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Hip crew to champs

GEORGE GARDNER
Last updated 05:00 30/04/2014
hip-op crew
NOTABLE NONAGENARIANS: From left: Terri Woolmore-Goodwin, 93, Kara Nelson, 94, Maynie Thompson, 95, Selwyn Redwood, 92, and Madge Redwood, 91, are five of the 25-strong Hip Op-eration Crew. 

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The world's oldest bunch of hip hoppers is still going strong with its 25 Waiheke Island members preparing for a new challenge.

The Hip Op-eration Crew will compete against the best dance crews from around the country this Friday evening at the New Zealand National Hip Hop Championships.

The group of senior citizens, aged between 67 and 95, is registered to enter the Mega Crew division of the champs and has been rehearsing for months.

Member 80-year-old Brenda Long, also known as BB Rizzell, says the crew is really excited but also a bit nervous.

"Many of our competitors are the best hip hop dancers in the world.

"We don't expect to win, but will certainly do our best to show the respect we have for the younger hip hop dancers - many of whom are 70 to 80 years younger than us."

The Hip Op-eration Crew is the brainchild of Ostend resident Billie Jordan. The crew includes four people who use mobility aids, five members in their 90s, several deaf members, and one who is legally blind. The average age is 78 and there are six men and 19 women.

The crew made its first appearance as a flash mob in downtown Auckland in August 2012.

It has since featured on BBC World, the front page of the Wall Street Journal, Australia's Sunday Night programme, Fox News, New Zealand's Got Talent, and other television networks, radio stations, magazines and newspapers all over the world.

Jordan says the crew would like to do more shows on Waiheke Island but space is a problem.

"There just isn't any outside space that is flat and measures nine metres by nine metres. We could probably fit on the stage at Artworks at a real squeeze or at the high school hall, but who would turn up for a four-minute performance?"

The crew has also tried to perform at the Ostend market but the grass was an obstacle. Flash mobs in the middle of Oneroa village have been problematic as it is on a slope.

"And the traffic doesn't really appreciate it," Jordan says.

"So the only public space we can really perform is at the Matiatia Wharf, which we always do when we are heading into Auckland."

Last August, the crew did two tribute performances at the World Hip Hop Championships in Las Vegas to crowds of thousands.

Long says: "People thought we were quite an oddity - coming from a small island in New Zealand and being so much older than everyone else.

"A lot of people cried and screamed when we performed. It was really overwhelming but also the best moments of our lives."

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Long and her "homies" have been rehearsing their new, four-minute dance routine for months.

"The easiest hip hop moves for us are locking and popping, as our limbs are so old they do that naturally," she says.

"However, break dancing is off the agenda as it could literally kill us."

Residents can support the Hip Op-eration Crew on Friday night at the Victory Convention Centre, 98 Beaumont St, Auckland Central. Buy tickets at iticket.co.nz.

- Waiheke Marketplace

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