Hip Hop-eration: Doco on elderly Kiwi rappers premieres

01:56, Sep 24 2014
hiphopstand
HIP HAPPY: Members of the Hip Hop-eration crew, from left, Kara Nelson, 94 and Maynie Thompson, 95.

Nine of them are deaf, four use mobility aids, one is blind, 11 are in their 80s and 90s but the Hip Hop-eration Crew all have one thing that doesn’t age: Swagger. 

Dubbed the world’s oldest dance group by Guinness World Records, the 23 senior citizens (aged between 67 and 95-years-old) are all neighbours on Waiheke Island and under the guidance of 45-year-old Billie Jordan can now pop, lock and drop it. 

On Monday night, Hip Hop-eration premiered at Auckland’s Rialto theatre. The film tracks the crew’s journey to the World Hip-Hop Championship Finals in Las Vegas last year – prompting images of a Step Up reunion. 

Two of the oldest members, 94-year-old Kara ‘‘Bang Bang’’ Nelson and 95-year-old Maynie ‘‘‘Quicksilver’’ Thompson met in 1984 and this isn’t their first time on the screen. A 47-minute film, Kit and Maynie: Tea, Scones and Nuclear Disarmament, was made in 2009 and focused on their peace activism. 

Then their sights turned to hip-hop. Piano playing Nelson quickly tired of the crew’s inability to keep in time and started using her walking sticks to ‘‘bang bang’’ the others in rhythm – and earning herself the nickname of Bang Bang. 

Thompson has become very taken with dancing; every Friday night she, Nelson and Jordan go to the RSA and Thompson dances with her ‘‘Friday night boyfriend’’.  

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In her spare time she enjoys reading books, particularly detective novels (the large print helps her to read despite her partial blindness) and eating oysters and strawberry shortcakes. Nelson sings in the choral society. 

‘‘We like to go out and meet friends. Maynie and I decided several years ago the best way to be old is to have younger friends.’’ 

The two are exhausted from the film premiere. 

‘‘I was amazed at everybody’s reaction,’’ says Thompson, ‘‘absolutely overwhelmed. Little children wanted our addresses; it made me feel as if I was something important.’’ 

Jordan agrees, saying the group weren’t ready for the reaction to the film or the hundreds of people who turned out to watch it. 

‘‘Seeing the film is very emotional for us. We come from a very quiet island, there’s not even a traffic light, and so to have all these people swamping us, we’re so tired. 

‘‘We’ve been catching taxis, doing interviews, people stop us in the street, and construction workers want to get their photos with us.

‘‘The audience, no matter what age they are, will identify with that quintessential Kiwi attitude – having these big goals and doing anything to reach them. As Kiwis we are often the underdog, but we strive not to be.’’ 

Despite the newfound fame, there’s no rest for the Hip Hop-eration Crew. The team are training three hours every Sunday and two hours every Wednesday, says Jordan.

The next mission?

‘‘They are going to be performing in Taiwan to 15,000 people in November doing a six minute dance routine. We have to keep practising because time’s running out.’’

Hip Hop-eration (PG) opens in cinemas nationwide on Thursday.

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