A challenge for the Cortland dance crew was to use umbrellas in their dance performance Saturday in Doub’s Woods Park at the seventh annual Hood Hop.
“Thank God, we didn’t need (them),” event host Spencer Jackson told the crowd of more than 100 who turned out for the dance-off competition, which was delayed by the threat of rain in the form of dark clouds that passed overhead.
Cortland was among six neighborhood-based dance groups to compete in the dance-off, which caps off Hood Hop’s summer dance program for youth.
The summer program has grown from 17 children in its first year to 120 this year, according to Anna Shetler, who founded and is president of Hood Hop Inc. Participants were between the ages of 4 and 17, she said.
“God’s really blessed us,” Shetler said of the growth in her initiative to provide a positive outlet for young people through dance in government-housing neighborhoods.
Launched in 2004 when she was a teenager, Shetler, now 25, said the nonprofit organization that resulted from her efforts now is supported by past participants who have become mentors and dance instructors for the outreach effort.
Rahmeik Venable, 18, said Shetler has shown him a better way to help children stay off the streets since being involved the last three years.
“If I would have had this when I was younger, it would have helped me a lot,” said Venable, who was the instructor for the Frederick Manor crew Saturday.
Before the Frederick Manor crew took the stage, Venable said he just hoped to have fun at the event, win or lose. The crew’s performance challenges were to incorporate costumes and slow motion, Venable said.
“I’m just out here for the kids,” Venable said.
Aqutavia Palmer, 13, donned a pair of bright pink, yellow and white-striped knee-high socks for her performance with the Sumans crew.
“It’s my style,” said Palmer, who was excited about taking part in the competition.
“It just gives us a chance to be us on stage,” said Palmer, who, like other participants, donned T-shirts that said “I am Hood Hop” on the front.
This year’s competition was 15-year-old Zoe Grossett’s first as an instructor for the competition, teaching the Sumans group.
Grossett, who said she attends Barbara Ingram School for the Arts for dance, said the group really inspired her to “be herself.”
“It was just really fun to do and see smile on their faces,” Grossett said.
Shetler estimated she has taught about 500 children through the dance program, but insists what she does isn’t work, but a blessing from God that she shares with young people,
“It’s not a job, it’s a lifestyle,” Shetler said. “You live it. You breathe it.”