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Ottawa Minute: Every third Friday there are drop-in dance battles at Flava Factory

By Helen Lam and Hingman Leung on May 10, 2018



Here’s what happened when 613TV dropped in on a Th3rd Friday dance battle at The Flava Factory, to catch a glimpse of the Ottawa street dance scene.

Every third Friday is a free street dance battle event under a different theme and style. Open to anyone and everyone who loves street dance, the dancers face off in multiple rounds over the course of the night. After each battle, one dancer is eliminated by a judge until the monthly winner is crowned.

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The pace is intense and energy is high. The dancers we spoke to love this scene for its celebration of both community and individual expression. If you want to show the Ottawa street dance scene what you got, or you’re just a fan of the art and want to watch, get down to Hintonburg for Th3rd Fridays. The event goes from 7–10pm, with battles usually starting at 8pm.

613TV caught up with one of Th3rd Friday’s organizers, Ottawa dancer and choreographer Alea DeCastro, for her take on Ottawa’s street dance scene and her dance inspirations.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Apt613: How did you get into street dance, and what’s so special about this style of dance?

Alea DeCastro: I was always watching music videos from artists like Janet Jackson, Missy Elliot, Busta Rhymes and B2K. These always had eccentric dancers and, as a teenager, I wanted to be the same. In high school I was involved in groups who focused on choreography, but I always wanted to pursue freestyle street dancing.

Aside from taking dance classes at The Flava Factory, I began to travel more to learn from the pioneers of Hip Hop, House, and Waacking, which are different street and club dance styles. These styles were invented by people of colour, and have a rich cultural and musical history. All of these dances are very rooted in specific music, and I am drawn to the freedom each style gives.

While dancing I have the freedom to express myself through that style’s particular musicality, techniques, and character. I love how I can be different versions of myself in each dance style, and how my own character can change with the music.

What are your inspirations when it comes to your own style and technique?

I draw inspiration from my fashion sense, and my basketball background. I am very fashion forward when it comes to attending dance events, but I always want to find the happy medium between comfort and style. I never wear anything that hinders my movement, so I love to mix baggy clothing with something feminine and sexy as well.

This is also depicted in my dancing, as I am not afraid to play around with various emotions such as aggression, competitiveness and seduction. My technique has been a work-in-progress since I’ve started training. I draw from anyone who I’ve felt I’ve connected with, like my partner VLove and dance pioneers such as Tyrone Proctor.

I love how I can be different versions of myself in each dance style, and how my own character can change with the music.

What comes to mind when you think about the future of street dance in Ottawa?

Our company, MOOV Ottawa Dance, and the youth of the city! Our company believes in the potential Ottawa has to be a leader in street dance. As a young and dedicated Ottawa dancer, I choose to keep investing time in myself, and bringing up the youth in the community through skill building, by providing knowledge, and pushing for quality and quantity in our dancers. So many children are exposed to hot shows and want to dance, and MOOV wants to help these kids be the face of Ottawa street dance.

Name one of your favourite dancers and what you love about their style.

As biased as it sounds, my business partner and boyfriend, Arnaldo aka BBoy Effect. He is one of the top b-boys, if not street dancers, in Canada. He is very versatile and honest in his movements. He expresses freedom in his dancing but is very controlled. He works very hard for his level of skill, and continues to train daily to become the best version of himself.

What’s your typical warm up routine like?

Usually it takes 5–10 minutes. I do some casual freestyle to warm up the body—nothing intense, but enough to break a small sweat. I then do a deep stretch, anything between 15–30 minutes, to avoid injury. I do lots of lower back stretching since I’ve injured it twice. I also try to get a few minutes of stretching in-between each set of dancing. On an ideal day, I always stretch after I dance.

Are there dance techniques that you hope to master one day?

I have done some Locking and Popping, but never took it seriously. I do hope to improve on the techniques in those styles over the next year. I also want to keep opening up my vocabulary for Latin/Social dances. I have experience in Bachata, Merengue, Hustle and Salsa, but would like to improve my skills and learn others such as Tango and Cha Cha.

Has performing in front of other people ever made you nervous? How do you deal with it?

I am nervous every time I have to perform. I try to take deep breaths, talk to myself and ensure I am not over-thinking. I use the ladies room before I go on, stretch, shake, and ensure I’ve warmed up enough. I like to get a pep-talk from a close friend or my boyfriend if they’re present. If not, I like to keep to myself and focus.

How do you want street dance culture to grow and change in the coming years?

I would like the public to be more exposed to authentic street dance culture. I feel that people know there is such thing as Hip Hop Dance, but don’t really see it enough to understand the culture and art behind it, due to misconceptions in mainstream culture. I also want more fair, paid work for street dancers. We have artists who rely on their artistry to survive, and I hope that we don’t just “get by” but can live comfortable lives.

In an Ottawa Minute we’ll explore corners of the city you may have never visited and niche scenes from indie wrestling to fringe theatre, burlesque, the escape room boom, new breweries and offbeat events. So, not “niche” in the sense that niche tastes will be required… but this is probably the kinda stuff you’d have to hear about from a friend. Subscribe to Apt613 on YouTube for new episodes.