Capital Funk keeps everything simple. Except for their dancing, that is.
This no-frills approach didn’t take away from the group’s performance April 10 at Main Event, a regional hip-hop dance competition where it won first place.
“We wear a cool T-shirt designed by one of the members,” said senior Kalie Kelman, former captain of Capital Funk. “We already dance differently and we wanted to make ourselves look more uniform.” Although the competition season has ended, the group continues to rehearse for its upcoming showcase at Lisner Auditorium May 1. The group will open and close the show with a different set.
At rehearsal, the dancers are alert yet surprisingly laid-back, constantly chitchatting, laughing and mingling. When it comes to dancing though, that’s the only thing they do, moving with precision, fluidity and gusto.
Kelman, who has been dancing with Capital Funk since her freshman year, said Capital Funk has been “like a family,” a family she is not prepared to leave.
“It is difficult to leave the team, especially after being a heavily involved member,” she said.
For Capital Funk, everything is a team effort, but very few members of the group said they grew up with hip-hop training. The dancers come from a wide range of dancing backgrounds, from former jazz and modern dancers to students who trained themselves by watching YouTube videos.
“The progress is a result of our willingness to learn different styles of hip-hop dance, such as locking, popping, housing, and voguing,” said showcase director James Bayot.
A GW alumnus and one of the original members of the group, Bayot said he has helped lead Capital Funk, and that he has seen much improvement in the group since its founding in 2004.
Quang Huynh, another alumnus and long-standing member, is the choreographer and unofficial artistic director of Capital Funk. For Huynh, “identity, know-how and authenticity” are vital to the team’s success.
“We have a great identity that mixes fun whimsy with hard-faced intimidation,” he said.
He remembers Capital Funk’s first performance at a coffee shop, where the group earned $45 even though it had paid more just to use the venue.
“We used to practice without mirrors in gravel parking lots, on rooftops and in tiny racquetball courts,” Huynh said.
The dancers are extremely committed and often sacrifice other activities for the group. The group even has a curse, called the “CFunk Curse,” which supposedly dooms every romantic relationship between a member and a non-member.
“So far, it’s 100 percent true, but still pending two couples,” he said.
That sacrifice, however, enables the group to put on an extraordinary show.
“Part of the magic of a big show is when you can see two dancers wink at each other on stage or a dancer’s subtle grin after a mistake, or when a quiet personality comes alive on stage,” Huynh said.
Capital Funk works hard to cultivate its image as GW’s “ambassadors” of hip-hop dance culture. To Huynh, the group has the opportunity to represent and share that culture here in the District.