Passion ignited from the stage and into the heart and soul of each audience member during dance ensemble Versa-Style’s performance at the Stevenson Event Center on Oct. 12.
Versa-Style, a play on the word “versatile,” is exactly that, in every aspect of the word. Not only does the ensemble consist of several different age groups, but also a variety of ethnicities, bringing together various cultures in music and dance. All their performances fuse together both hip-hop styles such as house, popping and locking and Afro-Latin styles such as Merengue, Cumbia and Salsa, among many others.
“[We try to] get away from what people consider traditional hip-hop music,” dancer Allison Gray said on the varied mixture within their hip-hop choreography. “[It] doesn’t always have to be so rough and tough. It can be soft, gentle, incorporating different styles such as classical.”
Their dance is a mixture of different cultural styles, as well as varying styles throughout history, entertaining their audiences and teaching them the origins of each style and their respective social and political contexts. This mixture of genres helps Versa-Style break social stereotypes, inviting people of all cultural backgrounds to band together through a shared passion of dance.
Based in North Hollywood, Versa-Style performs for schools and community centers, specifically targeting youth of all cultures to “help them find their passion,” said company manager and dancer Harry “Full Out” Weston.
Although originating in Los Angeles, the troupe has traveled up and down California and across the states to cities, including Philadelphia. They even traveled across the Atlantic, performing in Israel and India earlier this year. Weston said performing internationally has been the “next step” for Versa-Style, spreading their message of cultural unity not only statewide, but across the globe.
Although this desire to broaden internationally highlights Versa-Style’s success and dedication, co-founder Jackie Lopez reassures that they’re still growing and transforming as dancers. After an impressed commentator hailed each move brought to the stage, Lopez, aka “Miss Funk,” thanked him.
“We are not professionals,” Lopez said. “The beauty of it is that we always remain students, and [we remain] humble and keep growing.”
This group poured their heart and soul into what they do and live for — dancing. The tossing, turning, jumping, swinging, flinging and the consequent sweat and smiles accumulated into a passion that resonated from each individual on stage, communicating an energy to their Santa Cruz audience. After only forty minutes in, the hyped spectators became performers themselves during intermission, forming a dance circle by the side of the stage, cheering on each peer that took their turn in the center of the circle.
“The goal is to inspire at least one person,” Lopez said. “If I am able to inspire at least one, then we’ve done our job … our message keeps going and going and going.”