Spreading love through street dance

Hip Hope student dance group focuses on hip-hop and creating community.

Guest choreographer Kamiko Higashi demonstrates dance steps during a workshop for the hip-hop dance crew Hip Hope in Peik Gymnasium on Wednesday. The group is scheduled to preform in the homecoming parade on Friday.

Alex Tuthill-Preus

Guest choreographer Kamiko Higashi demonstrates dance steps during a workshop for the hip-hop dance crew Hip Hope in Peik Gymnasium on Wednesday. The group is scheduled to preform in the homecoming parade on Friday.

Destanie Martin-Johnson

Joelle Fernandez, a recent graduate of the University of Minnesota, came to the school and asked herself, “What am I great at?” 
 
Fernandez loved to dance and ultimately created her own student dance group, Hip Hope, by her junior year in 2011. The group will perform as a part of this year’s homecoming parade. 
 
“I wanted to create a mission for diversity,” she said. “Hip Hope came out of failure.”
 
She said not getting the vice president position in the Philippine Student Association — a group she was a part of and danced with — was one factor that pushed her to start her own dance club. 
 
She said she noticed that her former dance group wasn’t very diverse, and she thought the exclusiveness could make dancers of other racial backgrounds shy away from joining.
 
That inspired her to create a dance group with less focus on a specific race or student group, she said.  
 
Hip Hope’s four pillars are philanthropy, supportive community, diversity and leadership, said President Meahneh Korti, a child psychology senior.
 
“We focus on diversity and supportive community the most. Our group is a range of ages. They’re not all college students, just people that hear about us, and they come with different cultural and dance backgrounds,” Korti said. 
 
Hip Hope uses whatever styles and steps the choreographer teaches them in their workshops for their performances. From “popping,” a breakdance style that involves tensing of the muscles and jolting them for a moment, to “tutting,” another style that is an imitation of Egyptian hieroglyphics with short, hard movements of the hands and arms, they infuse different elements of hip-hop in their routines, Korti said. 
 
Korti said she joined Hip Hope her freshman year after noticing the community-friendly ambiance at one of the workshops. Now president, she hopes to do volunteer work with the group as well as performances. 
 
Fernandez didn’t originally expect the group to grow to be as helpful to other students looking for a place to fit in as it is. 
 
“The best part of Hip Hope was going to the workshops and seeing who the community is, and seeing how everyone is different in race, life experiences and things like that,” she said. 
 
Some of Hip Hope’s previous dancers are now in Los Angeles or touring in China, she said.
 
Hip Hope typically does about five shows a semester, Korti said. They’ve performed at student group events and other University festivities as well as middle schools. 
 
This week they will perform in the Homecoming Parade, Korti said. In the parade, the group will do a few short routines but mostly simple moves that they can do while walking and popular, trendy dances like the “Whip” and the “Nae Nae,” she said.
 
“It’s a place where if you’ve never danced before or if you’ve been dancing for years, you’ll feel like you belong there,” Korti said.