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San Francisco Hip Hop DanceFest

Despite the prevalent East Coast/West Coast rivalry in mainstream rap music, hip hop dancers from both coasts will congregate this weekend for some serious poppin', lockin' and breakin' at the San Francisco Hip Hop DanceFest, which runs Nov. 21 to Nov. 23 at the Palace of Fine Arts.

Now in its fifth year, the San Francisco Hip Hop DanceFest has always been known for its boisterous support of young, talented performers. The energy of the event is celebratory yet competitive—dancers begin with a sassy freestyle jam in which they individually show off their moves, setting the scene for a performance that's part ability and part style and attitude.

Moving from its customary two-week run at the modestly sized Theater Artaud, the festival has picked up momentum over the years. The majority of the performers are Bay Area natives, like festival organizer Micaya's own group SoulForce, but have performed to the fanfare of international audiences beyond the club and commercial circuits. A dozen youth performance groups will be highlighting Sunday night's show with movement styles ranging from martial arts to capoeira to modern jazz dance.

Collectively, the performers mix it up with a marriage of new and old school styles, as in Loose Change's integration of hip hop and Lindy hop. The evolution of hip hop from a specific urban art form to a staple of popular culture is what compelled Micaya, a dance instructor with two decades of experience, to move from Atlanta to Oakland in 1987. In many ways, the gestures and motions of hip hop were prime fodder for choreographers to sample at will. With a background in ballet, jazz, modern and ethnic African dance, Micaya incorporated hip hop in her dance classes to attract younger artists.

With work that has been featured in events for the NBA, Macy's, Girbaud Jeans, Nike and a slew of music videos and touring productions, Micaya acknowledges that hip hop dance is still an art form that hasn't received the validation it deserves. However, she says that when people first witnessed the festival, "it blew their mind…because they were seeing significant, sophisticated works of choreography." The diversity of hip hop is also what draws most people, she says. "They love that they (see) big dancers, tall dancers, not a carbon freakin' copy of every ballerina that you see. In hip hop we just don't have that restriction."

This year's performers, among many others, include: Chain Reaction, who incorporate acid jazz, nusoul, and comedy skits in their performance; the theatrically-themed New Style Motherlode; the freestyling Flo-ology Dance Collective; Micaya's own celebrated SoulForce; and the all-female crew B-Syde, with their underground hip hop sensibility. The youth group artists take center stage Sunday night and include DC Tribe, Imani's Dream and Diamond.

This year's line-up also features Full Circle, a dance company whose credits include live performances with the likes of Missy Elliott and Janet Jackson. Full Circle's Artistic Director, Gabriel "KWIKSTEP" Dionisio is legendary for his versatility and defining head spins. With the positive legacy of hip hop, Dionisio hopes to offer alternatives to kids living on the streets. "It's not the moves that make you a dancer, it's your
spirit... your soul."

San Francisco Hip Hop DanceFest
Palace of Fine Arts
3301 Lyon Street (at Bay Street)
Nov. 21, Nov. 22, 8 pm
Nov. 23, 7 pm

For information on the event and to purchase tickets:
<a href="http://www.sfhiphopdancefest.com">www.sfhiphopdancefest.com</a>;, (415) 392-4400