For 20 years, the VIBE XX Dance Competition has been the the Coachella of dance-offs. It began as a local talent competition, but has grown into one of the most prestigious dance competitions in the world. When it happens, everyone in the dance world holds their breath.
This year's winner, though, is something special: A San Diego dance crew called Cookies, made up of 32 members, put on a contemporary performance that not only earned them first prize but also helped spread awareness about an incredibly important issue. It was a dance about the growing number of orphaned children across the globe.
For their performance, the members of Cookies wore uniform gray sweats to mimic the rags worn by orphans and they used canvas military blankets and cots as props to mirror the conditions of an orphanage. During the first 30 seconds of music, the crew held their positions, still as plastic soldiers, but broke out into child-like dance when the beat dropped. The dancers portrayed children trapped in a militaristic orphanage, fighting for freedom and the basic right to be a kid. The routine was executed with emotional intensity, as the dancers literally held each other up through the frustrating fight.
They're bringing a huge issue to light. Before the dance begins, the screen shows the words, "Every day 5,760 more children become orphans. Children do not care how much you know until they know how much you care." And these dancers care. The proceeds from the winning dance will help World Vision, which raises funds to help children in crisis. Among the orphans in the world, more than 85 million are subjected to sex trafficking, hazardous physical labor and abuse. World Vision works with children in high-poverty areas like Ethiopia and Georgia to make sure those at-risk children are fed and sheltered.
"We hope you guys can join us in the efforts of taking care of one another, lifting each other up, and making sure no one goes through hardship alone," the troupe that started out in a garage wrote on their Facebook page.
Dance, like any other artistic medium — music, literature, cinema — is about more than just the aesthetics. The best choreographers create routines with a purpose in mind, be it as simple as inciting joy or as important as social change. Cookies has merged the two — something with this much heart deserves as much recognition as it can get.
Updated January 28, 2015.