Walking through downtown York on a sunny summer afternoon, it’s not unusual to see groups of kids dancing in the streets.
Twenty-three-year-old breakdancer Dandre Deshields, of York city, said he sees it all the time.
Teens frequently meet up at Continental Square, Cherry Lane or near the Strand-Capitol Performing Arts Center to practice, he said, simply because they have nowhere else to go.
Things were different when he was growing up.
He and his friends used to practice after school in the studio at William Penn Senior High School, he said. But when the performing arts program was cut during his senior year in 2011, practicing there was no longer an option. (The program has since been reinstated through a partnership with the Strand-Capitol Performing Arts Center.)
“The people I knew that were doing music, dancing and any type of talent went in different directions,” he said. “Some got locked up, some quit, some gave up on it. The performing arts program was all we had.”
But Deshields never quit.
He began performing in dance battles with Urban Soul Ballistic Crew, formed from two competing crews in York, Harrisburg and Lancaster. He traveled up and down the East Coast and as far as San Diego to battle, he said, because he couldn’t find many breakdancing opportunities in the tri-city area.
Now, that’s exactly what he and USBC are trying to change.
On March 12, they’ll bring an all-ages, all-styles dance battle to downtown York’s New Grounds Roasting Company to help build a larger dance scene in York.
“It hurts me to see kids dancing on the streets and they don’t have anywhere to go,” he said. “Just imagine that they did have somewhere to go and practice, something could happen.”
The event, sponsored by Greater York Dance, is open to anyone who wants to compete, he said.
Each competitor will have the opportunity to perform a showcase for the judges, who will decide who makes it to the battle rounds, a head-to-head competition between dancers.
The winners will receive $100, $200 and $500 grand prizes.
York hip hop artists Promise Jones and Frankie Petrelli will also perform.
Deshields said his goal is to open more people’s eyes to the world of breakdance and hip hop.
“If it wasn’t for dance, I don’t know what I’d be doing,” he said. “I’m just trying to open minds and more doors for my community and other communities within Pennsylvania.”
He also plans to open his own dance studio to provide a practice space for local dancers, whose talent often goes unnoticed.
“(They) could be the next Michael Jackson for all you know,” he said. “I feel like anything’s possible.”
If you go
What: USBC’s All-Styles Dance Battle
When: Doors open at 12:30 p.m., battle starts at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, March 12
Where: New Grounds Roasting Company, 284 W. Market St., York
Cost: $10 at the door, $15 to battle
More information: Visit the event Facebook page.