A conversation with A.J. Glasco, curator of ‘We are Hip-Hop’ 

When the Charlotte International Arts Festival arrives next month, one of its first events will be the “We Are Hip-Hop Dance Showcase,” a performance that spotlights some of Charlotte’s top hip-hop and street dancer talent.

On Wednesday, Aug. 17, hip-hop fans can get a sneak peek of that upcoming performance — for free.

Some of the dancers will be performing this week at Wednesday Night Live, a free event that rotates between the Harvey B. Gantt Center, the Mint Museum Uptown and the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art. (The Bechtler will host this week’s event.)

In an interview with QCity Metro, AJ Glasco, a local dancer and choreographer who curated “We Are Hip-Hop,” talks about the upcoming show and how he got his start as a hip-hop artist.

Answers have been edited for length and clarity

What sparked your interest in Hip-Hop dancing?

I was the artsy kid in middle and high school. I was in band, chorus, musical theater. I wanted to do it all. Dance was not something that I initially wanted to do. I initially wanted to do something related to music education. I actually didn’t take my first professional-level dance class until I was 18. I took intermediate [dance] classes in middle and high school for recreational purposes.

When I moved here, I said, “Let me try something different,” and went to a dance class after not having danced for three or four years. It was a horrible experience coming back because I didn’t know what was going on, but it also gave me inspiration. It’s been history since then.

The showcase spotlighting the local hip-hop scene is a part of the upcoming International Art's Festival.
Photo: courtesy of AJ Glasco

How did you come to be curator for the showcase?

I have worked alongside Blumenthal [Performing Arts] for the past five or six years. I performed in “Breakin’ Convention” back in 2015 with my then-company, The Crazy Collective. I went from being on stage to behind the scenes. I was asked to come in as a creative consultant as someone who has a connection to our hip-hop community. It made it easier for me to do a lot of the outreach and led to me being able to curate.

What was the curation process like?

Fairly easy. I reached out to dancers in the community that have not had the opportunity to perform on a bigger platform, people that just need their talent to be seen. A lot of my time was spent doing research on dancers who I’ve seen a lot of and then some dancers I would love to see more of.

I chose people who inspired me with their stories, skills and determination. It was easier being connected to our local community of artists; I was able to reach out to them on a faster timeline.

Photo: courtesy of AJ Glasco

Your website describes your dance style as urban abstract. What does that mean?

Urban abstract is a fusion-style dance that mixes elements of hip-hop, street dance and dance theater. It’s very emotion based. I created it with several friends of mine. We have a different way of moving with street dance, but we are still wildly accepted by the hip-hop and street dance community.

It [urban abstract] pays homage to our street dance roots but also other styles like contemporary and jazz.

Where does the Crazyee Beat in your name come from?

It encompasses my love for music and the way I listen to it. A lot of my friends will say that I dance to weird songs with a lot of different sound effects. Crazy Lab, the studio name, is a place where we can experiment with movement. I really like to take a different approach to movement in my classes. It’s really good for intermediate- to advanced-level dancers that want to experiment with different methods of movement and dance to different music.

Photo: courtesy of AJ Glasco

You’ve choreographed for the Honey Bees and for the Charlotte Hornets’ Hip-Hop Crew. How does choreographing for “We Are Hip-Hop” compare?

That was probably the most fun experience of my life, but also kind of scary. I had to think on a much larger scale. Since they dance on a basketball court and you can view the dancers from all sides, I had to think of how to entertain the audience from all angles.

I won’t be performing in the “We Are Hip-Hop Showcase.” I’ll be behind the scenes as a stage manager.

What are you looking forward to people seeing?

I want [the audience] to recognize the talent that this city has as far as our hip hop dance community goes and our artistic community in general. There are going to be several different activations that go on. both at the soft launch at the Bechtler and at the festival in September. I also want them to recognize the “We are Hip Hop” brand and just know that we’re going to keep things consistently going. We’re already looking towards what types of events that we can plan for next year.

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