By Published: Jan. 17, 2018

A throbbing hip-hop beat echoes from the basement of Carlson Gym on campus twice a week or more. The members of VeRVE Collisionz street dance team are hard at work practicing their choreography or improvising dance moves as the music inspires them.

VeRVE CollisionZ street dance team at a collaborative show

“It’s all about self-expression, dance and community,” said Olivia Squalls, a junior in molecular, cellular and developmental biology. “We really have found a family in VeRVE, and that makes it so special and not just another dance team on campus.”

VeRVE dancers use street dance choreography that ranges from house, classic hip-hop and jazz, to waacking, femme hip-hop and some contemporary moves.

Founded in 2007, VeRVE strives to build a strong and diverse community to motivate, entertain and bring people together through dance. Members are passionate about educating the CU Boulder community on the history of hip-hop and street dance and racism dating back to the 1940s. Their goal is to shine a positive light on street dance and hip-hop and the true meaning behind them.

Every year, VeRVE hosts the largest group-based hip-hop competition in Colorado. Award-winning dance teams from around the country come to CU to compete for prizes, including a $1,000 grand prize. Crews of three, 10 or 30 dancers compete against each other. The next competition is scheduled for March 10 in the Glenn Miller Ballroom. VeRVE team members are raising the funds for the prizes.

VeRVE welcomes dancers of all levels. The crew of about 30 members practices two to three hours twice a week. They attend workshops and events to learn from skilled choreographers and professional street dancers.

VeRVE CollisionZ street dance team performing in studio
Photo by Ryan Dixon

When Squalls discovered VeRVE three years ago, she had been searching for a place on campus where she could feel a part of a community and express her creative side.

“When I first came to CU, I felt a little lost,” Squalls said. “As an African American woman, it was hard for me to adjust and find a community, because there aren’t that many African American students on campus. When I joined VeRVE, I found such a beautiful collection of people from a variety of majors and cultures. We all accept and embrace each other’s differences and come together as human beings.”

Inspired by such up-and-coming choreographers as Ian Eastwood, Jade Chynoweth, Chachi Gonzles and Ysabelle Capitule, Squalls lets the music guide her steps when she dances in a cypher—a dance jam that originated from street dance culture.

“When I’m in the moment, I’m having such a good time,” Squalls said. “I feel so free knowing I’m surrounded by people who won’t judge me, but will accept me wholeheartedly. We’ve created a strong community that gets together to express ourselves through dance. That’s what fuels our love for dancing, and making this big event in the spring.”

For more information about VeRVE and its crowdfunding project to raise funds for the spring dance competition, go to VeRVE CollisionZ crowdfunding page.