Dancing to honor a fallen friendPoppers, krumpers, jerkers, freestylers, breakdancers, B-Boys and B-Girls, contemporary jazz and belly dancers. These are just some of the styles of dance included in last year’s Willie Kruger Dance Competition.
Poppers, krumpers, jerkers, freestylers, breakdancers, B-Boys and B-Girls, contemporary jazz and belly dancers.
These are just some of the styles of dance included in last year’s Willie Kruger Dance Competition. And the competition’s organizer, John D’Auria, hopes that this year’s event on Nov. 10 at Grandma’s Sports Garden in Canal Park will be even bigger.
“Willie would’ve wanted everyone to come together. Even though he mostly breakdanced, he’d want to include everybody,” says D’Auria.
D’Auria started the dance competition two years ago to honor his cousin Willie Kruger. Kruger died in an electrical accident at the age of 40 in November 2010. D’Auria and Kruger were in a Duluth breakdance group in the ‘80s, called the “Dynamic Body Rockers,” or DBR. According to D’Auria, DBR was the second dance group formed in Duluth and they would compete against the Duluth City Crew.
D’Auria said that he and some friends looked for a way to honor Kruger’s memory and decided that a dance competition was the best idea.
“The guy just loved to dance,” said D’Auria. “So I thought, why not create a competition in his name? They just don’t have them around here for the kids to compete against each other.”
The competition rules are simple. The dancers each have two minutes to impress the judges by showing off their best moves by performing a routine or freestyling. There are five age brackets within which to compete: ages 9-11, 12-14, 15-17, 18-20 and 21+. It’s a single-bracket elimination competition, meaning that two dancers will face off and the winner will move to the next round, while the loser is bumped out of the competition. From each age bracket, a first and second place winner will be selected.
There is also a competition for dance groups. To qualify as a group there must be at least two people and no more than ten people involved in the dance. First and second place groups will receive trophies.
One special prize called the “Willie Kruger Spotlight Award” will be awarded to a dancer picked by D’Auria who exemplifies Kruger’s ability to “light up a room” while dancing.
Dancers can bring their own digital music or CD, or have the DJ pick a song. It is a family show, so dancers are reminded to pick songs with radio lyrics and keep the dancing PG-rated.
“It’s a cool competition because it’s really open and welcoming,” says dancer and Lake Superior College student Amanda Durst. Durst has competed in the competition two years in a row. She has placed second both times and says she’s “shooting for first” this year.
“I’m a popper, which is a funk style in hip-hop which involves tensing and releasing muscles,” said Durst. Durst practices three times a week and is a member of the Funk Soul Patrol dance group at UMD. Durst says she is excited about this year’s competition mostly because it gives her an opportunity for her to share her talent.
D’Auria has worked hard over the past two years to provide a free opportunity for dancers of all ages to share their talent. And so far the results have been promising. According to D’Auria, 10 dancers participated in the first competition in 2011, held at the Horseshoe Bar and Billiards in west Duluth.
The competition grew when D’Auria moved it to Grandma’s Sports Garden last year, when 25 dancers competed in the singles categories and two groups battled for first and second in the group category. About 200 people attended last year’s event, which also included showcases from local performers Halo Muzic and former Kruger dance competition competitor Tatjana Thayati Mijic.
This year’s competition looks promising to D’Auria, who added that there will be musical performances by Halo Muzic and Shatto as well as a dance exhibition by former competitor Debra L. Livengood. He said he has been talking with several dancers from past competitions who plan to return again.
D’Auria also has a tradition which he relies on to make the show a success. “The first year I did it, I went up on Willie’s anniversary to his grave and I basically said, ‘Listen, I’m doing this competition in your name. I put it together in three weeks. You’ve gotta bring me dancers.’” D’Auria said he didn’t have any pre-registered dancers that year. But then the 10 dancers showed up within the last hour before the competition.
D’Auria repeated the visit to Kruger’s grave last year and plans to do it again within the coming weeks.
“It seems to be working so far. And I believe that he’s up there with his big smile, just shaking his head, laughing at me, having a good old time because that’s what he does.”
The Willie Kruger Dance Competition will be held on Sunday, Nov. 10, from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. at Grandma’s Sports Garden. Dancers can either register in advance by contacting John D’Auria by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. There will also be registration on that Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The competition is free to watch or participate in, and will also be aired live on the Internet via iFan.tv. More information about the competition and its rules can be found on the Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/WillieKrugerDanceCompetition.