Hip Hop Hooray

Behind the scenes of our uber talented team

by Amelia Severn, staff

Hip Hop might be one of the most successful and talented sports teams at SW, but many feel they have never gotten the recognition they deserve. This year alone, they have won all three of their competitions after recently winning districts and recently finished second in the state. However, many don’t know the success behind the program.

Hip Hop is a student-led program, with their two captains Siyam Tekle and Meka Vincini who have been a part of Hip Hop for four years. Vincini, who grew up dancing because her sister was also a dancer, wasn’t sure if she was going to do Hip Hop entering her freshman year. “[Hip Hop] is completely different than any other dance I do because it’s just a different focus,” she said. 

Shorewood Hip Hop has had to overcome a lot of challenges on their way to success this year. “We’re undervalued. Sports always gets priority over [the] gym or they’ll sometimes forget to voice our [competition (comp) results] over the intercom,” Vincini said. Hip Hop had gained a little more respect as they started winning. “It sucks that it takes us [winning] to get any recognition,” she said. 

Hip Hop after placing first at a Bellevue dance competition.
Photo courtesy of Meka Vincini

Being undervalued is not the only challenge they have gone through this year on their way to victory. As a student-led team they don’t have a coach, just an advisor. “It’s been really hard cause we’ve had to schedule our own comps and . . . I had my dad make our outfits. I had to schedule all the fundraisers…It’s just a lot of things on our own,” Vincini said. It’s not all bad though, as Vincini describes, “We’re allowed to have a vision and being able to create it. It’s so fun being with friends and having that power to do it.”

Math teacher Kaitlyn Aswege stepped in as Hip Hop advisor after the retirement of Alisan Giesy, who was the advisor for many many years. Aswege has high praise for the team. “As a student-run program, I am the background person who gives these students the time and space (and snacks) needed to shine, because they are absolutely amazing. We’re right now roughly ranked #2 in our 3A division and unlike every other team we compete against, our team has not hired a choreographer and does not have a coach (this year or in previous years) with any dance experience,” Aswege said via email. “Everything you see, from choreography to putting together the music mix, is all a result of student leadership and I could not be more proud of these kids.”

Shorewood’s Hip Hop team won 2nd at State.
Photo courtesty of Meka Vincini

Aswege also explained how amazing it is to see a piece come to life. “I get to see a piece be designed from the beginning as it goes through change after change and is cleaned again and again,” she said.

However, there are some challenges with being student led as Vincini noted before. Although some of these challenges are seen as indifference and problems within the school and athletic department, Joann Fukuma, the Athletic Director, explains it is not as simple as it may seem.

Fukuma oversees the 18 athletic teams at Shorewood, which does not include the four performance teams of drill, flag, cheer, and hip hop. “They sit in a funny spot though. They’re a club at Shorewood kind of like water polo, chess, and robotics. But they’re also under the WIAA (Washington Interscholastic Activities Association) which is part of ASB law. So everyone kind of assumes they’re a sport, but they’re not considered a sport,” said Fukuma. This makes it difficult for Hip Hop to get the space they need to practice. “Any time a club or group like that wants to have space I prioritize space for the athletic teams first, and then Shorewood groups second, and outside groups third. That’s how I have to look at it,” Fukuma said.

According to Fukuma, because Hip Hop is not considered a sport it also makes it very difficult for funding. “All of our teams suffer from lack of funding and with the COVID times it’s been very hard. All club teams have to fundraise for their clubs. When a sports team gets funds, that comes from their hundred dollar participation fee, that [then] all gets thrown into a big pot, the district gets the money and we pay for officials, facility stuff, and transportation,” Fukuma says. Because Hip Hop is a club they don’t have to pay fees, thus they don’t have as much funding. 

Fukuma is still working with the district to see her involvement as Athletic Director with the four performance teams and other clubs as it is not in her job title to look over them. “If they became seen as a sport that would include…participation fees, everyone would have to have an ASB card, grade checks, attendance checks everyday. All the rules that apply to the athletes. So we’ve kind of let the clubs and club advisors take care of their own teams and they like it that way,” Fukuma said. 

Overcoming these challenges creates a great community that strives to get better together. “We’re literally a family and nine out of the 12 or 13 people on varsity are seniors so we’ve actually been on the team for four years together…we work really well together and I feel like communication is one thing that is really good on our team,” Vincini said.

According to Vincini they push each other to get better day in and day out. “This year I have never seen people so motivated in my entire life. Like they are so dedicated, so hard working and I’ve never seen them want to win a state title so bad,” Vincini said. This mentality helps them get through ‘hell week’ where they have three hour practices every day the week leading up to the competition, “Basically Monday through Thursday we just grind,” Vincini said.

Through the years, Shorewood Hip Hop has grown to the point where they are competing for a state title this year which they have never placed at before. When it comes to shining a light on Hip Hop, Vincini said: “Hip Hop is not just a dance, it’s a culture.”