Hip Hop in the House in Latvia
Soul Street Dance Company kicked off its 2016 Baltic Tour last week by spreading its message of love and unity through hip hop to audiences in Latvia. Through their infectious smiles and dynamic dancing, Soul Street wowed audiences, inspired young dancers, and made some new friends.
Soul Street touched down in Riga in late March just as another cold was coming in from the Baltic Sea. The quintet from Houston, Texas immediately zipped up their coats and tried to keep warm as they toured Riga’s Old Town that afternoon.
The group — Javier Garcia, Cedric D. Hicks, Roy Ramirez, Rock Williams, and DJ IV — ate a late lunch at Lido’s, took photos of Milda, and even sampled some Balzams before turning in early. Drawing upon their experience of touring around the world, they knew they should get some rest.
The next day Soul Street led two workshops at Riga’s Veizana Dance School, which was founded by Edmund Veizāns, one of the first Latvians to introduce hip hop to the country. More than 50 children packed the studio to practice hip hop and popping styles of dance. After a short break, the American dancers welcomed a large group of older, more experienced dancers for another masterclass. As the class progressed, the Soul Street dancers knew that Riga has a small, but highly skilled group of hip hop dancers.
“These guys are definitely at a high level,” Garcia said. “If they continue to work, they’re going to be really good.”
Latvijas Kultūras koledža hosted a public performance for Soul Street Wednesday night. Despite the small stage, the group took the audience on a fun, yet educational ride through the various styles of hip hop music and dance.
Soul Street’s performance was fantastic, but the best part of the night came when the Latvian crowd started an impromptu jam after the concert.
The group hit the road early the next morning and headed east toward Daugavpils, Latvia’s second largest city. The crew led a workshop for youth dancers from the Factory Kingz Dance Club. The kids loved every minute and concluded the day with a fun jam session.
Soul Street’s performance Friday night brought the capacity crowd to its feet and demonstrated how hip hop dance can resonate with people from all parts of the world.
On their final day in Latvia, Soul Street led a great masterclass at StopTime Dance Studio in Daugavpils and also visited to a local orphanage. Throughout the day, it was easy to see how sharing hip hop can be a way to foster cross-cultural creative expression and exchange among diverse communities around the world.
American hip hop icon Jay Z told Oprah Winfrey this last year:
“This music (hip hop) didn’t only influence kids from urban areas, it influenced people all around the world. If you look at clubs and how integrated they have become — before people partied in separate clubs.
“Once you have people partying, dancing, singing along to the same music, conversation naturally happen [sic] after that, and within conversation we all realize we’re more alike than we’re separate.”