Dance Artists You Need to Know is a series of interviews with some of Ottawa’s most engaging BIPOC dance artists and companies.
Moov Ottawa Dance is taking this city’s street dance scene by storm. Founders Alea de Castro and Arnaldo Betancourt Silva’s passion and commitment to this movement sees them teaching, performing, organizing battles and building community, among many other artistic pursuits. I sat down virtually with Alea to talk about Moov Ottawa’s pathway and hopes for the future.
This interview has been condensed for length and clarity.
Apt613: What is your relationship to dance in the Ottawa-Gatineau area and beyond?
Alea de Castro: Moov Ottawa Dance was founded by myself and Arnaldo Betancourt Silva in 2018 with the intention of providing more opportunities for street dance to flourish in the city. Initially, we didn’t have the “company,” but rather our idea of “Th3rd Fridays,” a free monthly community dance battle for the scene to look forward to, as there wasn’t anything consistent happening for street dancers. With the success of the events and our ideas continuously burning, we decided to make the company official and pursue our artistic careers through Moov Ottawa Dance.
We specialize in various street dance/club dance styles such as hip hop, house, breaking or “breakdance,” waacking/whacking, and more. We teach classes and workshops to educate our community, perform our dance shows, organize many dance battles and provide personal coaching and styling services. Moov has built great relationships with key players in the Ottawa-Gatineau area through our Street Dance and Culture programs. We don’t believe this movement and culture is done alone, but rather as a community.
If you had to describe your work in five words, what words would you choose?
Community, hip hop, colour, engaging, youth.
What are some challenges you’ve experienced in your work? Some rewarding moments?
One of our main challenges is to find funding and make our work understood by these granting and funding bodies. Our craft and culture is very unique from other dances, and hip hop seems to have a difficult time holding importance, even if it’s all around us. We find that we have to “prove” our work holds value, even though we know our worth.
One of our rewarding moments is when our students become so excited when they see improvement in their skills. They see that their work is paying off through practice and they’re actually enjoying the dance and gaining more confidence.
Another rewarding moment is seeing our dance battles filled with dancers from all over Canada, along with a fun audience. Street dancers feed off of people’s energy while dancing in a cypher, performing, or in a battle. When you have an engaged group of spectators, dancers really respond well, dance better, and allow their best version of themselves to shine. The whole environment is phenomenal and everyone benefits from the experience.
What would you like to see happen in the dance community?
We want street dance and hip hop culture to hold longevity in Ottawa. We want it to be a norm in the city. We want more platforms for street dance artists to flourish, more knowledge shared with the new generation, and more dance battles to improve our dancers and entertain our city.
What inspires you?
For co-founder Arnaldo, the youth inspire him on a regular basis. Hip hop started with oppressed Black and Latino youth and they are full of flavour and passion, but don’t all have access to dance classes on a regular basis. These youth are the reason why he wants to continue pushing the culture to the forefront of their communities, because it’s already there, but just lacks structure and guidance.
For myself, Alea, women of colour inspire me. They create amazing content through street dance and hip hop, they pave the way for other women like myself and represent what they stand for: equality, feminism, and dope artistic work!