Growing hip hop at Laurier

(Photo by Nick Lachance)

“I want it to be one unified community. I want it to be a unity, you know,” said forward-thinking first-year business student Kang Tran. While hip hop and Laurier are not often thought of in tandem, Tran is dead-set on changing up the dance scene on campus.

Though only in his first year, Tran is already spearheading ALIAS, Laurier’s first hip hop “crew” to compete in OUCH, the Ontario Universities Competition for hip hop, since the Laurier Hawk Gurlz did in the early 2000s.

“Laurier in comparison to all the universities out there, in terms of hip hop is under the radar,” he said. “I really want to stick it out there and be like ‘hey Western, hey York, hey Queens, Carleton,’ whatever; all the universities out there, Laurier is here to fight, you know what I mean?”

After leading ALIAS to a third place finish at OUCH, held last Saturday night at the John Basset Theatre in Toronto, it looks like his vision is coming into fruition.

First held ten years ago at the University of Waterloo, OUCH brings together hip hop crews from across the province who pop, lock and drop-it for the chance to win the top prize of hosting next year’s competition.

Durham College swept the competition for the third time in a row, however, Laurier delivered one of the most passionate performances of the night, eliciting raucous cheers and a standing ovation from much of the audience.

Unlike many of the other competitors at OUCH, Tran incorporated a variety of styles in his choreography, bring many of his dancers out of their comfort zones. The result, however, was an energetic performance that held the crowd’s attention throughout the almost three minute routine.

Comprised of nine undergrad students, including Tran, ALIAS was formed at the end of September and has only been rehearsing for a month and a half.

Placing at OUCH was a testament to their dedication and love of dance; qualities Tran always hopes to inspire when choreographing and leading classes.

Entering the hip hop world in 2008, Tran joined a crew in his hometown of Mississauga and was fortunate enough to represent Canada two years in a row at the World Hip Hop Dance Championships in Las Vegas. Here he learned under the pioneers of the scene.

“I really had a great opportunity to soak in and absorb so much knowledge from these pioneers and really take in what true hip hop is. That really inspired me to come here to Laurier and do the same thing,” he said.

A newcomer to campus, Tran was fortunate enough to meet three upper-year students who helped him bring Alias to life.

“It’s kind of a mixed feeling only because it is my first year, I have to stick my foot in the door and be like, I just gotta do it, I just need to stick my head in it, go all out,” he said.

Adriana Doncillo, Michael Tam and Tony Kartalianakis, all members of the crew, take care of Alias’ administration, sponsorship and finances enabling Tran to focus on visual direction and choreography.

With the competition done, ALIAS plans to focus on recouping their costs by hosting a variety of workshops on campus.

Having already led one last week, Tran was impressed by the turnout after only three days of promoting his class.

Signifying the growth potential for a dynamic hip hop community on campus, Tran hopes to move beyond simply competing to foster a passion for the art of dance.

“It’s hurtful to see a lot of dancers go out there and do it for the wrong reason,” said Tran.

“I want to come into this community and be like, you know, hip hop, especially hip hop, or any dance, it’s not about showcasing, it’s expressing what you love to do, what you’re desires and passions are.”

Through his crew at home, Tran has built strong connections to the thriving hip hop scene down the road at the neighbouring UW.

His goal is to bridge the gap between the two schools to create a community of mutual support free of animosity.

Only a semester into university life, Tran is well on his way to achieving his goals and is looking forward to what the next four (or five) years will bring.

“Being a first year student and doing all of this, it’s such a humbling experience. And it’s so crazy, it’s so unreal. I couldn’t feel more blessed to be able to do this,” he finished.

**Editor’s note: This article has been updated from it’s original version.

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