Based out of the San Francisco Bay Area, Str8jacket Dance Company is making a lot of noise and turning heads. They are a rising hip hop dance team that strives to challenge the standards of hip hop dance while still preserving the culture and roots.
Their goal is to keep the doors open to anyone as we the dance crew aims to create a safe place where people can feel comfortable being who they are and pursuing their passions for dance.
The vision is simple – Str8jacket wants to help people become better dancers, but more importantly they want to help them become better people. This crew cares about building people’s consciousness and awareness in themselves and their society so they are better prepared for the real world.
We got a chance to connect with this growing all star dance team in this interview below.
Jackfroot: How did Str8jacket start and how long ago?
Str8jacket: Str8jacket was first established in 2012, but it had a lot of ups and downs in its developing years and didn’t really start to pick up until we performed our Angels and Demons set at Complex Dance Competition in August 2015.
At the time we had no studio, Str8jacket attendance was at an all time low, and directors had zero direction. Angels and Demons was really intended to be our last hurrah, but somehow we ended up placing 2nd (along with best theme!) which was our first time ever placing in a competition and that definitely sparked something in the team. I like to think this was Str8jacket’s rebirth and when the team truly started. We’ve been gaining a lot of momentum since then and have yet to stop.
How many people are currently on the Str8jackets team?
Str8jacket has over 40 members; majority are asian/ asian- american, but more than a quarter of us are actually non-asian, which is beautiful because Str8jacket highly values diversity –both in culture and in personality!
Str8jacket has shaped itself to be a strong community of hard workers who are more than willing to give back and ask for little in return. We are so thankful for all the wonderful souls that have crossed our paths over the years.
How would you consider your style of dancing?
We are first and foremost a HipHop dance team, but we’re super open minded to other styles of dancing such as contemporary, jazz, ballroom, or pretty much anything that inspires us. If you’ve followed Str8jacket for a little bit, you can probably note our love for being thematic in our sets. We sometimes like to consider ourselves “alternative HipHop” aha.
If someone was interested in joining the team, what are the steps and requirements needed?
Str8jacket is a no-audition team. This means we hold free recruit periods where anyone can join our practices, and if they tell us they’re interested in joining us, then we hand them a contract and they’re in. That simple.
Of course this creates its challenges from time to time, but we guarantee it always makes for an interesting time.
Who are some other dance crews that you guys look up to?
So many! But in terms of our biggest inspirations for set making:
What were some obstacles or challenges you had building this team/company?
Like we said, Str8jacket started with a lot of ups and downs. We had a couple moments we thought were the game changers but ended up being more of flukes.
To sum up our greatest obstacles in less words would probably be having too much self- doubt; letting the “no” and “that won’t work” dictate the “let’s just do it” and “maybe it will”. Our best results always came from when we trusted our instincts and just said fuck it, haha.
What is your best achievement or dance performance so far?
I’d probably say our most recent set, Assassins from World of Dance Bay 2017, has been our greatest achievement so far. Not only did we place 1st, but this was the first time we really utilized a group effort to put the set together.
This set took 5 choreographers, 2 trickers, 2 costume designers, 2 set designers, a mixer, a face painter, and a multitude of idea and opinion givers in order for it to become what was presented on stage. Designing this set definitely felt like a community effort.
Oh, and I guess we got to do America’s Got Talent Season 12; but I think we like the community effort thing more haha.
Do you guys have any big projects or events coming up that you’d like to share?
After enduring one of the longest years leading up to placing 1st at WODBay17, we think now is the time to step back and reflect on why we started all this in the first place. The same way that the Norcal dance community gave us the platform to be a dance team, we now wish to give back to this community by helping improve it.
Being an underdog team for years, we noticed some issues that simply weren’t being addressed. Str8jacket decided we would try to make a big enough name for ourselves so that maybe people would support us more when we finally called to action. I guess we’ll just have to see.
This November we are working with TFCU to help Asian-American youths connect more with their cultural roots so they may pave a path to a brighter future. Learn more about TFCU here. TFCU’s Romeo Marquez JR. is a dedicated leader and is definitely worth following.
Also this November, Str8jacket will be going to New York to perform pro bono at A Free Bird’s Organization Annual Gala. A Free Bird is a non profit dedicated to helping children fight pediatric cancer through the therapeutic power of the arts. However in order to get there, we will be fundraising non-stop for the next couple months and would love all the help we can get. If people are interested in donating to Str8jacket’s cause, they can learn more here. They can also follow us on Instagram or Facebook to hear about some fundraising events we will be hosting throughout the Bay Area.
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