancers will be watching very closely from the sidelines. Judge JD McElroy, pseudo-ambassador of The 8150, returns. The Colorado native has gained a lot of exposure since moving to L.A. You may recognize him from collaborations with Psy, Chris Brown, Usher, Mariah Carey, Beyonce, Black Eyed Peas and more. He’ll be joined by Ellen Kim, one of the most sought-after female talents in the industry. She is a principal dancer for artists like Justin Bieber, Nicki Minaj and Beyonce.
Also joining the judging panel this year is Chris “Pharside” Jennings, director and choreographer for the world champion and internationally-known crew Academy of Villians. He took home first place honors from Hip Hop International 2012 and was a semi-finalist on Season 7 of America’s Got Talent. The last judge, Ronnie “Ruen” Navarro is one of the country’s best B-Boys and a member of the notorious Killafornia Crew and Style Elements Crew. He’s danced for KRS One, Black Eyed Peas and Dancing with the Stars.
“By the end of it, even the judges are on stage dancing,” said Autaubo.
Considering the judges talent level, that’s a good thing.