The World’s Oldest Hip Hop Crew

Their average age is mid-70’s. The oldest performer is 96. One person is on a walker. One person is legally blind, a couple others are partially deaf. Some have had joint replacements.  All of them have arthritis. Each has adopted a stage name, along the lines of “Boom Boom,” “Dollar and Two Cents,” “Mystic Diva,” and “Shake it up Sheila.” Their creed is that if any one of them dies during a performance, the others will “step over their mate” and keep right on dancing. The show, of course, must go on.

And do they put on a show! They are the “Hipop-eration,” world-renowned hip hop dancers from Waiheke Island, Auckland, New Zealand. No lie. This energetic motley crew of mostly octogenarians has performed internationally, including at the 2013 International Hip Hop Competition in Las Vegas.

Where and how did these dancing geriatrics get their beginning? And why hip hop?

We first heard of this amazing troupe while on a wine tour of Waiheke Island. Our enthusiastic driver-guide and island native first waxed on about Waiheke’s reputation for boutique vineyards, then segued into such an intriguing story about “the World’s Oldest Dance Group” that we had to learn more.

The Story: After surviving a devastating earthquake in Christchurch 2011, Billie Jordan found herself asking, “If I’d died in the quake, could I say I had really lived life to the fullest?” Her self-assessment emphatically concluded, ”No!” She relocated from Christchurch to Waiheke Island, on the eastern fringe of Auckland harbor basin, an idyllic, laid-back island full of aging hippies and wine-growers.

Looking around for something meaningful to do, Billie noticed that many of the aging residents seemed to lack purpose and any form of activity, so she began the Wiaheke Island dance group with initial intentions of staging “flash mob” performances to promote fitness in seniors. Why hip hop? “Why not?” Billie retorts during a TED talk about Hipop-eration.

Billie told the group, “Whether you believe it or like it or not, in 8 months you will be competing at the international hip hop competition.” Their local performances swiftly morphed into “the world’s oldest” hip hop dance group with fans and shows all over New Zealand. They did believe, and in less than a year from their flash mob beginnings, they did perform at the 2013 world hip hop championship in Las Vegas. The World’s Oldest Dance Group may not have won the overall competition, but they sure brought down the house. I doubt Vegas will ever be the same again. Hip hop certainly won’t!

 

Hipop-eration website: www.hipop-eration.com. Click on links on their website for videos of performances & workouts. Videos are also available on YouTube. Just type in “World’s Oldest Dance Group” and select which ones to watch.

Lecture by group founder, Billie Jordan: www.TEDxAuckland.com

 

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11 thoughts on “The World’s Oldest Hip Hop Crew

  1. What a hoot! I love their commitment that if one member dies on stage, they just continue on!!!!!!!! Great blog! Great hearing from you guys. Miss you…. Stay safe and happy!!!!!

  2. wow, you’ve been all over new Zealand and still have time to participate in the exercise hour at the senior citizen’s center!  Let me know how the cave tour works out and what the hell is a glow worm?  

    From: Distant Sojourns To: edwardsussman@yahoo.com Sent: Sunday, January 31, 2016 8:20 PM Subject: [New post] The World’s Oldest Hip Hop Crew #yiv6063727641 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv6063727641 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv6063727641 a.yiv6063727641primaryactionlink:link, #yiv6063727641 a.yiv6063727641primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv6063727641 a.yiv6063727641primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv6063727641 a.yiv6063727641primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv6063727641 WordPress.com | carolrolnick posted: ”  Their average age is 79. The oldest performer is 96. One person is on a walker. One person is legally blind, a coupe others are partially deaf. Some of them have dementia. Several more have had joint replacements.  All of them have arthr” | |

    • Yeah — the senior activity center…Michael kept breaking into disco and singing “Keep it alive!” and doing a John Travolta routine. He threw out his back, landed on some grannies (they survived) and now he also needs a hip replacement. Thank god NZ health care covers you for any accidents incurred while in the country. We could be here awhile…

      As for glow worms, stay tuned.

      PS he didn’t really break his hip….

  3. NONE of the 22 crew have been diagnosed with dementia, this is just a story the manager uses to promote herself in the press

    • Audrey, thank you for your comment. I will check up on the manager’s assertion. I actually got that bit of info from her TED talk, which I referenced in the posting. If true what you say, I’m pretty disappointed that she would give a false fact in a program as worthwhile and well-watched as the TED talks, or to sound as if she’s diminishing the abilities of the hip hop crew. Regardless of the veracity of the “hype,” I think it’s marvelous that these seniors are so active and in such a novel way.

      BTW, I loved every minute of the 5 weeks my husband and I spent in NZ. Such a beautiful country and such lovely people! And thanks again for taking the time to read and comment!

      Regards,
      Carol

    • Sorry I have reposted! I find it distressing that these lovely people are being talked about with untruths as the are defenceless not being computer or internet savvy… It’s a shame and unnecessary for what should be a positive thing

      • No worries, Audrey! I appreciate the info & feedback. When I get a chance I will delve more deeply into Billie Jordan’s claims and will correct any misinformation I’ve put in this posting. It’s a shame that she felt she had to exaggerate the abilities or disabilities of this group. The fact that this group of pensioners/seniors are so energetic and open to trying something new (to them, hip hop) and actually performing is amazing. I agree with you, Hip-operation IS a positive thing!

        Regards,
        Carol

  4. Hi Carol,
    I am the daughter of one of the dancers and have met some of the crew and have been liaising with some of the crew recently- I know for a fact that none of the 22 crew were clinically or medically diagnosed with dementia, hence my intrusion on some internet sites where I can make a comment. Thank you for your considered replies, I have read them to my mother and it has given her hope that eventually people will begin to realise there is two sides to every story… the whole experience for the crew has indeed been fabulous – absolutely… unfortunately sometimes there are stories behind wonderful entities, thanks, Audrey

    • Hi, Audrey. Thank you so much for your input and corrections concerning Billie Jordan’s “dementia” claim. I did research a few additional articles. Since I couldn’t find any other independent source that supports her assertion, I’ve deleted that from my opening paragraph.

      Please also tell your mother that I think it’s terrific that she joined Hipop-eration, and, that I hope she’s continuing to dance even if she’s not still with them. (It wasn’t clear if she was still in the crew or not.) I applaud her and the others of the crew — all terrific hip hop dancers!

      Thank you, Audrey, for taking the time to write and educate! It’s difficult even in this “Information Age” to assure one is using unbiased sources. If you have any NZ websites or articles you’d like to share with me, I would appreciate reading them.

      I hope you & your mother have a pleasant North Island winter!

      Regards,

      Carol Rolnick

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