THE ART OF STREET DANCING IN KANSAS CITY
The Rhythm Kingz have revamped the art of street dancing in Kansas City by putting their own spin on traditional dance styles, offering a glimpse into our city’s rich history in the hip-hop community through competitive dance battles.
The group consists of Joshie G. Falcon, Stephen “Phamish” Pham, Zen Nguyen, Tyrell “Konfident” Griffin, Michael “Phenom” Smith, Manual “Lukky” Harvey, Donn Ronn, Herb, Popula, DK, Brenmatic, Gool, Bboy Wolf and Phi “Phiture” Tran.
“The main vision of the crew is all about the culture, the individual and the authenticity of the dance,” Tran says. “Dancing is our passion and way of life.”
They call themselves the Rhythm Kingz because they want to be masters of rhythm, not just masters of techniques and styles. To do so, they continually break the rules and limits of traditional dancing by combining many different street dance styles, including B-boying, hip-hop, popping, krumping and mix styles.
Without a dance studio, regular schedule or choreography to go off of, the group relies on word-of-mouth and the power of social media to bring the dancers together.
“We are not a choreography crew where we perform together all the time. We are a street crew where we travel, cypher and battle,” Tran says. “If we need to put a routine together, we usually use our own experience to tell a story and make it come alive through unifying our movement to the music.”
While the majority of their dancing is in battles, certain crew members have worked with various local Kansas City artists, like Strange Music, a hip-hop record label founded by Tech N9ne, and Quixotic Cirque Nouveau, performance artists creating fully immersive, multisensory experiences with technology, dance and live music.
“I started back when I was in Vietnam, where I’m from,” Tran says, reflecting on his dancing career and the evolution of The Rhythm Kingz. “I always had an interest in dancing and would mimic movements from dance videos and famous stars like Justin Timberlake. When I moved to Olathe, Kansas in 2008, I didn’t know any dancers and did everything by myself. My high school years were really hard. I felt very alone and experienced culture shock. Dance became my tool to overcome the hardships in my life. I joined the Army, went to basic training, came back, and entered my first dance battle. Later, I got deployed and quit dancing for one year, came back, and started battling again where I got to meet most of the crew I’m in now. My crew is very influential to my style and my way of dancing. About four years ago, I wanted to take it to the next level, so I practiced and worked out every day. We have been very active ever since.”
Tran has traveled across the country for different events and battle sessions.
“Whenever I travel to places where I don’t speak their language, and they don’t speak my language, I know that we can do the same moves and understand our own language in dance,” he says. “There’s an instant connection, and the medium is music. We can have a conversation without actually speaking to each other.”
For those unfamiliar with the world of street dancing and rules of battle, Tran summarizes a typical competition. Essentially, dancers sign up for a time and do a quick 30-second dance to a song the judges select. Judges then narrow down the crowd to 16 dancers and pair them up for battle. Dancers have 30 seconds to wow the judges each round, and this process continues until a winner is chosen.
The judges in charge of a battle are handpicked and have been in the industry for a while, having a real knowledge of the particular style they’re judging.
The crew celebrated their anniversary in June by hosting their 14th annual jam. “This Thing of Ours: The Rhythm Kingz Anniversary” was a two-night showcase celebrating different styles and techniques of hip-hop street dance. Break dance crews and styles from across the region battled in a two on two battle format where the winner received a $500 cash prize. The Rhythm Kingz plan on having many more jams in the future to continue to grow the urban dance community.
For any new dancers out there, Tran offers words of encouragement.
“A lot of new dancers on the street are very afraid and shy most of the time. Don’t be afraid; just go out there and do it! People are going to laugh at you and judge you regardless. If you reach into that feeling of freedom and that happiness when you find the music and dance come together, and people really feel you, that’s the ultimate moment of dance. When you reach that moment, nothing really matters anymore. If you really want to do something, you’re going to stick it out and make it happen.”
Get involved with classes taught by members of The Rhythm Kingz. Manual “Lukky” Harvey and Zen Nguyen have their own community called iPush to teach choreography, and Tyrell “Konfidentz” teaches krump every Sunday in Kansas City. Another way to get involved is through Project Infinity KC, an ongoing effort to unite and grow the Kansas City street dance community founded by Tran. Their Facebook page is an open forum to keep dancers up to date and in the know.
Recorded solo and group performances are captured on their personal social media accounts and linked with the hashtag #rhythmkingz. Follow the crew on Instagram, @rhythmkingz_crew and @projectinfinitykc. For more information, email Tran at firstname.lastname@example.org.