What began as a casual Friday cookout/dance get-together has blossomed into a full-blown community hip-hop jam -- and you don't need to be a hip-hop-head to appreciate the Worm Tank Jam going down this Saturday in the Carlson Gym at the University of Colorado in Boulder. "We want everyone to come to this event," says Worm Tank Crew founder Alex Milewski. "We don't just want hip-hop-heads. We don't just want dancers. We don't just want artists. We want everyone."
"Back in the day, when Kool Herc would throw park jams," Milewski points out, "he'd set up his speaker system and hook it into the power lines and just start deejaying, and people would come from all over just to have a good time -- even if they weren't hip-hop-heads or b-boys or even if they were just the moms of little kids. They'd just go and hang out and learn a thing or two and just have fun. That's really what the event is for. It's not for us. It's not for the hip-hop scene. It's for everybody."
Hip-hop fans of all disciplines will be represented at the Worm Tank jam with DJ and Graffiti workshops, rap cyphers, a three-on-three b-boy battle for $900, and there will even be intro dance classes for beginners who want to learn how to break pop and lock. Worm Tank is expecting to have ten to twenty other crews vying for the $900 prize, which was put up by the crew itself. But there could be even more, depending on how many other teams enter. Submissions are being accepted by commenting on the Worm Tank Jam Facebook page by 4 p.m. on the day of the event (waivers must also be signed, by parents if under eighteen).
Judges for the Worm Tank Jam include Thesis of KHCA, Larry Love of Street Styles, Christa and Professor Chaos of BreakEFX Crew, Mr. Random of Soulbotics Krew, judges who Larkin Poynton, one Worm Tank's original members, praises for being diverse "not only as dance is concerned but as people are concerned," he says. "These judges are really, really important people not only in the dance community in Colorado but in the dance community in the world as a whole."Even though there's big money up for grabs, the jam is meant to be fun. That in mind, there will also be prizes for more silly categories such as best parent, best spectator and best hair. "The reason that we have those awards," Milewski explains, "is because we really want to make sure that not only the competitors are involved. We have these awards for the spectators too because spectators are just as important as people competing, if not more."
"What we see at [other events] around the country is that those are competitions. You go to see who wins," Milewski points out. "We think the competition aspect is fun, and it's very important, and it's very integral in our community, because that's part of it, but we also [care about] getting people involved and just having a good time and showing people what our culture is really about and showing people what community involvement means and showing people about what it means to hang out not just with your own generation, but also with little kids and older people and teenagers and different things like that. We really want to get that to be a part of our community, not just competition."
The Worm Tank Crew itself has been alive for only a few years, but it is already among the largest dance crews in Colorado. Even with their size, the crew is known for being extremely tight-knit -- like a family. Poynton recalls a particularly fond memory: "One evening, we were all together and we decided to set up our speakers and our linoleum under the bridge on the Hill in Boulder," he recounts. "We were all dancing having a good time. The cops came and they told us to be quiet and stop doing what we were doing.
"We all were like, 'Okay, this is an opportunity for us to not only show our community how much love we have for it, but also to show the cops that we appreciate them, too,'" Poynton goes on. "So we all introduced ourselves to the cops. We had a conversation with them. I remember sitting in the background, watching all the kids introduce themselves to the officers and explaining to them what we were doing. And I remember sitting in the background and being like, 'We really have something special here, and we can really do good, good things with it.'"
"Our crew is really based on normal people," Milewski concludes, noting that when people "come through and they see what's going on, they get involved and then they decide, 'Hey, I should start dancing. I should start doing this because it's fun...' And even if they don't, they're so welcome. As an outsider, as somebody who doesn't really know or doesn't like what they've seen of hip-hop, if they give it a chance, it'll blow their mind."