On Friday, August 22, be sure to be at the Ford Amphitheater to watch live talent in the hip hop world all night long. From breakers to bboys, The Sixth Annual Hip Hop Dance Festival will provide entertainment, well-known hosts and dancers, and education into the hip hop lifestyle. We wanted to get a better idea of what J.U.i.C.E. is all about, and between organizing and producing the event, Emiko Sugiyama was able to give us more insight on the event.

J.U.i.C.E. stands for “Justice by Uniting in Creative Energy”, and it was  founded in 2001 by Dawn Smith. Starting out, she came to a community center where there was a lot of hip hop offered – graffiti, breaking, MCing and dance. It was at a church, and it was more for people who already knew the craft; they wanted to hone on the skills, not teach, and it was mostly to help you practice. Dawn was already involved in an after school program, but she wanted to provide a program for everyone, offering a creative outlet to those in neighborhoods that need art. There was another open session that bboys could participate in for free, and Dawn came and offered to figure out a collaboration between the two programs, with programs running on Monday and Thursday nights. From there, the program grew and expanded, and now has many means of outreach and programs for developing a greater understanding of what the hip hop lifestyle is all about.

For talent, J.U.i.C.E. sends out emails and flyers, and communicate to the community and studios who might want to be part of the show. They want performers who know about J.U.i.C.E. and the concept of it, as well as people who have the same type of mission and artistic vision as J.U.i.C.E. There are some who are not fully in the hip hop lifestyle, and that’s okay – J.U.i.C.E. definitely tries to cater to the evolution of dance while sticking to the strong roots of the hip hop life. They have created a large range of supporters in the community, as well as a family of dancers who always want to help out.

So what makes this year’s event better than all the other ones in the past? This year, they have an international dance group coming in – the universality of hip hop internationally is important. Aside from that, there will be a pre-show at this year’s event, something they’ve never done. Usually, there are open cyphers, but this year there will be 1 on 1 battles with multiple sponsors to award the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th place winners. It’s a big attraction for bboys to come and be part of the festival, as well as engaging the audience to be the dancers, and the dancers to be the audience. Mari Koda from Step Up will be there, and it’ll be very cool for fans to see a celebrity who lives the hip hop lifestyle. There will, of course, be vendors set up with tons of dance wear as well.

So what is the ONE thing you’re most excited for?

Just one? It’s going to get personal, is that okay? Well… I’m mostly excited for the Millennium Dance Complex Japan kids. I worked for MDC in Japan at the same time I worked for J.U.i.C.E. Me being Japanese, I wanted to be the bridge from Japan to the US, showing them how the MDC Japan kids have been training, so I created a program that would train them to go to J.U.i.C.E. We had training and auditions, and there’s 8 of them coming. For most of them, it’s their first time ever performing outside of Japan, as well as performing in front of, you know, possibly 1200 people. That’s a life changing experience. And they’re only between the ages of 13 and 17. I know how that can affect their lives, and that is the number one most exciting thing for me.

Anything else you’d like to add about the event or on J.U.i.C.E.? 

Everything is of such high quality, from the pre-show to the performers to the supporters. We’re uniting under the sky – because it’s an open theater. I have this image that the audience and the performers become one huge energy shooting towards the sky by the end of the show – we all become one and just create a positive, creative energy and it goes off into the universe!

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Check out the event on Facebook for more information on tickets and location!