When the Philippine All Stars, one of the Philippines’ most esteemed street dance crews, came to Hip Hop International’s (HHI) World Hip Hop Dance Championship in California in 2004, they came armed with knowledge of only the very basics of hip-hop. That year, they only came in 20th among 25 competitors.
Two years later, they were back with a vengeance. They bagged the title and set the standard for the future Philippine teams that would compete in the World Hip Hop Dance Championship.
Fast forward to eight years later, and the Filipino street dance community is bursting with teams that wish to bring glory to the country at the World Hip Hop Dance Championship. Other teams aside from the Philippine All Stars—most notably The Crew and UP Street Dance Club, both of which have also bagged titles at HHI—have served as inspiration to the increasing number of dancers who want to make a name for themselves, and to continue the tradition of bringing glory to the Philippines.
In fact, the number of people aspiring to compete has grown so much that, in recent years, there has been an influx of independent dance teams. These are teams composed of dancers, usually from local high school and collegiate dance teams, that have banded together in order to increase their chances of winning.
While a vast majority of these dance teams come from NCR, it is undeniable there is an increasing number from other regions, with as much talent as the urban dance teams, if not more.
It was this untapped potential from other regions that was the reason Big Shift Creativ Centrale, a local events company, decided to bring HHI to the Philippines.
“In the past, the process was that if a team wanted to go to HHI, they would have to send a video directly to HHI. HHI would screen it and teams would get e-mails telling them if they were eligible to represent the country. The thing is, year after year, the same teams were the only ones who kept going.
“However, there are some crews in the Philippines that can dance, that are good, but don’t have the resources to compete,” says Xernan Alfonso, technical director of HHI Philippines.
In order to give a better chance to these rural dance teams, HHI gave Big Shift Creativ Centrale the license to conduct its own national qualifiers. This included holding regional finals in North and South Luzon, NCR, Visayas and Mindanao. Finalists were then invited to compete at the national qualifiers at the Mall of Asia Arena on May 4.
The competition was composed of two parts: World Battles, which determined the finalists who would be competing in the dance battles at HHI; and Philippine Hip Hop Dance Championship, which chose the final crews that would be representing the country at the World Hip Hop Dance Championship in the Junior, Varsity, Adult and Megacrew divisions in Las Vegas.
Being the largest street dance competition in the world, HHI boasts of an international-standard judging system, which is more precise and more objective than the judging systems typically used in other local dance competitions.
“In the Philippines, what usually happens is that the team that gets the loudest cheers wins. In HHI, those things don’t matter. The judging system is focused on many points about dancing. Are they using the stage? Are they being creative? Are their movements repetitive? What is the level of difficulty of the routine? There are strict guidelines,” says Alfonso.
The judging system is so rigorous that only licensed HHI judges are allowed to judge the competition. These judges were chosen through a three-day workshop conducted by Ian Levia, technical director of HHI. This ensured the judging system was on par with the one that would be used at the World Finals in Las Vegas.
Despite stiff competition among the participants, the national finals was still a way to bring together the Philippines’ best dance teams and unite them for one reason: the love of dance.
“We’re already starting to build this mentality that we’re all part of only one team,” commented Alfonso. “The support from each other, from the Filipino community, from the dance community, from our parents, our friends—we want to build it as early as now.”
Alfonso also mentioned that the judges, being part of the Philippine dance community, are also obligated to give the representative teams a helping hand when it comes to preparing for their performances.
“The HHI judges are ready to help out because it’s already the Philippine Team. We are all working together, even if we are composed of separate teams, because we are one delegation for the country.”
Because of this, Alfonso is confident that the Philippines has a greater chance of winning at this year’s HHI World Hip Hop Championships. “When the Philippines was winning in the past, we didn’t understand the rules and regulations as well as we understand them now. We have more of an edge now, because we already have strong competitors, and we can apply our new knowledge about the rules and regulations to the teams’ performances.”
When asked about the Philippines’ chances in the upcoming World Finals, Alfonso says, “All of the performances of the past teams in the previous HHIs have never disappointed; they have always delivered. The Philippine team this year is really strong. I’m just hoping for the best, but I really think that we can dominate.”
The 2014 HHI World Hip Hop Dance Championship and World Battles will be held at Red Rock Resort & Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, Aug. 5-10.