Dance is a universal form of creative expression: if you can feel the rhythm, how many years old you are is irrelevant. Frequently the media chooses to focus on only one end of the spectrum, young prodigy child dancers. As a result, the other end is being forgotten. Perhaps the most impressive dance crew that has qualified in the World Hip-Hop Dance Championships, an annual dance competition held in Las Vegas, Nevada, is the Hip Op-eration Crew from the small New Zealand island of Waiheke near Auckland, which is entirely composed of members who range between the ages of 65-90.
The crew got together one year ago as a flash mob crew. Their leader (who’s now their manager and choreographer as well) Billie Jordan, 43, assembled the group via posting flyers and approaching people on the streets to participate in a flash mob. The public dance performance was a smash, and gave her the idea to turn the group into a full-fledged hip-hop dance crew.
Today, Hip Op-eration is composed of 36 people (although only 26 were medically cleared to take the physically taxing journey from New Zealand to Nevada). Being part of the group has changed the lives of all of its members: it gives them confidence, a new appreciation for the music of today (which gives them a new way to connect with their grandkids), a cool exercise alternative to Zumba, and notably improved physical health. Naturally, people in the age range of the Hip Op-eraters are bound to have some health problems—one member is blind, and another is deaf—but many have spoken on how dancing has helped them get back in shape. “I used to stand all hunched over. I have a couple spinal defects. Now I stand up much straighter, and I feel great,” said crew member Rona Weston, 82.
All of their hard work will be on display this weekend at the World Hip-Hop Dance Championships in Las Vegas. The group has been the target of a lot of media attention thanks to their “seniority”; they have had a video crew following them for the past year, leading up to a documentary to be released sometime next year.
When asked if she would be nervous at the competition, one of the dancers, Violet ‘Granny V’ Hollis, age 96, said, “I’m too old to get nervous!”