There’ll be plenty of cheering on the Peninsula – and around Metro Vancouver – when hip hop dance group Freshh returns to the Toronto stage of Citytv’s Canada’s Got Talent on May 13.
That’s because the seven members of the Freshh crew – ranging in age from 13 to 17 – come from most of the areas in the region, including South Surrey, ably represented by 15-year-old Zac Vran.
Vran, who’s competed in festivals with Spiral Dance for some seven years (he first began dancing there at the age of four), has many local friends and supporters.
But these days his efforts are focused at Freshh headquarters, the Fresh Groove Studio of choregrapher Cezar Tantoco in Richmond, where the team is training hard for the biggest show of its history.
Canadian National Hip Hop Champions, and consistently high-ranked at the U.S. championships in Las Vegas (last year they were one of six groups out of 136 chosen for the event’s grand finale) Freshh are no strangers to the spotlight.
But Vran has to admit being chosen as one of two winning acts in their semifinal segment of Canada’s Got Talent on April 6 – as the popular choice of viewers – is in a category all its own.
“It was a different feel from what we’re used to,” he acknowledged.
“In dance competitions, the judges all have a dance background. With this, it’s all about the performance – we really have to focus on bringing the performance aspect of hip hop on stage and on TV.”
While Freshh has been around for some years, the current crop of dancers has been training together for the last three years – from about the time Vran joined at the age of 12.
“I originally saw Freshh at a dance competition, and then I met a a guy who was in the group at a commercial shoot,” Vran, who also acts, recalled.
“Pretty much all of the original members are no longer there, but the core members have been in the group for five years.”
The bond that develops while perfecting performance goes deeper than dance, Vran notes.
“We actually have a brotherhood,” he said.
“When you’re training five hours a day with people who each share the same interests, it’s hard not to become brothers – and with that comes trusting each other inside and outside the studio.”
While the popular notion of hip hop derives from a commercial style most frequently seen in music videos, the field actually encompasses many different styles, Vran said.
And part of the secret of Freshh’s appeal, he believes, is the group’s sheer versatility.
“We do everything in our dance – it’s three minutes long, but it includes every kind of hip hop.”
Also benefiting their performance, Vran feels, is the amount of training members have received in other styles of dance, including contemporary, jazz, tap and stage.
“The training in the other styles adds a certain flavour to the moves,” he said.
Current training efforts for Freshh are focused on developing three slick 1½-minute routines featuring tricks that involve more than one person – attention- grabbers they’re betting will give them the edge over the 11 other competing acts.
“We feel really comfortable going into the finals,” Vran said.
“The judges really liked us, and we’re really, truly honoured that Canadian viewers voted for us. Of course, there are always doubts going in, and in TV-land you never know quite what’s going on.
Other finalists’ talents include everything from rapping to opera, Vran noted.
“We’re up against some great talent – some unbelievable talent, and we wish all the best to all the other finalists.”
While they’re excited about the possibility of winning $100,000, a Nissan GTR and a chance to perform at a Canada Day event in Toronto, Vran said he and his teammates are also looking forward to the opportunity the win would give for Freshh to travel across the country performing at charity and school events.
“We want to focus on giving back to all the communities that voted for us across Canada,” he said.
Local fans can follow Freshh on a wide variety of social media, including a Twitter account, @freshhofficial, a Facebook page, YouTube videos and at their website freshhhiphop.shawwebspace.ca