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Hip-Hop Dance Groups Are Helping Asian Americans Find Their Identity and It’s Time We Stopped Ignoring It

    It’s pretty impossible to turn a blind eye to the growing Asian American presence in the Hip Hop dance community. From choreographed Youtube dance routines to NBC’s World of Dance competition, it seems one ethnic minority is taking the art form to a new place. It’s certainly not a new social phenomenon, but it’s getting harder and harder to deny.

    Image: Vice

    Hip Hop dance came out of oppressed minority backgrounds and continues to be a beacon for those who are commonly discriminated against. Asian Americans have a long and tiresome history with racial prejudice in the states, so the attachment runs deep when confronting a united form of expression.

    “Sort of Like a Religion”

    Professor of dance at the University of California San Diego, Dr. Grace Jun, elaborates on this connection: “Hip-hop as a form was this space in-between that almost mirrored the hyphenated experience of being Asian American: being Asian or American – but not really being one or the other, and trying to find identity.” Photographer An Roug Xu agrees with Dr. Grace’s sentiment, explaining that “any country that’s been colonized can relate to the ideas of hip-hop.”

    Image: Asian Cine Vision

    The concept of Hip Hop being a refuge for people in the margins of society is not something unheard of. It’s been known to give people both a personal sense of identity, as well as connect people to something bigger than themselves. “Hip-hop was created so you could feel like you belonged,” An asserts. “It’s sort of like a religion for them.”

    Hip Hop’s History in East Asia

    In East Asia at least, it’s not a new phenomenon. Hip Hop dance has been prevalent since the 80s, entering Korean culture through American television (as music from the U.S. was banned.) In 1992 it entered the mainstream when a Korean American promoter brought a recording of a breakdance competition to Seoul, igniting many young people’s imaginations.

    Image: Billboard

    Likewise in Japan, 1984 saw the start of what would become the breakdancing phenomenon in Tokyo’s Yoyogi Park, which continues to this day. Since the late 90s, Japan is now home to numerous hip hop festivals. Expect different forms of self-expression alongside a general resistance to oppressive institutions.

    In the U.S., it’s since spread to other east Asian communities be it Chinese, Vietnamese or Filipino. And you won’t only find this burgeoning community on the internet. They’re in college groups, televised dance competitions, or local dance studios, and who knows where we’ll see it next. Basically, there’s no use in denying its presence anymore.