On April 5, 2016, something unprecedented happened on Duke’s campus: Street Medicine, Duke’s premier (and not to mention only) urban dance group hosted its first ever hip-hop dance showcase, dubbed Unleashed.
Instead of focusing solely on showcasing the talents of the group’s members, the event incorporated hip-hop performances from other dance groups at Duke such as Defining Movement, Duke Chinese Dance and Momentum Dance Company, as well as groups from other schools including University of North Carolina Chapel Hill's groups Kamikazi and Moonlight. Although StreetMed’s members performed a total of four original sets during the event, over 100 presenters contributed to Unleashed.
“Unleashed is the only showcase so far that focuses purely on hip-hop dance and urban dance fusion,” sophomore Albert Zhu, one of StreetMed’s current co-presidents, said. “What Unleashed has that makes it different from others is that it's really more of a showcase of hip-hop dance choreography, what it does for dancers and what it does for our members, rather than a showcase of our team specifically.”
StreetMed hasn’t always orchestrated such large showcases, however. The group was founded in the spring of 2014 by senior Tim Luu, senior Ray Liu and Rebeca Holmes T'15. According to Zhu, the group started off less as a formal dance company and more as a group of people who enjoyed dancing and met once or twice a week to practice the art form.
“We started out as a few odd stragglers with zero name on campus—for some time, people thought we were an organization for pre-meds,” junior Eufern Pan, StreetMed’s other current co-president, said of the organization’s beginnings. “Now we are a strong 22-member team who has been invited to perform at multiple venues on and off campus.”
“[The team] was committed, but dance and the team didn't take first or second place as far as many of their priorities were concerned,” Zhu said. “However, with this year, individuals on the team and the team itself as a collective became more passionate—about dance, about honing their craft and about using dance as a medium to express themselves.”
In just over two years of existence, the group’s evolution is obvious. StreetMed has become much more prominent on and off campus, especially with the launching of Unleashed this year. This rapid progression could possibly be contributed to the recent emphasis that has been placed on not only dancing well, but on creating a sense of community within the group.
“As a leader of the group for the past two years, one of [my] biggest goals has been to create a strong-knit family,” Pan said. “Thus, nothing makes me happier than the fact that my babies love coming to practice, that they’re proud and happy to be part of the fam and that as individuals with no dance experience, StreetMed has provided them not just dance but a community.”
The members’ passion not only for dance but for the StreetMed community shows in their performances and in the recognition the group has gained in its short life span. The team is not just a group of people who dance together—they’re a family.
“I'm so honored and blessed to have such a wonderful family and to lead a team with members so willing to give their all,” Zhu said. “Their passion fuels both me and themselves ever forward, and I admire that about them all.”
Unleashed represents a big milestone in StreetMed’s short history, but the group is not stopping there. Although the team already collaborates with groups both at Duke and beyond, including co-hosting workshops with dancers from UNC and North Carolina State University, even more expansion lies in their future.
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“The goal for StreetMed isn't necessarily to be regarded as the 'best' group on campus,” Zhu said. “What I'd much rather have is for StreetMed to continue a tradition of valuing growth both on the individual and the team levels...what that entails is for Street Medicine in the future is continuing to expand our presence in the community, participating in showcases in Virginia (such as Coalescence) and competitions such as Prelude Carolinas, and conducting more workshops and other events that serve to continue our main goal of spreading hip-hop dance culture throughout Duke, especially to those who have little experience but are willing to try.”