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Robson Square in downtown Vancouver features a prominent group that you might already know – street dancers.
While they’re a thriving community in the square now, it wasn’t always easy.
Early in their history, street dancers were actually banned from practicing at Robson Square. Back in 1994, Nelson Cortez, a BBoy, discovered the space at Robson Square and began practising there late at night. The smooth ground in the rink was perfect for spinning and practicing power moves so he invited his crew Dead Reckoning to practice with him – but they were always chased out by security.
“They didn’t like us practicing here, we played music and used the outlets. People started hanging out because they wanted to watch the practicing. The security didn’t like the loitering,” said crew member Jheric Hizon.
Yet they kept coming and defended themselves, stating it was ridiculous to ban dancing and that their art should be welcomed.
“Would you rather have kids go out and do criminal activities or would you rather have them here, dance, and create a community.” said Cortez. “These kids have nothing else, let them do something positive.”
It wasn’t until Cortez and his crew drafted a letter to the province in 1996 to gain permission to use the space that things began to look up and the ban was lifted.
Thankfully, this paved the way for the creation of the street dance community in Robson Square and the annual Vancouver Street Dance Festival (VSDF). Now, on any day of the week you’ll find street dancers in the area practicing and teaching dance styles like breaking, hiphop, house, locking, popping, waacking, and hustling.
Today, the annual Street Dance Festival helps to being locals together to celebrate and engage with the city’s diverse street dance culture.
VSDF is a non-profit completely led by volunteers who have organized the festival every year since 2012. Artists and local businesses have helped provide kind donations to the organization, but they have always struggled to accumulate funds. However, recently they secured for the first time, grants from the city of Vancouver and the BC Arts Council, which they are tremendously thankful for.
“Streetdance and the arts in general is really valuable and deserves to be recognized financially, with these grants we can finally begin to properly thank our artists involved, but we still got a long way to fully achieve that” said Chris Son, secretary and media representative for VSDF.
“Many people don’t know we exist or ever heard of street dance. With VSDF, we’re trying to host an awesome party inviting others to our community as well as discussing the values and challenges that our communities face,” Son added.
This year, you’ll be able to experience the sixth annual festival from August 5 at Robson Square, in the heart of Downtown Vancouver.
When: August 4 to 6
Where: Robson Square
Daily Hive is a proud media sponsor of the Vancouver Street Dance Festival