Fifth-annual 8150 Urban Dance Challenge celebrates art, life and community |

Fifth-annual 8150 Urban Dance Challenge celebrates art, life and community

Rachel Davison
Special to the Daily

In 2010, Denver-based breakdancing crew BreakEFX performed at the Vail International Dance Festival and brought the heavy beats and hard-hitting moves of hip-hop to the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, a stage that is more commonly filled with dancers in pointe shoes performing works by George Balanchine and other ballet classics.

The 8150 Urban Dance Challenge began in 2012 to continue this celebration of the Front Range's urban dance community. In its fifth year, Urban Dance Challenge is bringing something new to Vail as part of Crazy Mountain Brewery's Hot Summer Nights Free Concert Series.

On Tuesday, instead of a competition, this year's performance will be a celebration of the life, unity and community in dance and art. These performances will honor members of the Front Range dance community, as this will be the first dance event since a recent tragedy that took the lives of dancers from Boulder studio Block 1750. Sarah Ball, 18, of Boulder, and Peter Kim, 19, of Aurora, were both killed in an automobile accident west of Gold Hill near Switzerland Trail.

"The accident motivated and inspired more performers to participate and collaborate, as the event almost didn't happen. (The community) has been so tight for a very long time," said Mackenzie Davids, one of Urban Dance Challenge's show directors. "It's essentially a family."

“This is an opportunity for them to bridge those gaps and step into new waters. … This moment, this day for them is so great, so positive and so good.”Arianne AutauboDirector of Urban Dance Challenge

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As the directors of Urban Dance Challenge, Davids and Arianne Autaubo are using the show as a form of healing for the dancers as they experience tragedy in their community.

"Dance is their medicine, and we need this more than anything," Autaubo said.

The Urban Dance Challenge will showcase dance groups and collaborations in different styles of dance, with live music performed by Whiskey Jack, an alternative hip-hop band from Boulder. The show is based on the annual performance "Murmuration," which has been performed in Boulder and Denver and features dance performances accompanied by live musicians on stage. This makes a connection to the 2010 BreakEFX performance, which was also performed to live music and managed by Autaubo.

"This show is going to be very different from anything that's been the 8150 before," Autaubo said. "The performance will be more toned down and heartfelt with more storytelling."

The Urban Dance Challenge will feature breakdance, hip-hop and contemporary dances, as well as Armando Silva, who uses spray paint throughout his act and ultimately reveals his new piece of artwork. Performers include groups Side by Side, Backbone and last year's winners The Janes.

The directors also speak to how grateful they are to the Vail Valley Foundation for the opportunity to be involved with the Vail International Dance Festival.

"There's so much more depth to these kids, to their urban cultures and lifestyles," Autaubo said. "This is an opportunity for them to bridge those gaps and step into new waters. … This moment, this day for them is so great, so positive and so good."

Since the beginning of the Urban Dance Challenge, Davids, Autaubo and the Vail International Dance Festival have seen the event grow, with more and more dancers interested in performing and competing, as well as larger crowds from both the Vail Valley and Front Range.

"We are fortunate to have great relationships with the urban dance movement in the Front Range and look forward to them kicking off the festival each year," said Martha Brassel, director of operations and development for the Vail International Dance Festival. "Behind the great talent of these dancers is a community that supports and inspires one another."

The Urban Dance Challenge kicks off the Vail International Dance Festival each year, as it showcases groups from the Colorado dance community in a television-like format. Since 2010, Urban Dance Challenge has been an annual event, with crews from all over the state asking to be involved and sending in application videos.

"As I watched my first (Urban Dance Challenge) from backstage and out in the audience, I was truly blown away with the high energy, passion and love the dancers and producers poured out on stage and the incredible response from our local community," said festival manager Martin Nieves. "It was easy to see how attached our community has become to this event."

If you go …

What: 8150 Urban Dance Challenge

When: 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 26.

Where: Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, Ford Park, Vail.

Cost: Free.

More information: Visit

In memory

The Vail International Dance Festival would like to send its condolences to the friends and family of Peter Kim and Sarah Ball. Kim, 19, and Ball, 18, were both cherished members of the Front Range dance community and practiced at Block 1750 in Boulder.