Interview — Summer Jam Dance Camp & Rf Jam 2023

Jam Republic and Recognize! Studios brings back the long-anticipated Radikal Forze Jam and Summer Jam Dance Camp. Before you fly to Vietnam this March, here’s what to expect from the week-long event!

Courtesy of Summer Jam (@summerjamdancecamp)

The Radikal Forze Jam first debuted in 2008 and has exponentially grown into one of the largest and most important Hip-hop dance festivals globally.

It’s held alongside Summer Jam Dance Camp, which was established in Singapore in 2015 and is now one of the biggest urban dance conventions in the Asia Pacific. Both these events have built a reputation for attracting the world’s top dancers and choreographers to Asia.

Beyond the dance competitions and battles, the festival provides a platform to come together from all over the world to make connections and forge relationships.

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What’s going on at RF Jam in 2023?

This year’s event begins on the 12 March and extends till 19 March in Da Nang, Vietnam, kick-starting with the Summer Jam Showcase Competition. After an online audition, 19 teams were advanced to the finals by judges Jrick Baek, Xiang Tian and Bam Martin.

There were also two wildcard teams that earned their spots in the finals by getting the most votes and another that was seeded from winning the Lion City Dance Convention!

Courtesy of Summer Jam

With a total of 22 teams from Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Taiwan, the Philippines and Australia, there’s so much excitement for the week of festivities and this just ensures it begins with a bang.

The finals will be judged by an all-star panel including Haeni Kim, Ronnie Chen, Anthony Lee, Bada Lee and Yukemi Takenaka. There is no doubt that the competition will demand and showcase some of the best talents in Asia.

Courtesy of Summer Jam (@summerjamdancecamp)

After a day of rest and recharge, the dancing resumes with the dance camp and RF Jam workshops from the 14 to 18 March.

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There will be up to 12 classes in a day with over 20 choreographers to learn from, so you definitely don’t want to be missing out.

Once the week of workshops concludes, RF Jam continues with a series of battles including the Bionic Boogie!

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Of course, we can’t forget the proper way to end the series of events, which would be the Hancai Beach Party! Closing the weekend off on the 19 March, what better way to celebrate the return and success of the dance festival than to connect, dance and party!

Usually featuring an open-format dancefloor and the sickest beats of the DJs, this year’s party would be like none other.

Aside from the showcase competition and holding the dance camp and RF Jam outside of Singapore for the first time, we managed to speak with the esteemed Nick Six and Felix Huang to find out what else is new and what you can look forward to from this year’s events.

Nick Six. Courtesy of Nick & Summer Jam

Dreamfellas: Hi Nick and Felix! Tell us a little more about yourselves and what you do.

Nick: My name is Nick six. I am the founder of Jam Republic and the general manager of Recognize! Studio. These days, a lot of studio work has been passed on to our new generation, so I’ve mainly worked on agency projects.

So basically at the agency, what we do is we have a lot of dance education programs around the world, dance camps, and we also work alongside artists and with TV shows.

Lastly, there’s social media activation, so brands and dancers are somewhat influencers, but that’s a very small part of our business.

Felix Huang. Courtesy of Felix & Summer Jam

Felix: My name is Felix. I’ve been breaking since 1998. I started Recognize! studios in 2010 and I started and founded Radikal Forze Jam in 2008.

DFL: Let’s talk about the team’s goal for the events and the culture you wanted to cultivate, and whether it had changed since the very first inception?

Nick: Yeah. I’m from New Zealand and Summer Jam started as a thing that our dance school did every summer.

My dance school back home is called AAA Voucher, and every summer, we have a Summer Jam. What we did is we invited choreographers from different crews and we had our crew members teaching classes for a dollar a class. It was just really a community thing.

I left New Zealand, and then the co-founder of Jam Republic left to go to Australia. So, you know, that stopped for a while but when we decided to do a dance camp, we decided to make that the camp’s name.

For RF Jam as well, it’s probably the only big B-boy festival that doesn’t give out prize money. And we did that for a reason, right? We want people to come for the sake of really just building and battling for, themselves and not about the money. People still come, right, a lot of big names come so it’s skills over everything.

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Felix: When we initially started it, it was just basically to celebrate our ten-year anniversary and to invite our friends from overseas to Singapore to do what we love, which is breaking at that point in time. And the focus was to just have fun, connect with everybody and hang out.

Of course, over the years, it has evolved. I think in the first six years it was mainly, maybe 90%, friends of ours that were coming over to Singapore to participate in the event. After that, I think the event started to grow in size. There were more people that were starting to come out, including people whom we didn’t even know.

Apart from being a breaking event, we introduced the open styles category into the event and then later on, we introduced the camp into the event. So that integrated the choreography side of things into RF Jam and yeah, it grew quite big from there.

Courtesy of Jam Republic (@jamrepubliccollective)

DFL: It’s really exciting that the events are back and now held in Vietnam. Tell us more about your thoughts and what pushed the decision to move overseas, including what you’re excited about with this change of scenery!

Nick: To be honest, part of the reason why we are moving overseas is a very basic and easy decision, which is the cost.

The cost of Singapore in general is starting to rise. An important factor is a hotel, for example. We’re bringing in easily 20 to 50 choreographers, both from the street and the choreography scene — about 50 instructors, battle guests, et cetera…and that adds up with them staying for seven days.

So, we decided to move it to Vietnam because it’s not only cheaper but it’s also for our regulars who come to our event. We know that a large percentage of them come from Southeast Asia and as prices go up, a lot of their spending goes down.

If they’re from Thailand, you change your Baht to SGD, it’s just so much more expensive. So we should move this to a place where things are cheaper, they can enjoy themselves more; instead of taking classes than having to compromise on their meals and such.

For the whole week, they should be able to still just enjoy and have fun. My business partner, Felix, also has a lot of connections with Vietnam and he’s comfortable with running things there so it’s a no-brainer to try hosting it there.

Felix: Yeah, as mentioned, every year since the first event is like a get-together for a lot of our friends that come over. Of course, now it’s extended beyond just our friends with a lot of people who are interested in dance and want to excel in dance coming out of the event too.

Apart from Singapore, now it’s like we are going on a holiday together to Vietnam. I mean, just the whole move to Vietnam itself is really very exciting for us; and being able to showcase Vietnam as a country and the dancers there to everybody who’s coming.

I’ve been going back and forth to Vietnam since 2008 non-stop every year. So, I’ve grown to really like the country, I’ve got a lot of good friends there and over the years I’ve seen a lot of good dancers in Vietnam. It’s just that a lot of them don’t really get the chance to get out of the country to get their names out.

Now, instead of just trying to bring one or two Vietnamese dancers or B-boys out of the country to participate in competitions overseas, we’re bringing it all to Vietnam to showcase the country and the dancers.

I think it’s gonna be very exciting. It’s a new country and a beautiful city so we’re just waiting and looking forward to what’s coming for the event.

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DFL: Other than Vietnam, is there anything different about this year’s edition?

Nick: Well, it’s just a little bit more scaled out. We went from a three-day event to a five-day event, then a seven-day and nine-day event.

After Covid, I feel like we just need to go back to basics. So it’s much simpler, more raw and the key thing is just for people to enjoy and have fun. Even our showcase competition is very basic and just about getting the community back together. We want to concentrate on what’s important, which is dance, the process of dancing and having fun. I think it’s the most important thing, like the special aspects can come in later but I think we just need to give them the basics for now.

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Much like the first Summer Jam, when we first did it in Singapore because it’s been around for a while, was really basic, right? It’s just like the outdoor tent, with no air-con which is probably never gonna happen again. It was just very raw and fun.

Even though people were dying of heat, they enjoy the process. Plus they ‘die’ together with the choreographer, you know. It’s an experience, to be honest, but yeah, this time we’re pretty much just going back to basics, no frills, have fun, all about dance and all about the community.

Also, back in the day, when we were growing, we had two rooms with classes at the same time. But this time we made it just one big room, maybe a small room for different styles but potentially just very simple.

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DFL: There is such a great line-up of invited artists this year! What are the factors considered by the team when deciding who to bring in? Is there anything to do with the relevancy of the current landscape or what’s trending right now in the dance scene?

Nick: For Summer Jam, we always have a mix of old and new generations. The one thing for sure is we try to keep it to people who are good leaders in the community.

People always recommend dancers for us to bring down but if we don’t, it’s because there are other underlying reasons. Personality plays a big part. We don’t want a teacher that comes in, teaches a class, goes home, and has no interaction with their students, or someone who just wants to stay in a hotel room and not come out to hang out with everyone.

That’s very important and we will always look at personality and skills. There are a lot of dancers with hype but not skills, and you probably won’t see them too. We like to have a good mix of what’s new, relevant and just for longevity. This year we invited professionals based in Vietnam and American-Vietnamese dancers. I feel like everything is aligned to happen there and to share with aspiring Vietnamese dancers. So that’s how we go about picking people and whatnot.

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Felix: Apart from just them being friends and them being excellent dancers, we also tried to make the programming of the entire event as holistic as it can be.

It is almost impossible to cater to every dancer on the market but we try to be as holistic as possible and program the entire thing in such a way that people can compete, people can learn, enjoy and get to know more people from different countries — and hopefully spur up some kind of collaborations or work in the future.

A lot of people think it’s just bringing big names down and people come, but it’s not that simple. It actually takes a lot of careful planning and a creative process of actually wanting to program the entire event and bringing value to the people attending.

High-level dancers, of course, possibly bring the most value but everybody that comes to the event plays a very important role in the entire event. It’s not just the judges or the DJs or whoever that we’re bringing up, but everybody else who comes out contributes to the vibe. I think the vibe is something that is impossible to buy and it can be only created really organically with a hint of programming.

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DFL: It’s been so great getting to know more about the thought process of organizing these events. Before we end things, do you have any words of advice for the participants and competitors?

Nick: Just go out and have fun! If you look at all the videos we put out, it’s always just fun, you know? And I think people forget that. I get a lot of questions from people who are aspiring choreographers: how do we be part of Jam Republic, the agency and/or how do I level up?

Everyone can dance but I would say skills have something to do with it, but go out, have fun and meet friends and that whole process will take you to the right place if you are genuine enough. Don’t do it to be picked for videos or to win. You go there, take classes, meet people and hang out with them.

Work hard in dance class then when you finish up class tired, eat together then years down the road, you never know what’s gonna happen. You can meet them again, either party makes a name for themselves, and you collab; before Instagram and TikTok, that’s how people made friends. Dancers often travel from Asia to LA and they meet other dancers. Then if those dancers come to Asia you guys can collab and that’s essentially the process, albeit a possibly long one.

So this is the thing that people seem to forget a lot of times when they come to the dance camp, they come in and just think like they’re going to kill it themselves. And that’s not the point, the point is to meet people and have fun.

For Singapore dancers, I realized they put a lot of time and effort into taking dance classes, dance CCAs, poly recitals and studio recitals. They’ll put all their time and effort into this, but then they don’t travel and they don’t attend Summer Jam even when it was held in Singapore. Oftentimes, not purely about the cost but because they’re scared. So, they will kill their poly classes and in the dance studios but when there are international people, they withdraw and they’re scared to take the next step.

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Felix: The competition aspect of Summer Jam and RF Jam is an excuse to get together and know more people and have fun. So, if you’re coming here with the sole purpose of winning, you will not have the best experience. But if you’re coming here with the purpose of learning, vibing, getting to know people and having fun, you’ll have the best time of your life.

If you’re looking at just winning something, then maybe this is not the right event for you. But if you’re looking at connecting on a more cultural level with dancers from different backgrounds of dance, then I think this is the event for you. I would say if you’re coming out to the event, it would be great to put on your holiday hat instead of your competitive hat. Come out, have fun and get to know people!

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After three years, Summer Jam and RF Jam finally return, and they’re doubling as a vacation this time!

Learning how people and connections are prioritised throughout the planning process only makes it more exciting because there is no excuse to not let loose, have fun and enjoy your growth. Not forgetting one of the biggest dance parties to end off the festivities too.

If you haven’t, secure your tickets and registration for the workshops and battles here before they sell out!

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