When Howard and Karen Schwartz traveled to Tokyo more than 10 years ago, they noticed large crowds gathered to watch street dancers perform on sidewalks. Inspired, Howard and his wife wondered, “What if we could be able to have the whole world enjoy that talent and creativity?” So they created Hip Hop International, and started by producing a stateside hip-hop competition. Ten years later, the production company continues to bring raw talent found on street corners around the world to the stage. They produce multiple dance competitions, including the 10th annual World Hip Hop Dance Championship, which will take place at The Orleans Arena on July 31.
This Olympic-style event is the grand finale of a week’s worth of preliminary hip-hop dance crew competitions. And it’s expected to draw more than 2,000 dancers from 40 countries. “These are street kids, and they have a chance to win the Olympics, so to speak,” the creators explain. “It’s an incredible feeling, an incredible spectacle to watch.”
More than $25,000 in cash and prizes are spread among the winners of each division, which includes one for children as young as 7. There’s also the hope of gaining a professional dance career. Last year’s all-female winners, ReQuest Dance Crew from New Zealand, went on to compete on America’s Best Dance Crew (also produced by Hip Hop International) and tour internationally. Parris, a founding crew member and choreographer, says life after winning the championship is a dream come true. “We are now full-time dancers and get to do what we love everyday of our lives.” They’re back this year to defend their title.