Hyderabad's hip-hop dancers step up for intense dance battles and cyphers

From not knowing what hip-hop is to organising some of the most intense and enthusiastic cyphers, Hyderabad's street dancers are making their presence felt.

author_img Express News Service Published :  29th September 2021 04:56 PM   |   Published :   |  29th September 2021 04:56 PM

Dance battles happen in hip-hop and the competitors dance in a particular style and are judged accordingly

Back in 2010, when YouTube was the only source of learning hip-hop in Hyderabad, dancer Ivan Iendl, along with his friends Arun Aloysius and Swapnil Ex-T, decided to attend a workshop in Chennai where they battled with one of the strongest hip-hop crews in the Tamil Nadu capital. 

It was the trio’s first dance battle ever and they returned embarrassed. Thus, was born the dance battle culture in Hyderabad. Ivan and his friends formed a group called ‘The Proximity Crew’ and started training to become the city’s top street dancers. Cut to a year later, they again signed up for a battle in Chennai and made it to the finals! 

“At first, it was very difficult to learn as there was no one in Hyderabad who taught the style. We used to travel to different cities to learn this dance form. Slowly, we, along with a few other dancers, built this community and started conducting workshops, cyphers and battles,” says Ivan, who is also a hip-hop DJ. 

He feels that people should start training at a very young age in order to master the skills and perform for a longer time. “Dance, as an art, should be shared among the younger people for them to understand the dos and don’ts,” he says. 

Varun Dhopeshwarkar, aka Dope V, a choreographer, creative director and editor, who is also one of the first hip-hop dancers in the city, says there was hardly a dance battle scene back in 2009 when he had started learning. “My first battle was in Bengaluru; it was an all-India championship which took place in 2012. Later, I travelled to Delhi, Chennai and Kolkata to compete in several battles. I even attended workshops by international artistes and went on to compete abroad,” he says. 

Dance battles

Another popular dancer, Harsha Maheshwari, aka Komet, has been conducting workshops and jam sessions for the past 10 years and has successfully completed 10 versions at various venues such as The Heart Cup Coffee (Jubilee Hills and Gachibowli), Prism (Financial District), HyLife (Jubilee Hills) and Tabula Rasa (Jubilee Hills). The founder of Cypher Hours, she invites faculties from different cities to conduct workshops not just for the privileged, but also at NGOs. “A cypher is where people come together in a circle and experiment with their art. Workshops are conducted to let go off your ego and learn as much as you can. That’s how you grow and enhance the culture,” she says. 

Ideally, dance battles happen in hip-hop and the competitors dance in a particular style and are judged accordingly. But, Harsha has a different take on this. “I like exploring and learning; this had led us to conduct a belly dance battle during the Hyderabad Dance Festival in April.” 

Budding dancers of today’s time, Akhil Mohan (the co-founder of AM2AM Dance Company) and Pranit Nair (a senior instructor at Rhythmzz Academy of Dance) are pushing the envelope every day to popularise the culture. They have been attending and conducting workshops and cyphers so that the youth learn about this dance form. 

“The hip-hop scene in Hyderabad is great! We are conducting quality workshops and battles at different venues for people to get a better idea about this culture. Post Covid, the scene has improved even more. It is surprising to see such huge turnout. I look forward to training the next generation,” says Akhil.

Cypher vs Battle

A dance battle is a one-on-one combat between two individuals or crews, where dancers have to analyse the music being played by the DJ, catch the beats, impress the judges and entertain the crowd. It’s all about multitasking. Where as a cypher is a place to explore and flaunt your talent. There are no judges and there is no winner. 

Hip-hop styles

  • Popping: Sudden tensing and releasing of muscles to match the rhythm and beats of the music

  • Locking: You freeze from the last movement and lock in a certain position

  • Waacking: Created by the LGBTQIA+ clubs of Los Angeles, it has rational-arm movements, poses and emphasises on expressions

  • House: Danced to loud and bass-heavy electronic dance music

  • Breaking: Also called B-Boying or B-Girling, this is an athletic style of street dance

  • Krumping: The movements are abrupt and strong

Venues hosting battles/cyphers 

  • Heart Cup Coffee, Jubilee Hills

  • Tabula Rasa, Jubilee Hills

  • Nritya-A forum for Performing Arts, Banjara Hills

  • HyLife Brewing Company, Jubilee Hills

  • Prism, Financial District