By Sydney Ball
VANCOUVER — “It’s such a lifestyle thing, this dance thing,” says Chris Wong, co-director of Culturally Defined, a street dance company now entering its fourth year. There’s something inspired, and also simple, in the way Wong talks about dance and his work directing alongside partner Kyle Vicente. It’s the kind of ease that allows two young but experienced dancers take a big risk starting a new project, knowing that they have a clear direction and philosophy.
Culturally Defined has been a way to bring hip-hop culture and “its ability to resolve conflict, be that external or internal” to the lives of the dancers who train with them. The name and the company are symbols of the belief that “dance is an instrument to learn about the culture.”
Wong is well versed when he reflects upon the local dance scene. “Vancouver has a crazy blend,” he says. “We’re close enough to LA, and there’s enough jobs to have a commercial influence.” The split between industry and culture is something he and Vicente are trying to bridge with Culturally Defined. “In order for this dance to grow you really need the mentalities of both,” Wong explains. “The commercialized choreographers know what it means to come together as a group and accomplish a goal, where as with the underground hip-hop scene it’s much more about individual identity.”
The program itself involves technique training from a diverse set of instructors, where “someone always comes in with so much fire that it changes the program completely,” and students have a chance to learn a wide assortment of styles, including hip hop, b-boying, and popping and locking. The dancers who make up Culturally Defined range from their mid-teens to their late 30s, and come from a variety of backgrounds, from those who want to dance as their career to people who, Wong says, “work nine to five jobs but on their off time they still want to live the dance lifestyle.”
“The more walks of life we have in the company, the more it enriches everyone’s experience.”
Learn more about Culturally Defined at www.culturallydefined.comBC, British Columbia, Culturally Defined, dance, street dance