A passion for dance that moves problems away

photo: Álvaro Campos (left) and Jesús Zarco (right) dance together at the San Pablo Civic Center where they typically meet with other members of Hamawari Crew / KARI LUTCAVICH

Leer este artículo en ESPAÑOL / PDF of this magazine



It’s a Saturday afternoon at Sevilla Dance Center and Belén Espinosa Ledo is listening to her instructor count off the rhythm to the electrifying beat that’s booming out of the stereo. As she begins to dance with her classmates, the dimly lit studio is suddenly filled with a contagious energy as the dancers move their bodies with ease to the punchy rhythm of the hip-hop music. Their bodies jerk and pop quickly yet fluidly to form this unique style of dance known as popping.

TWENTY-ONE YEAR OLD BELéN started experimenting with modern dance classes about five years ago, but she wasn’t really passionate until she started meeting with other dancers outside of class two years later. “I began to meet people who dance hip hop, popping and locking, and I started to watch them and go with them to several performing events here in Seville. I realized then that I liked really their kind of dance, especially popping,” she says. Although she still attends the popping class, today Belén prefers to train with her friends in the street where most urban dancers usually perform.

BELéN AND HER FRIENDS compose a lively and unique group in Sevilla, belonging to the larger tribe called Hamawari Crew. “Hamawari Crew is a dance group composed of many people. It is not a group defined merely by the dancers that are here, but rather we are a group from Seville,

Huelva, Granada, Barcelona, and Madrid. The group originated on Facebook to bring us together to train, share videos, give opinions, and inform ourselves about dancing events…,” Belén explains.

JUST LIKE ANY GROUP OF FRIENDS, each member of Hamawari Crew has something special that sets them apart. Not only do they vary in age, level of experience and personal style, but they also have very unique goals and desired career paths. For example, Belén is studying nursing at the University of Seville and aspires to work with cancer patients in radiotherapy. One of Belén’s friends, Jesús Zarco Rodríguez, 23, who goes by Zarco, is studying both sports science and physical activity at the University of Seville and photography at an institute of secondary education. He will soon end his studies and enter the professional field by next June. Then there is Miguel Ángel Sivianes Overa, 19, better known as Tato by his friends, who studies mechanics.

DESPITE THESE DIFFERENCES, their cohesive teamlike spirit and shared passion for popping is clear. Through their laughter and enthusiastic cheering for one another as they showcase their freestyle moves, it’s easy to conclude that the dancers feel very comfortable with one another and share a special friendship. In fact, Belén has been dancing right alongside Tato, her boyfriend and inspiration ever since they met three years ago.

“HE SUPPORTS ME SO MUCH IN DANCING. It was he who introduced me to popping, he was the one who taught me and introduced me to those who are now my dancing friends,” Belén describes. When they perform, you see their exceptional connection and mutual passion for dance and one another. Although they are the only dating couple among their dancing friends, their support and close bond isn’t unique.

BELÉN, TATO, ZARCO and their other peers of Hamawari Crew come together as often as they can to dance and practice different techniques. Aside the classes at the dance academy, they train together as often as three times a week at the San Pablo Community Center in addition to performing for fun in different plazas in the heart of the city. In their free time, they are dedicated to continuously improving and teaching one another.

HAMAWARI CREW is an open and inviting group of young adults that enjoy making new friends and learning from each other. What really sets them apart from other groups of dancers is the way that they come together from different parts of Spain to share new techniques and spread knowledge of these American-born dances that aren’t so popular in Seville. For them, dancing is something that brings them joy and allows them to express themselves and identify with others that share the same interest. This can really be beneficial since Spain and other parts of the world are going through a time of hardship.

BECAUSE SPAIN IS IN A TIME OF ECONOMIC CRISIS, high unemployment rates (especially among young people) and increasing poverty, adolescents beginning to start a life on their own can more easily succumb to depression. However, the members of Hamawari Crew have a special advantage when combating the throes of the crisis. Coming together as a team to share a passion with close friends is perhaps one of the best ways to forget about the negative aspects of life and develop a solidarity network. Although it is not the principal reason that they choose to dance, they recognize that it has become a positive benefit that takes away the pain and concerns. “If you are overwhelmed, if you are stressed or experiencing anything that could be negative, dancing disconnects you from the series of problems you have in your mind or in your life,” says one of the newest members, Álvaro Campos Rodríguez, 26, who fell in love with popping two months ago.

BELéN SUMS IT UP WITH A SHY SMILE. “I love to dance because it’s something that gives me joy. It’s more than just a hobby.” And with that, she returns to her friends and their smiling faces transform into a dedicated expression as their instructor begins the count again. “Five…six… five, six, seven, go!”