Thanks to the success of movies like Step Up and shows like So You Think You Can Dance and America's Best Dance Crew, dancing is more popular than ever—specifically, hip-hop dancing is more popular than ever. Now there are numerous dance crews around the nation fighting to be bigger and better, and get recognized by their city or community.
The dancers at the Human Project, however, are more than a dance crew; they're a family. This Saturday, June 2, the Human Project will celebrate its 10th anniversary with a party/performance celebration to show the Tucson community how it has evolved in the past decade.
Anton Smith, the director, choreographer and father figure of the group, created the Human Project in 2002 when he was asked to organize a group of break-dancers to perform at a downtown event. Following the success of that performance, Smith made it a permanent thing, and has worked since then to teach dancers of all ages the art of hip hop.
The group's name reflects its belief that dancers of any background can be included.
"We're all human, and we're all a project or a process," Smith said. "I think when we perform, the name explains itself. I think if you're an artist, and you're a dancer, you're someone who has an open mind. Then you understand that all of our shows are something pretty much everyone can enjoy and everyone can relate to."
Fluxx Studio and Gallery, the venue for the show and the home of the Human Project since 2009, is located in the downtown/Fourth Avenue area, enhancing the group's urban hip-hop feel.
"I wish we (had been) here since the beginning," Smith said. "It's so perfect. It's an art gallery; it's a performance space; it's a community space. We create art; we create performances; and we create a community."
The performance will be set up like a big birthday celebration, which means audience members won't be sitting in chairs for hours while the dancers perform. In fact, attendees will be encouraged to dance themselves.
"We're going to open with newer work we've been working on just to let the audience see this is what we've evolved to in the past 10 years. And then, later on ... we're going to actually show them our entire evolution by displaying dances from 2002 all the way up until now," Smith said. "So they see the styles that we've incorporated over the past, and the style we've become."
The Human Project has performed at venues across the city, including the Tucson Convention Center, downtown clubs and the Rialto Theatre; and at events and festivals such as the annual Martin Luther King Jr. celebration and Tucson Meet Yourself. The group also has performed in Phoenix, Douglas, Willcox, Sierra Vista and Northern Arizona. Internationally, Human Project members have represented the group at dance events in Mexico, Brazil and Germany.
Nickie Smith, a company member, said she loves what the Human Project has to offer, and how it has shaped her into a better dancer and a more-confident person.
"We all share a passion," she said. "We don't just dance to do it or stay fit. We literally love dance. That's the blood that connects us to this family. And we love to perform. Dance is not hobby for us; it's a passion and a lifestyle."
Group members said the 10th-anniversary show has a special significance to them.
"Every anniversary show, we reflect on the year, so to actually reflect on all 10 years, I'm able to really get a true grasp of the company's history, and that's awesome," said Darrell Wilmore, assistant director of the Human Project. "Some of the people who started it and are HP veterans are going to be at the show, so I'm excited to perform their dances—hopefully, to their satisfaction."