Get jiggy with it: Hip-Hop Dance Crew preps students for the big stage

The Hip-Hop Dance Crew's Controlled Chaos performed in the William Pitt Union Monday night. Julia Zhu | Staff Photographer

A group of about 30 students dropped to the floor in the Baierl Student Recreation Center, kicked their legs out and stepped to a mashup of contemporary hits Thursday night.

As part of the Hip-Hop Dance Crew beginner class, some members of the group were there to learn the choreographed routine, others to exercise and others to have fun with their friends. A few hopefuls, though, attended the class to pick up moves that might earn them a spot on Pitt’s Dance Team, or the Hip-Hop Dance Crew’s performing squad, Controlled Chaos.

“If you can’t dance, and you want to try dance, do it, because it’s honestly a fun time … you’ll have a great time trying,” said Elana Carr, a sophomore nursing major and a member of the crew.

The Hip-Hop Dance Crew is a club at Pitt dedicated to teaching aspiring hip-hop performers the skills they need in order to perform at a higher level, whether they want to be backup dancers for a singer on tour or just members of a campus dance squad.  

Controlled Chaos, the club’s dance team, performs on and off-campus at events including Monday night’s Homecoming Open Mic and Talent Show in the William Pitt Union.

According to the Hip-Hop Dance Crew’s president, Chidera Uzowihe — who’s also a member of Controlled Chaos — the club’s aim is to provide a place where anyone can discover a passion for dance.

“We’re just trying to share our love of dancing with everyone else,” said Uzowihe, a senior biology major.

Before class on Thursday, a group of dancers laughed while they sat in a circle and stretched their legs as two others diligently practiced dance moves from the previous class.

“You don’t have to be good at dance to have fun … We all laugh the whole time,” said Hannah Cooley, a first-year psychology major.

Uzowihe, who was teaching the class, started dancing in her junior year of high school with a group of friends. Her first year of college, she decided to audition for Controlled Chaos. At the time, the team was only looking for one additional dancer, and she was chosen.

While Uzowihe said the club has grown significantly since she started dancing, she’s already taken steps this year to influence more people to come out and try the class.

“The past couple of years, we had the members pay five or 10 dollars for the whole year, and they’d come to the dance classes,” she said. “So this year, I just wanted to make it free, and if some people can’t make it one time Thursday, then they can make it the next.”

Uzowihe choreographs for the dance team as well her process is influenced by a combination of her Nigerian background, the music she listens to and the dance choreography videos she enjoys watching.

“I generally stick to hip-hop because that’s how I move the best,” said Uzowihe. “I really like reggae music, too, so I choreograph to a lot of reggae or Afro beats … I choose my music based off what I listen to and what visually I think other people would like to see.”

In its sixth year performing, Controlled Chaos has received recognition on- and off-campus. The troupe has performed at Duquesne University and Carnegie Mellon University in addition to opening for B.o.B. at last year’s Bigelow Bash. Past performers have gone on to be involved in Pittsburgh’s first hip-hop and contemporary dance company, KG Dynasty, and become part of the Pitt Dance Team.

Carr said she auditioned her first year at Pitt on a whim after attending one of the beginner classes. She’s been a member ever since and is now even a part of Controlled Chaos.

“It was insane,” Carr said of the Bigelow Bash performance. “It was on this big stage in front of all these people which I was terrified [to perform in front of], but it was so cool. It was a really great experience.”

In one of two performances this year, Controlled Chaos took part in UPTV’s talent show in the assembly room at the William Pitt Union. Dressed in all black, the dancers weaved in and out of formation, in intricate steps and turns to a medley of contemporary hits including Beyonce’s “Flawless” as well as a reggae song called “Non Stop” by Egyptian.

In the coming months, Uzowihe hinted at possible flash mobs around campus, which is a personal goal she’d like to see the group accomplish after their first and only one last year at Market Central to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”

Until then, the dance crew will continue to promote its love of hip-hop dance with the community through their classes and performances, whether just for fun or with hopes to one day back-up dance for Beyonce.

“Hip-hop, I think, is the dance where you can incorporate a lot of your own style in it,” Uzowihe said. “I know contemporary is very strict when it comes to their choreography, [but] hip-hop, a lot of the choreography is one motion. You can make it your own.”

Lauren Lotka is a first-year at Pitt, with plans to study diet and nutrition. She primarily writes about music and intends to cover health issues at Pitt in the future.

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