IDentity Dance Company gear up to take on the world with 4 teams and 79 dancers to compete in the world hip hop dance championships from 7 - 12 August. They will go head to head with 4,000 dancers from 50 countries to represent New Zealand on the world stage and hopefully take home gold for the third time.
Josh Cesan, the director of Auckland’s Identity Dance Company, admits that sometimes he gets heart palpitations thinking about how he’s going to come up with the $300,000 plus needed to get his dancers, aged from 12 to 31 to Phoenix, Arizona, for what is the Olympics of hip hop dance.
“But we’ll do it somehow,” he says. “This is an incredible opportunity for our guys to represent not just our company but New Zealand on the world stage. We’re not going to miss out.”
Four crews from the Sandringham-based company have qualified for the Hip Hop International competition next month. Thirty-strong adult crew IDCO won the megacrew division at the New Zealand national competition in April, while their second megacrew, Yung IDCO have only been performing together since the beginning of the year) came third, making both eligible for worlds.
In the varsity division, Identity crews Masque and Swagganauts came first and third. Some of those crew members also dance in the megacrews.
“That was a huge success for us, having all of the crews we sent to nationals qualify for worlds,” says Josh. “I’m so proud of everyone - they worked so hard for this.”
It’s not the first time Identity has sent crews to the world championships. Their original adult crew and megacrew won silver in 2013 and 2014 respectively. Another crew, The Bradas, are the current world champions after winning back-to-back gold medals in the adult division in 2015 and 2016.
But this is the largest group of Identity dancers to have ever qualified, and many of them have never competed at international level before or in some cases, even been out of the country.
“There’s been a bit of a rush for some people to get passports,” Josh says.
They’re also frantically trying to raise as much money as possible, organising everything from concerts and bingo nights to washing cars and selling merchanise.
Many dancers are high school or university students, and some have taken on extra work. Families are also contributing towards the cost of sending their kids where possible, but not everyone can afford over $4000 for airfares and accommodation.
Identity has launched a boosted campaign for some of their dancers, and are hoping to get individual sponsorship for them, as well as for the company as a whole.
“We already have amazing support from some great companies” says Josh, “but we’d love to have more people getting on board and helping us out. Unfortunately dance and the arts don’t have the same profile or get the same funding as some sports, but we think our dancers have got the ability to continue what Identity has already started in terms of putting New Zealand on the map for hip hop.”
Some of Identity’s top dancers, including members of The Bradas, have been travelling the world to perform and teach workshops. In the last year senior dancers from the company have been to India, China, Mexico, France, Japan, Fiji, the US, Australia, Singapore, Guam and the Philippines.
Josh, who has a Bachelor of Dance Studies from Auckland University, and is also an accomplished contemporary and tap dancer, adds, “Some of our dancers will go on to university to study dance and lots of them would like careers as dancers. But even if they don’t end up dancing professionally, they’ll get so much out of this whole experience, like being able to travel overseas to represent their country.
“It’s also great for teaching our young dancers about setting goals and working hard to achieve them. They learn a lot about self-discipline and team-work, and we also encourage them to be health conscious and eat well. Hopefully, we’re giving them habits beyond dance that will last a lifetime.
“We’ve been training very long hours and putting everything into this. The aim is definitely to try to come back with gold!”
IDCO have a fundraising concert at the Dorothy Winstone Centre at 7:30pm this Friday 28th July.
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