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Un1te Dance Company brings hip-hop dancers together

Emmeline Guerrero

Whether it’s bringing in one of Beyoncé’s back-up dancers for a workshop or staging a competition, Un1te Dance Company is a driving force in Winnipeg’s dance community.

“We started rehearsing in my parents’ garage back in 2007,” 29-year-old founder and director Romeo Suban reminisces. “From there we started getting connected with different studios, different events and basically creating an underground urban dance scene.

“Our mission is to bridge the gap between the dance studios, the dance schools and independent dance teams, so we’re kind of an all-encompassing hub. We try to offer something different and connect dancers to the arts scene here in Winnipeg.”

While Suban has been the leading force since the beginning, Tim Nombrado and Milcah Abril are among many others that make Un1te a reality.

“I couldn’t do this without tons of support,” Suban says. “A lot of people have come and gone over the years, but their impact has been powerful and strong.”

One of the biggest ways Un1te brings dancers together is through its annual In the Zone hip-hop competition at Jubilee Place. The eighth edition will be taking place next June. 

“It’s been quite a journey over the years and the city has generally been responding very well, Suban notes. ”The show has been sold out the last two years and over 500 dancers participate to win a cash prize that was $2,000 and will now be $3,000.” 

Each year, Un1te brings in a guest judge from out of town for the competition. Most recently it was Steph Charbonneau, part of Montreal-based dance crew Rockwell Family. Suban says past winners, including Sikat - a local hip-hop dance crew - have gone on to be successful in other dance competitions in other cities.

“We want to make sure the dancers are given a judge that will mark fairly and can also teach with quality,” Suban says. “Even though it’s a competition the big thing I emphasize is celebrating each other’s successes, uniqueness and diversity.”

In July, Un1te was able to bring in one of Beyoncé’s back-up dancers, Amandy Fernandez, when she was in Winnipeg for the On the Run Tour stop at Investors Group Field.

“I got the idea back in 2011 when I was able to bring in some of Rihanna’s dancers and connect with them,” Suban says. “Usually they have some free time and it’s a great way for our dancers here in Winnipeg to connect with some really talented people. For me personally the biggest artists you could back-up dance for would be Beyoncé and Justin Timberlake: you just can’t get much bigger than that and we were really lucky to make one of those happen.”

Suban says there will be another workshop in October and a charity fundraiser dance marathon on Nov. 30.

“I’m just honoured to have events that bring people together in a positive way which builds and challenges each of them to grow not only as dancers, but also as people.” 

To learn more search for Un1te Dance Company on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Published in Volume 69, Number 2 of The Uniter (September 10, 2014)

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