By Mackenzie Patterson
A studio in the basement of Kerr Hall West is crowded with Ryerson students sporting colourful kicks and track pants, sprawled across the hardwood floors. They stretch, warming up before their audition for the Urban Hip Hop Union, an art collective made up of Ryerson students.
“Can the music go louder?” one member says to another. “Yeah!” comes the enthusiastic reply as “Ride Wit Me” by Nelly blasts through the speakers. The dancers jerk and spin, gyrating to the rhythmic sounds booming off the walls in the small studio.
Premila Shanmugabalan, one of the 30 or so Ryerson students au- ditioning on Friday, Sept. 27, leans over her legging-clad limbs to grab her fur-lined shoe. She’s hoping to land one of a half dozen spots on a team that will represent Ryer- son’s hip-hop union in two annual university competitions, OUCH
(Ontario Universities Competition for Hip-Hop) on Nov. 23 and next year’s BYOB (Bring Your Own Beats).
“I’ve tried every type of dance: salsa, contemporary jazz, Bolly- wood. Hip-hop is one of my fa- vourites,” says Shanmugabalan. “I just love the music and the flow, and the dancers always look like they’re having so much fun… If I don’t make it, then at least I can say I tried my best and learned something, that’s all that matters.”
Dan Cruz, a member of the union’s executive team, choreo- graphs most of the routines for the competitions. As well as dancing every day and competing in up to four competitions a year, he teaches hip-hop classes professionally.
“There is a lot of beef and ani- mosity in the hip-hop world, but our team is more about the love aspect of it. We like to connect through dance,” Cruz says.
He says hip-hop is one of the most expressive emerging art forms. “A lot of people judge hip- hop or don’t take it seriously be-
cause it doesn’t have a strict crite- ria or follow an exact technique,” Cruz says. “But it’s actually very difficult because you have to put so much of your emotions and passion into the moves and really make them your own.”
Whether or not the team does well at their competitions this year, Cruz says he’s happy the hip- hop union is growing and getting the chance to showcase its talent.
“We’re really looking for char- acter today,” he says. “We want to see someone who can be given something as boring as a pencil and do something unique and creative.”