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Urban Dreams dance team shares strong sisterhood through diversity

September 26, 2018

A pile of bags, socks and street shoes sits in the corner of a dance hall. Several college students flock around the room. Some are barefoot. Others wear sneakers. 

With music at the ready on their smartphones, these students — the members of MSU's Urban Dreams dance team — begin to practice hip-hop and street dancing.

Urban Dreams was first conceived in 2002 by Ternisa Mallette, who wanted to put together a dance team to represent individuals of urban communities. Kinesiology senior Akilah Abdul-Hakiym, the team's current president, talked about her team.

“We are a co-ed hip-hop dance team,” Abdul-Hakiym said. “It's to promote diversity and give everyone a chance to express themselves through dance.”

Urban Dreams stands for “United Races Blended As Notorious Dancers Representing Each Aspect of Modern and Street." The motto highlights the team’s search for diverse individuals with a passion for hip-hop and street dancing, according to their website. 

Abdul-Hakiym said she knew of some friends who were on the team. She joined them as soon as she arrived at MSU.

“They talked me into auditioning and joining the team and ever since then, every girl that has been on the team has really truly become my sister and we've all become really great friends and a family,” Abdul-Hakiym said. 

Psychology senior Koi Mitchell also made a connection to Urban Dreams before she arrived at MSU. Mitchell, a Detroit native who's now the vice president of the club, joined the team when she was a freshman.

“I've always loved to dance,” she said. “I know a lot of people on the team from my high school, so that's why I joined.”

Mitchell found the team's performances on YouTube and discovered she liked the team's style and methods of dancing. 

“I saw them on social media, posting a lot about not only dancing, but how they were bound together and it seemed like they really had a sisterhood,” Mitchell said. 

Social media plays a large role in making people aware of the Urban Dreams community, according to Mitchell.

“We had people from all over the country who would ask us to perform at different areas and (social media) also allows people who are in high school, like (for) myself, that's how I found out about Urban Dreams,” Mitchell said. “It just allows more people to be aware of what we do as a team.”

Social media like Instagram or Twitter plays a role in increasing the number of individuals interested in the team. That's how psychology sophomore Dinata Shaleela Herron found out about it. 

“I looked up all the dance teams on campus. To me, this one showed the most promise and they were the most skilled, to me,” she said. “I feel like these girls can be sisters to me.”

Herron was a contemporary ballet dancer and started to dance when she was seven. It's her first time being on an all-hip-hop team.

“It was a nice transition from that and it really prepared me to do well this year,” Herron said.

Herron said she was looking for a way to transition from her classical ballet to hip-hop dancing.

“I wanted to embrace my culture,” Herron said. “I was so used to doing classical and I wanted to be able to show that rawness that I could do."

Urban Dreams hosts on-campus performances, but the team goes even beyond MSU. Organizations can invite the team to perform at events through its website.

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“We do perform around events on campus and usually we'll go to a competition every year outside of campus as well,” Abdul-Hakiym said.

Previous dance experience is a plus for someone who wants to join, but the team holds auditions open to undergraduate students at MSU.

“If you feel comfortable enough to come and audition, we are more than welcome allow you to come audition and hopefully you guys make the team,” Abdul-Hakiym said.


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