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Summer Dance Forever 2015 | by Stefani #SXSTV

Summer Dance Forever just finished it’s fifth edition: the  inner-city urban festival ran from August 11 until 19 at club Paradiso in the capital Amsterdam. To have this kind of festival in my home country is something to be appreciative and proud of. Foreigners were the unfortunate ones that had to bridge a time period between IBE and Forever. Unlike myself since I’m residing at the place to be; the unique Dutch concept from John Agesilas’ team makes it possible for a dancer to face their judges in the categories: popping, house, hip hop and for the first time: break.

IMG_8116sdfIn the four years I’ve attended Forever I’ve seen it grow and come into it’s own more and more. Although, in this day and age the dynamic of the energy  visitors bring, can be a bit confusing.  Modern times created a small category of visitors who lack the basic understanding of why they should support a Hip Hop event like this besides their favourite dancers attending. Luckily this year it feels like the main audience contains dancers and public of equal calibre; it seems everybody is one big extended family and people with a genuine interest in art. Foreign contestants just come to visit their beloved Amsterdam. After five years they come to familiar playground just wearing their skills and passion. The only way to concur Forever is to come out, prove it on the dance floor ’till you confront the judges and battle until you reach a way to Japan.

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This edition started of with amazing performances at the Stadsschouwburg called “Nights at the Theatre”.  Because I’ve been working at the Theaterschool in Amsterdam this year I’ve found a whole new layer of appreciation for theatre through witnessing a lot of high level student performances recently. I’ve learned a thing or two about the making of those shows from all different disciplines. Naturally I was thrilled to witness more exceptional art during not one but two nights of theatre! Particular highlights for me were Tentacle Tribe (Canada) and Snazzy Dogs (Japan).

“The partner work shown by Tentacle Tribe was just magnificent. So organic yet a peaceful, powerhouse, movement spectacle. The piece actually left me in a trance.”

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Photo: Sasha Box

Then there was Snazzy Dogs: The simplicity of the instruments, the unexplainable talent this collective possesses. They embody the spirit of funk and dance in general. Combine this with the intense  joy on their faces and you’ll find me in tears.

“Art should make you feel something, anything. I live for the moments when it makes me feel alive and grateful in a time where so many examples of the contrary leave you wondering what the point is.  I think the point is: feel the soul both inside and in the music and search for realness wherever you go.”

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Photo: Sasha Box

For some it lead to the Phillipines. During Hip Hop Forever Niako took the mic and introduced the showing of Hip Hop 4 Hope. The short documentary features dancers like Majid, Mufasa, Laila and others and is produced by Kaizen Pictures who already made incredible documentaries. They deserve a lot of respect for their creations and efforts.

“Hip Hop 4 Hope is a tool to uplift young kids in the Slum areas of Manila in the Philippines to keep them away from street violence and focus their energies on more positive pursuits.”

To really understand the extend of the conditions (warning: graphic images).

It was emotional seeing Mufasa cry on four screens at the same time having to say goodbye to the children. These incredible artists are using their position to the benefit of others. I’d like to encourage our fans of Step x Step Dance to help this cause. From a bigger perspective, you are empowering the culture of Hip Hop. In practical sense you are facilitating dance classes by donating. You can also buy an item from the charity shop. Ten Euros equals one week of classes for twenty kids. In the hallway of Paradiso dancers dropped  their pocket change in a beanie!

“100% of the proceeds goes straight to the project!”

Are you an organizer, teacher, producer or simply compassionate but unable to help financially? Then visit this page to find out all the ways you can contribute. Above all: remember what dance did or does for yourself in hard times. It saved many of us in one way or another. In the end your status, notoriety or whatever else is NOT that serious. We are blissed. Just enjoy life, explore and let your life and your art be an extension to better someone else’s.

“Remember what you dance for.” -Niako.

11212647_744464615675565_8548597005407149185_o11703341_744464789008881_4405975652011410575_o11731668_748161795305847_9011609256119363150_o10477103_743419579028764_610551872989252018_nOut here we get to pick our ‘battles’. What makes the concept of Summer Dance Forever unique is the opportunity to face your judge. The fact that many dancers felt the need to tell the audience they were facing their inspiration or teacher makes it a more meaningful experience. This goes for competitors as well as the audience. It can be an intricate maze to know the history of who trained with whom. If you want to know about this scene try to make it your business to learn about this. For some dancers the respect they hold for their opponent is why they gave the win away. Waydi gave his to Ice-E by stating he lost and gave up his chance of winning a trip to Summer Dance Forever Japan. Takes a mature 20- year old to make that choice.

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Photo: @littleshao

This year Summer Dance Forever created an addition to it’s line up of battles with Breaking Forever. Perhaps the turn up wasn’t as huge as hoped for, yet I think adding the bboys into the mix was long overdue. Bbboy events cary a different kind of vibe. A bit more confrontational and usually high level energy. You notice this in the audience as well.  If there is any category who would like to face or have dreamed about calling out their judges it is definitely this style. Furthermore I believe it can strengthen the exchange between dancers just as House of Kapela does this. For example they invite bboys who have a serious passion for house; in the same way Summer Dance Forever is also a place to be inspired and experience new ways of approaching your art form.

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“Your chest might hurt for a bit if you see what you missed. Then again, if you weren’t present then you deprived yourself of receiving a present.”

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Photo: @littleshao

Fun fact: Paradiso (venue) had an amazing new set of big screens. The well known colourful ambiance was seriously increased by the amazing choice of DJ’s: Nobunaga (The Netherlands) for example made the crowd go crazy during Breaking Forever and again during Popping Forever together with his brother Lucas Benjamin.  It can never be said enough: Music Makes Or Breaks Your Event. It doesn’t matter if your location isn’t fancy; music is the glue or better yet the honey that makes all the elements stick together.  Thank you do the DJ’s who hosted some amazing parties last week.  Also new was the roller disco! Hopefully next year it will return a little later in the schedule so more people can enjoy this old school way of shameless fun.

The battle between bboy Issei and Pac Pac was fierce. During Hip Hop Forever I had a hard time keeping a straight face to make photos of Kefton and Waydi’s rounds.

For house we will all definitely remember Tony and Frankie… Past and future in one setting being current as heck. Then Miss Marie Kaae came, saw, concurred and left gracefully by saying she dedicated her win to Marjory Smarth (may she dance in peace) and hoped to encourage all women to step up their game.

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“This year the festival spread all pre-selections on different days than the final battles. It’s a well known phenomenon that some support an event not a second longer than their battle rounds. Although this mentality will usually not get them past the pre-selections.”

Staying for the whole 9 yards is theoretically a must and most dancers want to. However, practically the budget to do so, can form an issue and that’s fair enough. In my opinion spreading the program items was most definitely beneficial to ensure a longer commitment to the festival but more importantly to increase the energy level of the finals. I could feel the vibration was more focused in the venue and consequently more intense energy was given back to the contestants.

Junior Workshop ForeverStudents were working hard during the workshops and master-classes all week long. After the battles they were doing a multitude of classes per day.

“In bboy Junior’s class I found a gentleman who looked like a senior compared to his classmates. Turns out after he recovered from open heart surgery recently he decided he wanted to break. I was floored.”

Fitting choice of words in this case because he was too. I requested to take his picture but he told me he wasn’t too fond of the idea that it would “float around on the internet”.  See the thing is if he gets better at breaking that is going to be an unstoppable scenario…

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Didier’s house class

Towards the end of Didier’s house class I noticed a young lady sitting on the sideline writing in her notebook. She was a 26-year old music producer with a passion for house music and dance. Jessica is originally from Australia but currently residing in Switzerland. She decided to come travel to Amsterdam for dance because she says where she’s from it’s mostly break oriented so in order for her to gain quality skills, she chose to attend Summer Dance Forever.

“A few times I heard instructors say: Dance for yourself. Until I did Majid’s class I never channeled emotions or thoughts through my body and give form to- for instance- anger.  You’re turning a negative to a positive and are able to affect the outside world with the new form. You are giving life back to life. So in fact you’re not only dancing for yourself. Everything is connected.” -Jessica Plattner

IMG_7769sDFDidier Firmin will be featured in an interview by the talented Matryoshki ladies:

“Was a pleasure to speak with legendary dancer and great DJ & organizer Didier Firmin. About history of house dancing by his steps, views on the modern dance scene, music and life inspiration, books and life philosophy – all that interesting sides of him don’t miss in our blog soon.

Most dancers invest in this festival because it offers a complete experience and opportunity to learn at the same time. Moreover the packages are offered at a good price to enable you to engulf yourself in it, a chance win and do it all again in Japan! A place in the world where you hear the most magical stories come from.  My advice is to start saving.  See you all in 2016!

Our appreciation goes out to John Agesilas, Luc Deleau and the entire Forever organization.

Full coverage recaps and photography are available by Mr Emden, Mr Shao and Miss Sasha.

For more information visit: www. summerdanceforever.com

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-Contact Stefani-

Photo courtesy: @littleshao , Steve Won and Sasha Box.