justDANCE! AG Crew

Interview by Alan Ng & Hasan Hamze
Words by Christine Tang
Photography by Christine Tang

The justalilhype! Crew visited Flying Dance Studios’s AG Dance Crew. The girls tells us about how they have been fusing the styles of both Asian and North American styles together, and also utilize their respective experiences as ballet and jazz dancers. The AG Crew has been busy in performing in various events throughout the scene, entering competitions and last but not least teaching new girls how to dance. They have been really busy this year, but their next goal is the International Hip-Hop Championships.

Please introduce yourselves to our readers.

L: We are the AG Crew. Many people think our name stands for Asian Girls, but the A stands for Eight, so it’s actually Eight Girls Crew. We have Fei, Ying Ying, I am Lily, and this is Vivian. We started around June last summer, and we first got together because of Tenka. Later, we started going to competitions and having shows and it’s so much fun dancing together. It’s good to have people to dance with and not just practice. We also get to buy clothes together. It’s rare in Vancouver to have just Asian girls in a dance crew.

Tell us a bit more about your dancing style.

Y: We pretty much try to mix both new school with old school. Caucasian people usually do new school while Japanese people usually do old school so we tried to mix them both to make a new style because we like both styles. Sometimes, we put some girly stuff in as well. American and Asian styles are very different, so we try to combine the two together.

L: Also, most of us have different dance backgrounds. We started with Chinese dance, ballet, contemporary, and jazz so this is what we do. We try to combine everyone’s specialty together. With hip-hop influence, we create our own style.

Speaking of different dance styles that you guys started off with, when did you girls start dancing?

L: We all started dancing really young. Maybe not Fei, but we started in ballet school and Chinese dance school when we were 3 or 4 years old. We have been training in different studios and school but we got together because of hip-hop.

Y: Because of this Flying Dance Studio, we started to teach together as instructors. At the beginning we just taught each class but not necessary perform together. When we started the AG crew, that is also when we started gathering together.

What kind of dance lessons or styles do you offer to the students?

Y: We teach hip-hop and girl street-jazz dance. We’re different from other studios because our students are mostly Asian girls so we try to teach more Asian dance styles. Also, different instructors teach different styles. We have poppers, lockers, etc.  Some instructors are from Korea, and we have some awesome hip-hop instructors from local break dance crews.

Being all girls, when getting into competitions, do you think it’s a disadvantage or advantage?

F: I think it’s unique to have an all girl crew because you don’t see that a lot. All the crew or dance teams out there are co-ed. I think that’s what makes us special. I think there are disadvantages because we can’t do all these crazy dance moves, like back flips, so we are at a disadvantage at that part. We try to put in other techniques from our different backgrounds, such as jazz.

L: From one of our other dance crew member, Jen, she said that “gender doesn’t matter, it’s the soul.”

Y: And remember at Danceology the judges say, every other crew are mixed. We are an all girl dance crew so it’s kind of different.

How do you think competitions shape your cohesion as a group whether it’s coordination with your techniques, and social cohesion?

F: Because we have so many performances in the last couple of months, it forces us to practice us every night. Because of our schedules, we practice at night from 9pm-12am, so we bring dinner and eat here first like a little gathering.

L: We are practically dating each other.

F: It really has brought us closer. It’s not like an excuse but it’s a really good reason to hang out with each other and it’s really fun to hang out with each other.

L: Sometimes you lose passion for it. You get tired or get sick of it. When you through that, everything is fine. You just have to keep pushing. It’s fun to be together so that it makes it worthwhile.

What is it about dancing that keeps you dancing? What’s your favorite part of dancing?

F: Just seeing other dancers in the city being so dedicated. And also, you see it on YouTube, of videos of your favorite choreography of a piece that’s so awesome. It’s just motivation that makes you wants to strive for that perfection.

Y: I agree, even when you are really tired. When you watch other video or other people, you just want to dance. You can’t be in the audience all the time so when you watch other people dance, it really motivates you.

V: To escape from school and work. Dancing makes me happy. I am not a professional dancer, but I love dancing and that’s why I dance—just to escape from work.

L: During one of the practices, I think we came up with the conclusion that dancers basically love themselves. That’s why people think that they look good. It feels good to be on the dance floor. You will check yourself out in the mirror to make sure everything is perfect and you want to always look the best. You get a strong appreciation and love for the way you are, and you will strive to perfection to meet your expectations.

What do you think is the state of the dance scene of Vancouver?

F: I would say it’s growing because more and more crews are getting together, especially people from high school but those kids are mostly into breaking. There are lots of new high school b-boy crews, but I am not sure about hip-hop in general.

L: Hip-hop is the first street dance style; it’s like a basic. If you want to be a street-dancer, hip-hop is the basic. There are a lot of different specific styles and groups but you have to know hip-hop to be able to call yourself a street dancer. However, going back to the dance scene question, I think it is growing and is getting better. I think it’s changing because when I first came to Canada 10 years ago, I didn’t see a lot of crews. Speaking about street dance, I rarely see any. There are only big companies like Ballet BC and some contemporary companies. It’s very close. Contemporary dancers will think they are artists and street dancers are nothing. They close their doors to street dancing. Only contemporary dancers get to perform in theatres. During the past few years, I think they are starting to merge into each other and some street dancer get to perform in some contemporary shows. Also, contemporary companies invite street dancers to perform and they collaborate to make a style or piece combining the two very extreme styles. For me, I am a contemporary and hip-hop dancer; I think that’s really good. We all dance because it makes us happy. There’s no need to say, “We are better, you guys are on the street” or “You guys think you guys are artist, you think you are so good”. It is starting to change right now.

Y: I think Canada is a really great country because there are people from different cultures bringing different styles together. I can definitely see it growing. There are many well-known instructors that come from the States to teach different styles such as popping and locking. It’s really growing. Different styles are trying to grow as well. More crews are emerging from these styles.

L: People are acknowledging everyone else as a big family.

How do you choose what outfits to wear during performances, and how do you see fashion incorporated into dance?

Y: We choose outfits based on our performances. For example, this term we want to do old school hip-hop so we will focus on that when it comes to outfits. We would get a bigger hoodie or shorts, so it will depend what kind of dance and chorography we are doing. Each time it’s different, so styles change and there are more different things to wear. We have so many performances together that we get the same clothing.

F: Performances are an excuse to shop.

(Everyone laughs.)

L: I think when we first met; we all have very different styles. I use to never wear skinny jeans but today I am wearing them. I think we are slowly influencing each other because we see each other almost everyday and we start to appreciate each other’s fashion sense.

What’s the future of the whole AG dance crew, what goals have you girls set?

Y: We plan to join international hip-hop championships, but we seriously don’t have time. We are very busy because every week we have a show so we don’t have time to do fresh choreography. We are not necessary aiming for first place, but we just want to join it, work together and do our best. I think that’s our most recent goal.

L: I think that’s a big step but not our final goal. Speaking of future goals, for Flying Dance Studio we want to have it grow bigger and gain more students. We want to become steadier locally. For AG crew, I think we want to continue to practice. Not all of us are professionally dedicated dances. For example, Vivian is still in school and I don’t think she is becoming a professional dancer. She wants to become an accountant. We all have our career goals but for now, we want to keep dancing. Some people have already left, and we have new people joining. We want our crew to keep growing. Maybe after 5 years we will have our daughters, a mini AG crew. We want the spirit and fun to continue going.

What advices would you have to give to a young crew starting up?

F: Practice, practice, practice. Be dedicated. Don’t say you are just going to start a crew and maybe meet up once a week. You actually have to have a goal, either a performance or competition that will really push you. If you don’t have one, then you won’t practice. Find a gig or competition and just really practice.

L: I think it’s just about dancing. As a crew, company, or band, it’s not just about the common thing you have. After all, we are all human; we have our emotions and backgrounds we can relate to. Just don’t forget about what brings everyone together, and try to appreciate each other.

Y: It’s group work so you have to respect each other’s opinion. We have to respect each other, whatever the timing. Everyone has different feelings, and we have to respect that.

What is HYPE?

F: Something that’s hot…

(Everyone laughs)

L: It’s something that excites you and pops up in daily life. Daily life is so boring, but HYPE is something that pops up.

F: HYPE is something that motivates people.

L: Or gives you impulse and aspirations. It’s something that stands out from daily routines.

Y: I agree.