Kids break out the dance moves at CypherFest

CypherFest 2022 lit up the Heart of Riverdale Community Center and the Yukon Arts Center from July 22-24 with a full weekend of breakdancing, battles and music performances.

The main goal of the festival for artistic director Riley Simpson-Fowler was to showcase hip-hop and give the younger generation a space to meet and build with established artists from across the continent.

According to Simpson-Fowler, the Cypherfest team has grown every year since its inception in 2009, and the 2022 team was “killer”. He, Tori Beemer and Alex Robinson did most of the planning and organization with help from Jason Sealy.

A contestant in the final round catches the attention of the judges and the team on stage. (Magan Carty/Yukon News)

“The most rewarding thing about working at Heart is being able to put on events like Cypherfest,” Simpson-Fowler said. It may be tiring, but it’s a “huge platform” where he and his team can showcase all the work they’ve done throughout the year.

“After two years of trying to host socially distanced/all-streaming versions of Cypherfest, it was amazing to be back to regular shows and events,” he said.

The festival kicked off Friday night with an event called Vinyl Therapy. Simpson-Fowler called it “a bring-your-own-record-jukebox party”. There were exhibition battles and live performances from the Heart House Band, Siddartha and Lady C.

Guests were encouraged to choose a song or two to play from their own records.

Mentors Violetta and Lady C kiss after their fight.  (Magan Carty/Yukon News)

Mentors Violetta and Lady C kiss after their fight. (Magan Carty/Yukon News)

On Saturday evening, Street Styles Dance Intensive students had the opportunity to share what they learned in the CypherFest Showcase at the Yukon Arts Centre. This event for family, friends and the general public was the culmination of a two-week “boot camp” for young people.

The training took place on weekdays from July 11 to 22. Participants learned street style choreography, breakdance terminology and fight etiquette from guest instructors. There was also a music production course.

On Sunday afternoon, from 1 to 5 p.m., a block party was held at the Heart of Riverdale Community Center. Admission was free for all ages, and Ukrainian borscht was available for $6 plus any donations. There was also live music and a food truck.

Siblings Nic and Fisher Miller ran a lemonade stand in the parking lot. They said business was good and there was a “constant medium” flow of customers all afternoon.

They continued to serve drinks to attendees and quench the thirst of performers as the youth breakdancing battle unfolded inside the community center’s crowded theater.

Siblings Nic and Fisher Miller sold lemonade in the Heart of Riverdale parking lot.  (Magan Carty/Yukon News)

Siblings Nic and Fisher Miller sold lemonade in the Heart of Riverdale parking lot. (Magan Carty/Yukon News)

In each round, two pairs of dancers showed off their best moves and competed in front of a cheering crowd. Three judges decided on a winner, then the dancers shook hands, hugged and congratulated each other before the next round.

Ezzie Bailey, 11, danced all the way to the semis. He said he had a passion for dancing for as long as he can remember. His mother told him that he had been “moving” since he was two years old.

“I was always shaking my head to the music,” he said, “and my mom was always wondering how I didn’t get dizzy.”

This was Bailey’s first year participating in the Street Styles Dance Intensive. His favorite part of breakdancing is participating in battles.

“It’s so much fun. You forget everything and just let go,” he said.

Ezzie Bailey shows off some attitude with her signature Rock Paper Scissors move.  (Magan Carty/Yukon News)

Ezzie Bailey shows off some attitude with her signature Rock Paper Scissors move. (Magan Carty/Yukon News)

Sometimes he thinks of his moves ahead of time, but completely forgets about them when it’s his turn to dance. He says he often catches himself in the heat of the action on stage with different moves he never expected.

According to Bailey, it is up to the dancer to decide if they want to invent their own movements or use movements that already exist. He likes to combine the two, but his favorite move in any battle is the “six step” because he can use it as a launching pad into so many different moves.

His favorite “freeze” is the handstand, especially when he manages to put his legs in different positions while staying in this pose.

Bailey hopes to continue pursuing her passion for breakdancing. One of his dreams is to travel to Montreal to perform with his Riverdale troupe.

He says anyone who thinks they want to try breakdancing should do so.

“People really can’t judge you because everyone has a different style. Make it your own and have fun. That’s all we can say about it.”

Contact Magan Carty at [email protected]

artsdance

Ezzie Bailey shows off some attitude with her signature Rock Paper Scissors move.  (Magan Carty/Yukon News)