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