Breakin' into Vegas
By Dominique Brady
Smash Bro'z have been crowned the West Midland's best hip hop dance collective and now the Birmingham group are hoping to take Las Vegas by storm in the world Hip Hop Dance Championships later this month.
Smash Bro'z show off their moves
The group only formed in January, a mere seven months ago, however they are already the first West Midlands dance group to qualify for the world hip hop championships in the US.
Kashmir Leese, one of the group’s founders, says he is proud of the group’s achievements: “We’re the first Birmingham group to qualify for the London heat, let alone Las Vegas, so we’ve already made history. Most of the groups that enter the UK qualifying rounds are at least three years old.”
Smash Bro’z has five members from across Birmingham. Kashmir, 20, Jahmai Jones, 17 and Aundre Brown, 18, came up with the idea for the group when sitting in MacDonalds after a dance class last year.
“We class ourselves as people who strive to be a bit more than the average dancer, so we thought we’d find people who wanted the same thing and make a group,” says Kashmir.
Smash Bro'z are like a family
They set about forming a group in January. The three had been attending freestyle B Boy sessions at Birmingham’s DanceXChange for two years, where they would swap skills with other dancers. It didn’t take them long to find the passion and commitment they were looking for in their final two members: Aaron Smith, 20 and Nehemiah Smith, 24.
Smash Bro’z say what defines them from other dance groups in Birmingham is their determination and focus to succeed. “When we say we’re going to do something, we make sure we do it,” says Kashmir.
Lockin’ and poppin’
They are all self taught in break dancing, but they have a passion for dance and attend other classes at the DanceXchange. They work as freelance dancers when they are not rehearsing as a group, and have skills in a range of genre from contemporary to street.
Kashmir says their hip hop dances are infused by their collective history in B-boy, ballet and contemporary styles.
Smash Bro'z in the city - pic by Dominic Davids
“We don’t do a new style of dance - it’s how real hip hop should be. Nowadays it’s all gone a bit commercialised and people have forgotten where the styles come from. Break is one of the first hip hop styles and people don’t consider it to be street dance. So we’re just bringing it back and showing people what the raw form of the dance should be.”
Their name was inspired by a Nintendo computer game, Smash Bros. In Smash Bros a range of characters from different Nintendo titles are brought together in one game.
“It represented who we are as people. Like the game, we have very different characters and different skills we can offer and bring to the table. It’s also how we are, as a collective and family,” explains Aundre.
Birmingham’s Got Talent
You might even recognise a few of the members. Jahmai, Kasmir and Andre were all part of the ‘Urban Ninjas’, a Birmingham act that made it through to the quarter finals for the first series of ITV’s Britain’s Got Talent. Even performing in front of Simon Cowell didn’t scare them. “A lot of people hate him because they see him on TV, but he’s actually quite funny in person,” says Kashmir.
Smash Bro'z in the city - pic by Dominic Davids
They entered the West Midlands heat for the World Hip Hop Championships in February. After winning this, they competed in the UK final heat on March 1 in Watford. They competed against 18 other adult groups and scooped third prize, against significantly more established groups. The top three acts from the finals qualified to compete in Las Vegas.
Kashmir says they were initially disappointed with their ranking: “At first we were downhearted because when we did the preliminary round beforehand, we were ranked second place. But it was our goal to qualify for the finals, and we achieved that.”
Watch Smash Bro'z performance at the London heats.
The group set themselves the goal of raising £10,000 to fund their LA dream and to cover the costs of flights, accommodation and expenses. Since March they have given dance workshops at schools and companies and performed at everything from weddings to fashion shows to raise funds. At present though, their LA trip is on a knife edge.
Pic by Dominic Davids
“We’ve put all our money together now but we’ve only got £3000, which will only cover the flights. We need an extra £2000 for accommodation and expenses.”
They are due to compete on July 29, so the next two weeks will be a frantic race to do more workshops, raid their piggy banks and find the funding. “Hopefully a miracle will happen and we’ll be able to go,” says Kashmir.
“The World Hip Hop Championships will feature groups from 50 other countries, and they’re the best of the best. It would be a great chance to meet other groups, learn from them and to raise our ambitions even higher,” says Andre.
The groups are hopeful they will still find a way to go, but if they can’t, they are even more determined to go next year.
Ambitions are still running high and they are determined to succeed and put Birmingham on the hip hop dance map. “We’re going to try to do more international competitions to raise our game. We’d also like to collaborate with other dancers in Birmingham and ultimately, we’d like to be the first hip hop dance group from Birmingham to get a main show on at The Hippodrome.”
last updated: 16/07/2009 at 16:46