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Hip hop dance competition Saturday at Julius Littman Theater

Dance groups will compete for prizes – and help raise money for a local charity – at a Saturday competition. A portion of the proceeds will help the non-profit organization Dream With Your Eyes Open, which runs the Faces of Hip-Hop dance studio in Plantation.

By Rodolfo Roman

Special to the Herald

  Dancer Anthony Thurston Jr. grew up in Liberty City watching his friends get in trouble. But it was the art of dance that rescued him, he said.

  “My neighborhood was rough,” said Thurston, 24. “Most of my friends were involved with violence.”

On Saturday, Thurston, who started dancing in high school, will showcase his moves onstage along with his dancing group Hype Elite at the Miami Showdown dance tournament presented by Stohouse Entertainment.

The event takes place at 7 p.m. at the Julius Littman Theater, 17011 NE 19th Ave. in North Miami.

  “If a person has something to look forward to it will distract them and take them away from the bad,” said Thurston.

    Hype Elite will battle against four other groups performing to old-school music and current hits. A portion of the proceeds will help the non-profit organization Dream With Your Eyes Open, which runs the Faces of Hip-Hop dance studio in Plantation. The studio partnered with professional dancers and is dedicated to taking children off the streets and putting them onstage.

   “You might find a kid who is good at dancing, but the parents might not have the money,” said Quintina Smith, director of Dream With Your Eyes Open. “It is a dance studio where kids go to dance because they don’t have money to pay.”

   She founded the organization along with Stacy Rowe last year.

Smith, who owns the production company Stohouse Entertainment, has been hosting such dancing events since 2005 in Broward and Miami-Dade counties.

  Her inspiration came after watching several dancers in her Dania neighborhood who didn’t have a place to perform.

   “I saw teens wanting to do things but they couldn’t do it, so I held parties every Friday to get dancers to perform,” she said. “The dancers stood out and we would get battles going.”

     Now, her goal is to help as many dancers follow their dreams.

  “This is an everyday task for these kids,” she said. “This is a dance community. These kids are thinking all day about dance. To these kids it is like the BET awards show.”

   Shows are held every month and feature a different theme.

Saturday’s themes are Black History Month and Valentine’s Day. There are four tournaments a year. Each tournament has three rounds. Judges are usually choreographers from local dance schools.

Dance groups compete for prizes. First place takes home $2,000, while second place is awarded $1,000.

Thurston’s team practices at Dr. Robert B. Ingram Elementary school in Opa-locka five times a week.

       Not only has dancing kept his mind focused, but he credits the art for inspiring him to go back to his studies at Miami-Dade College.

   “You can’t be a dancer without an education,” said Thurston.  

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