Hip hop crew places 1st in U.S., 10th in world
The dance crew Rated Next Generation is now a two-time winner of Hip Hop International’s U.S. hip-hop dance competition.
The Mukilteo-based hip hop crew – made up of seven kids ages 14-17, including one from Edmonds-Woodway High School – placed first in the U.S. Hip Hop Dance Championships and 10th in the World Hip Hop Dance Championships held Aug. 6-11 in Las Vegas.
The kids’ crew competed against the best 32 crews from across the country and the best 60 crews from around the world in their age division. RNG also won the U.S. competition in 2009.
Aneeka “Neeks” Acode, 15, Jennique “Nikki” Derousseau, 16, Alexandria “Alex” Porter, 15, Erin Anderson, 15, Maya Sharpe, 17, Marina Morga, 15, and Paiton Hamilton, 14, danced a routine to Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal” at the Red Rock Resort in Las Vegas.
“It felt crazy,” Nikki said of their championship win. “I’ve never screamed so loud in my life. We all started crying and screaming. It felt like all of the hard work was actually paying off.”
As a tribute to MJ, each of the dancers wore white suits and hats reminiscent of his iconic 1930s nightclub look in the 1987 music video. They also wore black masks to cover their faces, forcing the judges to focus on their choreography.
RNG performed their routine to a medley of “Smooth Criminal” remixes and the original recording. They mixed a variety of artistic styles, from classical to groovy to dub step, to showcase their artistry.
“It was extremely precise,” Nikki said. “Because Michael Jackson is so clean and his dancers are so crisp that we had to look exactly the same.”
With their matching masks and white suits, not only did they all look alike, but no one in the audience knew they were girls. When they took off their masks, the audience exploded with applause.
They were shocked that the seven MJs they’d been watching on stage weren’t boys.
“I really loved the fact that you couldn’t tell we were girls,” Nikki said. “When we took our masks off, everyone was freaking out that we were girls. Jaws were dropping. It was gender defying.”
RNG was in 17th place by the preliminaries of the World Hip Hop Dance Championships. They promised themselves they would improve in the next round, at least to 12th place. They did two better, jumping from 17th to 10th in the semi finals. Only the Top 7 moved on to the finals.
“We were really surprised we jumped seven places,” Aneeka said. “While we were waiting, it was really intense. Our hearts were pounding and we were filled with anxiety and excitement.”
The girls rehearsed for just three weeks before the competition at the Connection Performing Arts Center in Mukilteo. They were at the studio 4-5 days a week, up to four hours a day.
It was hard work made harder because they had to move around in hot suits and with no peripheral vision, due to their masks.
“We didn’t have that much time, but we work pretty good under pressure,” Alex said.
Choreographer Kolanie Marks recruited the kids to form RNG in 2009. Marks saw their potential.
Five of them had placed seventh in Hip Hop International’s 2008 U.S. Hip Hop Dance Championships as dancers in the kid crew Rated PG, and he knew that with advanced training, they could do even better.
And they did. As RNG, they returned to HHI in 2009 and placed first in the U.S. and sixth in the world.
The kids crew has also placed fourth on season seven of MTV’s “America’s Best Dance Crew,” made it to the Top 48 of NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” and was featured in the movie “Battlefield America.”
“These kids give it 150 percent,” Marks said. “The level of choreography they do is intense. Not a lot of adults would be able to do this.
“They’re very serious about their dream and their passion.”