House Dance International

House Dance International

House Dance International (“HDI”) is an annual street dance festival based in New York City that highlights the art forms of House dance, Vogue, Hustle, Waacking and Experimental, all of which are performed to house music or derivatives of electronic dance music. The three-day festival consists of a group choreography contest, freestyle competitions (i.e., "battles"), film screenings, seminars, workshops and parties. Established in 2007, HDI stands as the only event of its kind that exclusively focuses on the dance forms associated with house music culture [Selah, Makkada B., “Powder Burns: House Dancing Finally Gets Its Day (Four, Actually) in New York City”, "Village Voice", June 26, 2007. [] ] (as compared to hip-hop dance forms such as b-boying, popping, locking, krumping, etc.).


HDI represents a New York-based mission to bring together the various individuals and organizations that have played a role in the creation and development of house dance culture. Dating back to the 1970s in New York and Chicago, the culture grew out of the clubs and social networks of the black and latino gay community. Noteworthy clubs in Chicago included the Warehouse, Riviera, Music Box, and Medusa's. Landmark New York clubs where House dance developed included Paradise Garage, The Loft, and Sound Factory Bar.

With the invention of house music in 1983, house dance culture began to flourish in a cross-section of urban society, attracting dancers from all walks of life, ethnic backgrounds, socioeconomic classes and sexual orientations. The culture became a melting pot and repository for all types of dance styles: tap, jazz, modern, capoeira, salsa, b-boying, hip-hop that eventually morphed into its own distinctive style. [Freeman, Santiago, “House Dance Hits the Concert Stage”, "Dance Spirit Magazine", February 2007. [] ] The contribution of the various styles was fostered by the open-minded nature of the culture, which thrives on themes of liberation, unity and mutual passion for the music. [Id]

Until the establishment of HDI, however, there had not been a formal recognition of the primary styles that had come to define the culture, specifically, House Dance, Vogue, Waacking, Hustle, and Experimental. HDI brought the culture into focus and differentiated it from hip-hop culture, which many had mistakenly viewed as the precursor to House Dance.

Event History

The idea to host an annual NYC-based event dedicated to the various forms of house dance culture was conceived by house dancer and event producer Santiago Freeman in September 2006. As a descendent of Chicago’s original house dance / jacking scene of the mid-1980s, Santiago set out to produce the world’s most comprehensive festival dedicated to the art form of dancing to house music. Enlisting the help of top event promoter Redness and New York dance legend Conrad Rochester, the three launched the first HDI event in July 2007. The first event was held at Sullivan Room, Alvin Ailey Studios and Club Shelter. Judges included Archie Burnett, Conrad Rochester, Junious Brickhouse, Marjory Smarth, and James “Cricket” Colter. The co-founders sought legendary house dance pioneer Ejoe Wilson to be the Host / MC of the event.


Between 2007 and 2008, the HDI event has been attended by thousands of dancers, DJs, house music enthusiasts and spectators from around the globe, including from South Africa, Japan, Korea, London, Paris, Sweden, Montreal, Belgium and Taiwan. Surveys conducted by the HDI organizers indicate that 25% of the attendees are from Japan, 23% from New York, 23% from out-of-state, 18% percent from Europe, and 6% from Canada, with the remaining 5% from other regions of Asia. As house dance culture begins to proliferate worldwide, attendance is expected to increase exponentially.

Freestyle Competition Format

HDI features five specific categories of freestyle competitions: House dance, Vogue, Experimental, Hustle, and Waacking.

* "House Dance" (1x1): A dynamic urban dance performed to House Music that developed in the nightclubs of Chicago and New York over the last 25 years, the primary elements of House Dance consist of jacking, footwork and lofting with an emphasis on musicality and free spirit.

* "Vogue" (1x1): One of the most breathtaking art forms in urban dance, Vogue has experienced a vibrant history in the underground club scene and continues to amaze with innovation. Dancers exhibit skills in the old way, new way, vogue femme and dramatics.

* "Experimental" (1x1): A progressive urban dance performed to alternative genres of electronic dance music, including Nu Jazz, Broken Beat and Drum and Bass. Individual expression and abstract movement are the key components to this category.

* "Hustle" (2x2): Dating back to the 1970s Disco Era, the Hustle is house dance culture’s time-honored partner dance that consists of the romantic interchange between two free and elegant souls.

* "Waacking" (1x1): A fierce upright style that developed on the West Coast during the Soul Train years, Waacking is an electrifying art form of complex arm and hand movements that project sensuality and strength.

All contestants must qualify for final rounds by auditioning at preliminary rounds. Each contestant receives approx. 2 minutes to dance in a solo exhibition to music selected by the DJ. A panel of five judges scores each contestant on the basis of four criteria: (1) musicality/rhythm; (2) technique/vocabulary; (3) charisma/free spirit and (4). The top contestants with the highest mathematical scores in each category advance to the final rounds.

Group Choreography Contest

In addition to the freestyle competitions, HDI also plays host to a group choreography contest that showcases the talents of groups within the house dance community. Groups are scored on a mathematical scale by a panel of judges using the following criteria: (1) musicality / rhythm; (2) vocabulary; (3) originality / creativity; (4) charisma; (5) synchronicity / transitions; (6) staging / blocking; (7) costume design. The winner of the Group Choreography Contest in 2008 was an all-female group from Osaka, Japan called “Soul Flower”.


In 2007 and 2008, HDI hosted its Master Workshop Series at Alvin Ailey Studios in Manhattan. 2007 instructors included Brian “Footwork” Greene, Ejoe Wilson, Marjory Smarth and Archie Burnett. 2008 Instructors included Akim Funk Buddha, Tyrone Proctor, Sergia Anderson, Ejoe Wilson and Archie Burnett. The HDI workshops are designed to bring top instruction in the various forms of House Dance to international students of the art form.

Film Screenings

Consistent with its theme of advancing House Dance culture, HDI has screened various films that address the subject matter of House Dance. Past films screenings have included:

* "Check Your Body at the Door": Dr. Sally Sommer, Professor of Dance at Florida State University, presented her remarkable documentary film that explores the movement vocabulary of legendary NYC house dancers, including Archie Burnett, Willie Ninja, Ejoe Wilson, Marjory Smarth and Conrad Rochester. Made possible in part by contributions from the National Endowment of the Arts, Dr. Somner interviews dancers from the local NYC scene and captures now-vintage footage from the late 80s and early 90s. "Check Your Body at the Door" now stands as an historical document and testament to the early years of NYC’s house dance culture.

* "How Do I Look": Directed by Wolfgang Busch, "How Do I Look" is the follow-up the international breakthrough film "Paris is Burning". The film documents New York’s underground ballroom community from 1997 through 2004 and features some of the most respected dancers in the world of Vogue.

* "Dance For Peace": A non-profit organization dedicated to working with underprivileged youth from developing countries, Dance For Peace director Kumari Singh presented a short documentary in 2008 chronicling the impact that urban dance has had on the youth in South Africa.

* "HDI DVD Highlights": In 2008, film producers Santiago Freeman and Christopher Scott presented 2007 highlights from the various competition categories.

Host / MC

HDI is hosted by its Master of Ceremonies, Ejoe Wilson, age 38, who stands as one of the most influential House Dancers on the planet. His life as a dancer has been documented in numerous films, including "Check Your Body at the Door" and "Maestro", and his work has been featured in videos for MC Lyte, Jungle Brothers, Will Smith and Mariah Carey, with whom he accompanied on five world tours. Ejoe now travels the world teaching his unique style of house dance, which has been described as “The Truth”. He is credited with innovating House Dance through the infusion of Jacking with dynamic floorwork, lofting and acrobatics, a style that has been emulated the world over. Ejoe is co-host of Soulgasm, a house dance event based in New York, and is the artistic director of Beyond Phenomenon, an avant-garde house dance company.


* "Santiago Freeman" (Creator / Executive Director). Santiago has been a freestyle House Dancer for more than twenty years, growing up in Chicago amidst the house music explosion of the mid-1980s. He is currently the host of monthly House Dance event, Brooklyn Mecca, now in its fourth year and is the founding director of Dance Warrior Project, a theatrical house dance company recently described by the New York Times as “graceful…strong…and engaging.” Santiago is also a filmmaker, writer, designer, DJ/producer and attorney.

* "REDness" (Co-Producer). As a fixture in New York’s underground dance music scene since the late-1980s RED has promoted various parties, working with an extensive list of DJs including Louie Vega, Francois K., Danny Krivit and Joe Claussel. She is the founding coordinator of the CHMW Freestyle Dance-Off competition, which completed its second year at the Winter Music Conference in Miami, as well as co-host of the popular weekly House Dance event, Soulgasm NYC.

* "Conrad Rochester" (Co-Producer). In addition to being one of the innovators of the essential dance form lofting, Conrad is a highly successful club promoter, having worked with Paradise Garage, Club Shelter and Roots. He has also been commissioned by Louie Vega, Mr. V, Syam Records and Sole Channel to organize the dance community for special events, such as music videos.


House Dance International has featured some of the world’s most prestigious house music DJs including DJ Spinna, the Martinez Brothers, Quentin Harris, Filsonik, DJ Sabine, Bryan Coxx, Chip-Chop Ninja and Pang-Lo.

Championship Results

* 2007: House Dance (Shuho Chiba); Vogue (Javier Ninja); Hustle (Sergia Anderson & Raul Santiago); Experimental (Future).

* 2008:House Dance (Shuho Chiba); Vogue (Javier Ninja); Hustle (Sergia Anderson & Raul Santiago);Experimental (Future); Waacking (Aus Ninja)


* 2007: Conrad Rochester (House Dance); Junious Brickhouse (House Dance); James "Cricket" Colter (Experimental); Archie Burnett (Vogue); Marjory Smarth (Hustle).

* 2008: Hector Xtravaganza (Vogue); Akim Funk Buddha (Experimental); Voodoo Ray (House); David Husney (Hustle); Tyrone Proctor (Waacking).


1. "See" Selah, Makkada B., “Powder Burns: House Dancing Finally Gets Its Day (Four, Actually) in New York City”, "Village Voice", June 26, 2007.

2. "See" Freeman, Santiago, “House Dance Hits the Concert Stage”, "Dance Spirit Magazine", February 2007.

3. "Id."

4. In European countries and Asia, House Dance was introduced by a series of New York-based dancers who had gravitated to house dance from hip-hop culture in the early 1990s. As a result, house dance has been viewed as an extension or derivative of hip-hop culture when it in fact developed on its own trajectory in nightclubs throughout the 1980s, independent of what was happening in hip-hop culture. "See" Reeves, Marcus, “Celebrating an Unsung Body Revolution”, New York Press, July 5, 2007.

5. Freeman wrote a seminal article on the development of House Dance in national publication "Dance Spirit Magazine". "See id."

6. "See" Sagolla, Lisa Jo, “Breaking into House”, Backstage, November 16, 2007.


1. Selah, Makkada B., “Powder Burns: House Dancing Finally Gets Its Day (Four, Actually) in New York City”, "Village Voice", June 26, 2007.

2. Thomas, Andy, “Shelter NYC: Gimme Shelter”, "Straight No Chaser (UK)", September 2007.

3. Reeves, Marcus, “Celebrating an Unsung Body Revolution”, "New York Press", July 5, 2007.

4. Freeman, Santiago, “House Dance Hits the Concert Stage”, "Dance Spirit Magazine", February 2007.

5. Sagolla, Lisa Jo, “Breaking into House”, "Backstage", November 16, 2007.

6. Bennett, Leah V., “Determining the Best in House”, NJ Ledger, July 12, 2007.

7. Freeman, Santiago, “Strike a Pose 2.0: The Art of Vogue is Making a Comeback”, "Dance Spirit Magazine", July/August 2008.

8. Sommer, Sally R., "C'Mon to My House: Underground House Dancing." "Dance Research Journal", Vol. 33, No. 2, pp. 72-86 (2004).

External Links

* House Dance International website.

* House Dance International myspace.

* HouseDanceFx.

* House Dance Project.

* House Dance (french website).

* House Dance Conference.

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