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Legacy Dance forms hip hop group for 'cut-throat' competitions

Instructor Carlo Yao leads the group in practice last week at Legacy Dance in Woodbury. Staff photo by Riham Feshir

A group of local hip hop dancers have a chance to put Minnesota on the map and let the world know that Midwesterners know how to express themselves through those precise moves.

Minnesota Motion was formed by Legacy Dance Studio teachers Dao Vongphrachanh and Carlo Yao, comprised of 26 dancers from all over the Twin Cities.

Hoping to perfect their five-and-a-half minute routine for an upcoming competition, the duo is working to get the entire crew on the same page, since it can be difficult to keep two dozen dancers in sync.

"Everyone wants to be that team that puts Minnesota on the map," Yao said, noting that most hip hop dancers from around the state are self-taught through YouTube. "Everyone watches their favorite choreographer and learns that style."

Hip hop is more popular on the West Coast and East Coast, but not so much in this region, he said. However, it's increasing in popularity with many young dancers looking for studios where they can practice and competitions where they can show their talent.

Minnesota Motion has male and female dancers, teens and 20-somethings, who are currently practicing in Woodbury where they appreciate having a studio with a dance floor and wall-to-wall mirrors.

Vongphrachanh and Yao formed the group -- mostly students at the University of Minnesota -- who never had a consistent space to dance.

Just like the duo's experience in college, most of the students are self-taught and perform at university events sponsored by some of the cultural student groups.

Vongphrachanh and Yao also met in college where they performed as part of the Vietnamese Student Association. They moved on to dance at night clubs and as opening acts for national dance tours.

Now the pressure is on, as they get ready to submit an audition tape they hope will get them in the World of Dance competition held in Chicago this November.

Once they work out the kinks in their routine, they say they'll have a good chance of being chosen to go to Chicago to perform for the judges.

With television shows like "So You Think You Can Dance," "America's Got Talent" and MTV's "America's Best Dance Crew," the demand for hip hop is rising.

The type of hip hop dance seen on each of those shows varies, even though most people think of the dance as merely break dancing, or a type of dance with lots of "waving, popping and locking," Yao said.

Each member of the Minnesota Motion crew comes with their own set of moves that the teachers are trying to unify into one performance that makes sense.

With five different songs that range in tempo, Vongphrachanh and Yao are incorporating some more lyrical moves into the hip hop dance as well.

"Even though there are five different pieces, it's going to look cohesive," Vongphrachanh said.

The group's goal is to make it past the Chicago performance and move on to face some "cut-throat" competitors from Los Angeles and the Philippines in future competitions.

"This is to get our feet wet," Yao said.

Riham Feshir
Riham Feshir is a reporter and photographer for the Woodbury Bulletin. Her coverage includes Woodbury City Hall, Washington County Board of Commissioners and business news.  Follow Riham on Twitter @RihamFeshir for the latest updates.