The Prodigy Dance Crew is set to take the world by storm again. It plans to compete in the World Hip Hop Dance Championship set for 7 p.m Aug. 10 at the Orleans Arena, 4500 W. Tropicana Ave.
The Prodigy was established in 2009 by Kay More, who is also its choreographer and director. There are two teams: the juniors consist of ages 8 to 13 and the varsity of ages 13 to 17. Dancers who turn 12 during 2014 are eligible for the juniors, while those who were 13 by Jan. 1 were put on the varsity squad. Both teams rehearse at Studio One’s Summerlin Dance Academy, 1181 S. Buffalo Drive, Suite 130.
The juniors’ program is 1½ minutes long. The varsity gets 2 minutes to impress the judges.
“It’s ‘all you have, all you can give,’ jam-packed into that concentrated time period, and that’s all you get,” More said.
That first year saw the Las Vegas group compete against junior crews from 35 countries. It emerged as the 2011 USA hip-hop dance champion in the junior division, as silver medalist in 2012 and as USA finalist in 2013.
“I think this is my favorite age group to work with,” More said. “I just find that they’re so open-minded, willing to grow. And they learn fast. It’s kind of inspiring to work with them because they really take in what you have to offer. … They have that sense of magic from childhood, trying to reach greatness.”
More has roughly 100 hip-hop students and chose the teams based on who stood out.
“They’re the ones who go the extra mile,” she said, “the overachievers, so to speak.”
Besides raw talent, they also had to have a good work ethic.
Chosen for this year’s juniors were: Amari Smith, 11; Jayna Hughes, 9; Kainoa Sollidum, 13; Aiden Alfonso, 8; Jaz (last name withheld), 10; AJ Jackson, 11; and Ethan Estandian, 13.
Chosen for varsity were: Anna Linstruth, 14; Julienne Villaraza, 14; Jayd’n Harris, 14; Nathan Navarro, 17; Brady Telles, 16; and Chaz Walter, 16.
The Prodigy focuses on training dancers in the original hip-hop styles as well as new school styles.
In the studio, More counted down, “Five, six, seven, eight, here we go, and tah, tah, tah. That’s it, make it choppy, make it staccato.”
The children popped, quirked, jumped, kicked and struck extreme mannequin poses.
Other small corrections followed from More — don’t tilt your shoulder, lean a little more and bend from the knees, not the waist.
Amari said hip hop allows him to express himself.
“It’s really fun to show the talent that I have and show my technique and showing people what I do, instead of having people say, ‘Oh, you’re a dancer, you just move your body.’ I get to show them what I do with my body; that’s so important.”
Anna has been studying with More for five years. A returning Prodigy member who was on the silver medal team, she refuses to watch competitors do their routines until after The Prodigy has performed.
When just about to step on stage, where is her mind?
“Definitely not anywhere else because you can’t be anywhere else or it’s not going to make it,” she said. “… I was on the group in 2012, and I remember going on stage for the semifinal round, and all of us were just so (nervous) because we knew this was our last chance … I remember thinking to myself, ‘If we’re going to do it right, then it has to be now.’ You have to get your head in the right space before you go on.”
She said looking back to how proficient she was five years ago, today is no comparison.
“At the time, I thought I was so good, one of the top ones. But now, looking back at it, I sucked so bad,” she said, laughing. “And when I’m 20, and I see videos from now, I’ll probably think (the same). You’re always a student.”
The youngsters put in 60 hours of training each week once school is out in preparation for the competition. Last year, the teams got extra practice by going to the Strip to perform on the street. Their tip jar brought in nearly $700, which helped with costs associated with the competition. The team benefits from having guests from Strip shows, such as the Luxor’s Jabbawockeez, come to the school to teach.
Tickets start at $25. For more information, visit tinyurl.com/q6xydj9.
For more information on The Prodigy Dance Crew, visit theprodigydancecrew.webs.com.
Contact Summerlin Area View reporter Jan Hogan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2949.