Pilsen’s new hip-hop team strives to make competitive dance accessible – NBC Chicago
A new competitive dance team, focused on the hip hop genre, provides an outlet and a sense of community for children on the south side of Chicago.
8TEENth Hip Hop Crew launched in Pilsen in the fall of 2020, amid a nationwide movement to fight racial injustice and at the height of the pandemic.
The name is a nod to the bustling and popular 18th Street of Pilsen, and also refers to the team’s age group, the teenagers.
The founders, two local dance teachers, wanted to make competitive dance more accessible to teens in low-income neighborhoods.
“The opportunities, especially to compete, are much more difficult to offer in this area because it’s extremely expensive,” said co-founder and trainer Jackie Gaytan. “To compete and perform a three-minute routine costs between $ 600 and $ 800.”
After a summer of turmoil, coaches wondered if now was the time to kick off the program. Ultimately, they decided to give the kids a creative outlet and a positive place to focus their energy.
“All of these kids need an outlet, especially because our team is mostly made up of brown and black kids. We wanted to give them something to look forward to and be able to do together, ”Gaytan said.
Gaytan and his teaching partner, Jessica Romero, grew up in the world of competitive dance. They know firsthand how expensive it can be and the burden on families. They also grew up on the south side of Chicago.
“Jackie and I really wanted to give this chance to children in low income areas,” Romero said. “It’s much more than dancing. They are also held accountable and have a sense of responsibility. Being part of a team doesn’t just come about. It’s about being there for your teammates and knowing what you have to deliver and making a commitment to let your team know you are there for them. “
Romero and Gaytan are both teachers at the Steadfast Dance Center in Pilsen. The owner of the studio allows them to practice there for free. They pay for the costumes, makeup and contest fees through fundraising. Students pay an entrance fee of $ 100 and $ 10 per month, if they can.
“Sometimes I pay my own dues because I want to help, not put the burden on my parents,” said Diego Gutierrez, a senior at Curie Metro High School.
Diego and his sister, Monica, are part of the team.
“Our mom is in school right now and is trying to be a nurse, so it’s a little tough on us,” Monica said. “Having this support that our teachers give us, even though we don’t have the money, we have you, don’t worry. It’s good.”
The team have participated in two competitions so far and hope to expand their participation in the future. Their ability to perform depends on fundraising efforts.
Their last performance of the season will take place on May 23 at the very first “Chicago Dance Festival” in Pilsen. The next season starts in August.