When the Charlotte International Arts Festival arrives next month, one of its first events will be the ‘We Are Hip-Hop Dance Showcase’, a performance showcasing some of the best hip-hop and street dancing talent in Charlotte.
On Wednesday, August 17, hip-hop fans can preview this upcoming performance, free of charge.
Some of the dancers will be performing this week at Wednesday night live, a free event that alternates between the Harvey B. Gantt Center, the Mint Museum Uptown, and the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art. (The Bechtler will host this week’s event.)
In an interview with QCity Metro, AJ Glasco, a local dancer and choreographer who curated “We Are Hip-Hop,” talks about the upcoming show and how he got his start as a hip-hop artist.
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Answers have been edited for length and clarity
What sparked your interest in Hip-Hop dance?
I was the artistic kid in middle school and high school. I was in a band, a choir, a musical. I wanted to do everything. Dancing wasn’t something I wanted to do initially. Initially, I wanted to do something related to music education. In fact, I didn’t take my first professional-level dance class until I was 18. [dance] middle and high school classes for recreational purposes.
When I moved here, I said, “Let me try something different,” and took a dance class after not dancing for three or four years. It was a horrible experience to come back because I didn’t know what was going on, but it also inspired me. It’s been history ever since.
How did you become a showcase curator?
I worked alongside Blumenthal [Performing Arts] for five or six years. I performed in “Breakin’ Convention” in 2015 with my then company, The Crazy Collective. I went from the stage to the backstage. I was asked to come as a creative consultant as someone with a connection to our hip-hop community. It made it easier for me to do a lot of the outreach and allowed me to become a commissioner.
How was the curation process?
Easy enough. I reached out to dancers in the community who haven’t had the opportunity to perform on a bigger platform, people who just need their talent to be seen. I’ve spent a lot of my time researching dancers I’ve seen a lot, and then dancers I’d like to see more.
I chose people who inspired me with their stories, their skills and their determination. It was easier to be connected to our local community of artists; I was able to reach them faster.
Your website describes your dance style as urban abstract. What does that mean?
Urban abstract is a fusion style dance that mixes elements of hip-hop, street dance and dance theater. It’s very emotion-based. I created it with several friends of mine. We have a different way of moving with street dance, but we are still widely accepted by the hip-hop and street dance community.
This [urban abstract] pays homage to our street dance roots but also to other styles such as contemporary and jazz.
Where does the Crazyee Beat that bears your name come from?
It encompasses my love for music and the way I listen to it. Many of my friends will say that I dance to weird songs with lots of different sound effects. Crazy Lab, the name of the studio, is a place where you can experiment with movement. I really like to take a different approach to movement in my classes. It’s really good for intermediate to advanced level dancers who want to experiment with different movement methods and dance to different music.
You have choreographed for the Honey Bees and for the Charlotte Hornets Hip-Hop Crew. How does the choreography of “We Are Hip-Hop” compare?
It was probably the most fun experience of my life, but also a bit scary. I had to think on a much larger scale. Since they are dancing on a basketball court and you can see the dancers from all sides, I had to think about how to entertain the audience from all angles.
I will not play in the “We Are Hip-Hop Showcase”. I will be behind the scenes as stage manager.
What do you expect people to see?
I want [the audience] recognize the talent this city has when it comes to our hip hop dance community and our arts community in general. There will be several different activations taking place. both at the soft launch at Bechtler and at the festival in September. I also want them to recognize the “We are Hip Hop” brand and just know that we’re going to keep pushing things forward. We are already thinking about the types of events we can plan for next year.