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Hamilton Hip-hop Dance School Heading To World Champs In Sydney

A local hip hop dance school is preparing to strut their stuff on the world stage after a night of success at the recent Battlegrounds national dance competition.

Five dance crews and four soloists, a total of 48 dancers ranging in age from nine years through to 24 years, from Hamilton-based studio Street Dance Sessions, have all qualified to represent New Zealand in June at the World Supremacy Battlegrounds championships in Sydney.

To qualify, crews and soloists had to place in the top three of their section. Street Dance Sessions owner and head choreographer Miriana Wetere-Ryder said she was incredibly proud of her dancers who had been working hard in the studio.

“It was definitely a lot, to create all the dance sets and then get them to a stage-ready level in just six weeks,” said Miss Wetere-Ryder.

“But after some extra hours in the studio and lots of hard work, the dancers all got there.”

Miss Wetere-Ryder’s junior crew Street Squad Junior, and open mega crew Squad 24, placed 1st in their sections. The junior mega crew Squad 24 Junior placed 2nd and junior crew 4 Elements 3rd. In the solo section, junior soloist Alexis Hughes placed 2nd and Leah Morse 3rd, while varsity soloist Mercy La’a also placed 3rd. Street Squad dancer and assistant teacher Blake Cammock placed 1st in the varsity soloist section with his own choreography.

Street Dance Sessions was launched in 2018 by Miss Wetere-Ryder. After spending many hours over several years travelling between Hamilton and Auckland for her own training, she wanted to provide an authentic hip-hop specific space for local dancers.

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Starting out in a church hall in Hamilton East with around 40 dancers, Miss Wetere-Ryder said they swiftly outgrew the venue and moved to a purpose-built dance studio at Rototuna High School. Now there are over 200 dancers registered across 10 classes, and all are full with waitlists of new dancers waiting for spaces to get in.

“The growth was pretty quick, with a bit of a dip over covid, but the last two years I’ve struggled to have enough space for everyone,” said Miss Wetere-Ryder.

“The dream is to find a suitable space that Street Dance Sessions can call its own and then be able to offer more classes across the week.”

After initially just launching classes, Miss Wetere-Ryder found she was regularly approached with requests to branch into competitive dancing, and with so much raw talent of all ages coming through the door she realized she had to provide another option. So, in mid-2019 the competitive arm ‘Street Squad’ was born.

“There were lots of dancers who were keen to push themselves to the next level and get involved in competitions, so I selected a group to work with on weekends,” said Miss Wetere-Ryder.

“This really exploded, and now I have to hold annual auditions to select dancers for the following years Street Squad crews.”

This year Miriana is leading and choreographing five competing crews, one development crew, a duo and nine competing soloists. A weekly battles/freestyle session is also a new addition to Street Squad.

“Running the dance school and the competition arm is definitely a seven-days-a-week commitment, but it’s a privilege to see these dancers develop and grow into absolute beasts onstage!”

A dancer herself, Miriana is also trained in jazz and contemporary, but it was hip-hop where she felt most at home and excelled. She began at local dance school Drury Lane at five-years-old, she started travelling to Auckland in her early teens to train with other hip-hop focused schools.

“I remember many late nights and lots of time spent doing homework during the car ride back and forth, but it was all worth it.”

Miriana has been a part of some of the country’s biggest dance crews including The Royal Family and IDCO, and trained with some of the world’s best choreographers. She continues to dance and is currently a member of Bindico in Auckland.

The Street Squad crews are now putting in hours, not just in the studio, but also with a variety of planned fundraisers to make sure their 48-strong team can all get over to Sydney and compete.

“It’s a real buzz for these dancers to have qualified and while it’s not an easy task to be able to afford the trip over, the most important thing for me is that somehow we are able to get all the team over to Sydney.”

“An experience like this is huge and going through the whole process from learning the choreography, training and then putting it all out in front of a live audience and judges is just one part. The dancers also learn so many lessons along the way, things like the importance of teamwork, time management and respect.”

Sausage sizzles, samosas sales and a showcase are on the fundraising calendar over the next two months for the Street Squad dancers. All arranged around their training schedule though as these dancers know, there’s no days off!

© Scoop Media

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