Whanganui's national secondary school hip-hop dancing champions have done it again.
Aotea Empire shook off the opposition in the DanceNZ Made competition at the Royal Opera House last week to take it out for the third consecutive time.
Empire member Shaniqua Hamilton-Hopa said the win proved her crew is still punching above its weight.
"It felt really accomplishing because we are such a small crew compared to the other crews that compete against us," she said.
"We showed that we have as much energy and stage performance as them."
Hamilton-Hopa discovered her passion for dance when she took it on at Whanganui City College in Year 9.
Two years later she found herself dancing in what may be Whanganui's most successful hip-hop dancing crew, Aotea Empire.
"I enjoy dancing because it's another way of expressing who I am and my creativity," Hamilton-Hopa said.
"It feels great when you get to express yourself as well as having others with you that can express themselves and who they are too.
"When you're dancing it's like a whole new person coming out."
Due to their success, Aotea Empire are looking to up the level of competition they face and are training for the NZCAF Regional Competition in Wellington this Friday.
Their choreographer, Pauline Hiroti, is currently preparing the dancers to take on a new challenge - the Mega Crew category at NZCAF.
A Mega Crew can consist of dancers from various schools and City College have joined forces with Whanganui Girls' College, Cullinane College, Rangitikei College and Whanganui High School.
"It adds a whole new dynamic to everything, it's a completely different division and different skills are required for it," Hiroti said.
"For us to have five of our schools within the region come together and collaborate as opposed to compete against each other has been fantastic."
Hiroti is finishing a PHD in Dance with the University of Auckland and the City of Sails is a destination she has her eye on for Aotea Empire.
"Up there, the standard is pretty insane and I'd like for them to eventually be at a stage where they can compete in the Hip Hop International competition," Hiroti said.
"We've been doing other competitions, but that's where all the big guns are and we're at a level now where I want the girls to start engaging with that level of dance."
The hardest challenge Hiroti had when becoming the choreographer was establishing determination and work ethic because of the lack of competition.
However, she said they engaged with some Auckland crews which was inspiring.
"Especially when we look at the way that they train, our girls are really starting to pick that up and that doesn't just happen in a studio context.
"It comes down to what they're eating and how they're resting and things like that. I've watched them transition from casual dancers that take this as a hobby, to dance athletes."