Simone Hall aka Athena, had the crowd in an uproar. The audience surrounded her, cheering louder than the music Texas based Dj, Al Metro was playing from the overhead speakers. The 20-year-old had just won both the rookie and heavy hitter dance battles on Saturday, June 10, 2023 at the Indigenous Roots Cultural Arts Center in Saint Paul. This was her first ever tournament win.
“I dance because it’s fun,” Hall said. “Above all, I love to release any emotion I feel through movement.”
The Uprising battle was curated by MN Krump as a part of a three-day event called The SOTA Movement – a Minnesota street dance festival. This is the second SOTA Movement, as the first one happened in 2021. The event started June 9 with an evening gathering hosted by TruArtSpeaks that included food, music and art. Attendees were encouraged to mingle and meet new people. The krump battle, The Uprising, on June 10 was hosted in the evening by MN Krump. On the final day, a free dance workshop took place at the Ordway Center for Performing Arts. That evening, Maia Maiden, aka Rah Fyah, of Maia Maiden Productions (MMP), hosted the final show, ”Rooted”, at the Ordway where dancers and choreographers showcased their talents in celebration of hip hop.
“It’s really uplifting to see all the different talents and people coming together, showing love and being like a community and a family,” said Uprising audience member Jasmine Grant.
The krump battle on June 10 was free and open to the public, hosted by Herb Johnson aka Fair Warning and Ololade Gbadamosi-Alashe aka Gambit. Dancers signed up for battling had the chance to win $200 in the rookie round and $1000 in the heavy hitters. Hall walked away with both. Her dance career started in 2018 after a friend introduced her to a hip hop dance class. Her first introduction to krump came after connecting with Johnson, the leader of dance crew, 10k. Johnson and others associate krump with the acronym, Kingdom Radically Uplifted Mighty Praise, as the art is not only emotional, but spiritual.
“The people that are closest to me in my life, I initially connected with through dance,” Hall said. “And I am super grateful everyday for that.”
Johnson, Gbadamosi-Alashe and others started MN Krump in 2013, with the intention of building community and teaching people about the style of krump. Johnson is originally from Chicago, but now lives in north Minneapolis, and Gbadamosi-Alashe was born in Minnesota and currently lives in Bloomington. The two have been dancers since the early 2000s. This is the fifth Uprising event, and the second Uprising event connected to the SOTA Movement. The Uprising event is an opportunity for new and veteran krump dancers to experiment with battle dancing. The space is designed to be inclusive and encouraging for all dancers.
“Krump is important to me because it is an outlet for me to be able to create and live in my own world, express any emotion and tell any story,” Johnson said.
Krump is a dance style charged with passion. The dance is heavily influenced by emotion, and this is evident through powerful sharp movement along with exaggerated facial expressions. Movements are often freestyled, though they can be choreographed to music. The events included both. During the battle, the audience and dancers were so in tune with the emotions of an artist that at times, a crowd would run to the dance floor cheering them on in support.
“I love competing as a whole,” dancer Guns said. “I like the fellowship and I like seeing people upgrade their dance styles every year.”
Maiden is a Twin Cities based performing arts presenter, and works as the director of arts, learning and community engagement at the Ordway. Maiden is a dancer and choreographer herself, and has been a dancer since high school. She created a dance team at Apple Valley High School in 1995 called the, Infinity Hip Hop Dance Team. Maiden's work and roots are based in hip hop, and she credits the history and evolution of hip hop to the Black community. She created Rooted in 2009, and has partnered with dance and hip hop artists and organizations to put together events like the SOTA Movement.
“When Rooted came on the scene in 2009, it changed the game for dance and hip hop,” Maiden said.
At the Rooted show, Maiden asked the audience to engage and participate in the movement. Audience members were pulled on stage to demonstrate their dance moves. Throughout the show, and during intermissions, people of all ages in the rows danced with smiles and laughter. Dj Digie mixed music on his turn table throughout the night, as he co hosted with Maiden. Performances included a large variety of musicality and dance styles from breakdancing, to ballet, krump to rap opera.
“Hip hop is so big now that you can’t contain it,” said artist Desdamona.
Minnesota communities have a deep rooted history of hip hop culture and artistry. The SOTA Movement aimed to make elements of hip hop accessible to a wide audience. For some it was a source of inspiration, like the Grant family who attended The Uprising battle to inspire their youngest child, Daniel to pursue his passion of dance. A second SOTA Movement is in the process of being planned for the year 2025.
“A lot of people from out of town shared that this was the best dance event they’ve ever been to,” Johnson said.
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