Austin’s hip-hop community needs more chutzpah

Nrhari Duran

When Nach Baliye, UT’s bollywood-fusion dance team, made headlines at the international hip-hop dance competition World of Dance, the campus gained some street cred. That was two years ago. Since then, an Austonian dance team has yet to headline or succeed at a World of Dance event, largely in part to Austin’s meager professional hip-hop community. Traditionally, professional hip-hop dancers across the globe gravitate to where the music is loudest, but in Austin, urban dancers struggle to find events and opportunities in Austin to pursue hip-hop dance professionally. 

Presently, anyone looking to take their “street dancing,” which refers to hip-hop styles such as popping and locking, breakdancing and krumping, to the professional level has to relocate to cities like Houston or Atlanta, where hip-hop communities are larger and more supportive. 

The hallmark of a city’s thriving dance population is the annual presence of World of Dance. With more than 15 stops across the nation, each region’s best dancers and fans gather to network and build followings via word of mouth. More importantly, these dance events offer chances for sponsorships and cash prizes, which are a dancer’s largest stream of income. Unlike Houston and Dallas, which are home to a few major dance events, Austin hosts a whopping zero. Consequently, dancers in central Texas struggle to enter Texas’s professional dance community.

Houstonian choreographer and dancer Jared Garado said that “dancers from outside of Houston come into town occasionally, but there are no dancers going out to Austin. There is no money or recognition there.” Garado, like thousands of other hip-hop fans and dancers in and near Houston, attended World of Dance Houston just last weekend and explained that the lack of major events and community outcry was holding Austin back. 

Those content with the status quo have claimed that Austin’s hip-hop community is too small for traveling companies like World of Dance to profit from stopping by, but the issue is not community size — it’s community participation.

Alexander Fitzgerald, a dancer by the name of “Slim Bone” who annually attends World of Dance events, explained that “hip-hop in Austin is a well kept secret. DJs, dancers and even beatboxers are common in Austin, but few of them make these passions their profession, so dance companies have little incentive to set up shop in town.” Fitzgerald claims that having very few street dance companies in Austin is the primary reason for dancers and DJs putting their passion on the sidelines, which further contributes to the lack of studios in the state capitol. The astute would call this a “self-fulfilling prophecy,” but Austonian hip-hop dancers call this “unemployment.”

Essentially, dance companies have very few pull factors in Austin, and the city’s hip-hop community does not show enough support for companies to make the move themselves. Hip-hop fans and performers in the city have to become more active participants via social media and attendance to put Austin on the proverbial map. In order to grow the city’s hip-hop community, we need to raise the volume.

Duran is international relations and global studies freshman from Spring. Follow him @bboydeadfish