A hero's homecoming for world-beating hip-hop dance crew ReQuest brought Auckland International Airport's busy arrivals hall to a standstill just before dawn yesterday.

The hip-hop crew from Penrose's new Palace dance studio upstaged New Zealand's junior cycling medallists who were on the same flight from London and Los Angeles. Emotional reunions were interrupted and tourists pulled out cameras as the dancers' friends and family members performed a haka.

"It was so mean," said dancer Ashleigh MacKinven, 18. "I was so shocked; it was like I can't believe it."

Manager Brett Goebel, whose 17-year-old daughter Parris captained and choreographed the all-female crew, said he warned the cyclists as they came through customs that "we might have quite a few supporters".

The eight-member ReQuest crew won New Zealand's second successive victory in the varsity (under 19) division at the Hip-Hop World Championships in Las Vegas, beating 43 other teams from 32 countries.

West Auckland's Sweet and Sour, which won the same division last year, moved up to the adult division this year and was unplaced.

But six of the 30 finalists in the varsity division were Kiwi.

"We do well because all around the world hip-hop is all about individual dancers, whereas in New Zealand it's very crew based," Mr Goebel said.

"They [Kiwis] bring a lot of fire and passion to the stage. The other crews are picture-perfect, but they don't necessarily have the passion."

ReQuest is what he called "a real fruitbowl" of Kiwi cultures, including Samoan, Tongan, Rarotongan, Chinese, Japanese and European dancers as well as Maori-Pakeha.

"I like the beat of the music. It makes me happy. It's a way to express myself," said MacKinven, who fell in love with hip-hop aged 11.

"I was really shy when I was young. I couldn't even talk to my parents. Dancing was a way to express myself on how I feel through music."

MacKinven now choreographs a mixed-gender crew called Sample which has developed a unique blend of hip-hop, kapa haka, salsa and Latin styles.

She also works for the YMCA's Raise Up and Represent programme at Panmure's Lagoon Stadium and has choreographed a special sample performance for a YMCA fundraiser on Friday night with Saatchi & Saatchi world chief executive Kevin Roberts, based on Roberts's books Sisomo (Sight, Sound, Motion) and Lovemarks.

"We're doing a multicultural performance, performing a routine that mixes sight, sound and motion about love markers - things that people get addicted to, like a cellphone and stuff like that," she said.

Raise Up and Represent programmes are run by 13- to 18-year- olds throughout New Zealand, organising weekly activities such as dances, camps and outdoor events.

YMCA youth development manager Brian Barnett said Friday's event at the Rendezvous Hotel, CBD Connect, aimed to show business supporters that young people cannot be stereotyped as gangsters and taggers.

"These kids are really good," he said. "We don't want a handout. We want to show you by putting on events four times a year."

Tickets are still available at $1000 for a table of 10, or $1500 for "gold seats".

LINKS
Palace dance studio
YMCA