"I just hope they have fun dancing and continue to dream. They can do anything if they can believe it."
SCENES shines a spotlight on youth around the world that are breaking down barriers and creating change. The character-driven short films will inspire and amaze, as these young change-makers tell their remarkable stories.
Five, six, seven, eight! CrewQ is a street-style dance group based in Doha, Qatar. The group move in perfect synchronicity to the fast-paced beats pumping out across a busy dance hall. In perfect rhythm, they execute lite feet-rocking and afro-popping as a collective.
My First Eight Count
MFEC is an acronym for My First Eight Count, based on the count dancers make when counting their steps. The academy began in the Philippines and was later set up in Qatar by its founder Aristotle Hernandez. A booming social media presence has helped the dance school grow significantly in recent years.
"For the first season in Qatar, we had 14 students. Now we have more into 120," explains Aristotle. The academy consists of a diverse group of students from countries all over the world. The melting pot of cultures reflects Qatar's multicultural landscape.
"Some people join the academy to have fun and come occasionally. They want to get away from stress or the repetitiveness of their everyday job," explains Aristotle. "Dance is for everyone. Different ages can dance; even if you're a grandpa, you can start; it's not too late if you want to learn," adds Gerald.
A big dance family.
CrewQ was the brainchild of MFEC dance academy coach Gerald Hernandez and consists of the best dancers aged up to 17 years old who have attended the academy. "We created CrewQ because we aim to compete outside and represent the country," Coach Gerald tells Scenes.
CrewQ members train for hours on end every day. As a result of their rigorous training schedule, these students have not only developed their dance skills but also learned many other important life values.
"For me, being part of CrewQ is being part of a huge dance family where everyone is supportive of the other," says 11-year-old Lauren Victoria Williams.
17-year-old Froilan Hernandez, who has been a member of MFEC since 2014, echoes Lauren's feelings. "Dance isn't always about being an art form or a passion. It can also be an environment for you to learn new social skills, interpersonal abilities, and so on," he told Scenes.
From the Studio to the World Stage
When students join the academy, their main goal is to learn how to dance. However, CrewQ was created to compete internationally. The best dancers are only selected after learning specially choreographed routines.
12-year-old Orfeas Malkopoulos enrolled at MFEC in the youngest category and progressed through classes in time.
"At first, I was dancing and having fun, and then I got an invitation to join CrewQ. It was actually a big surprise for me. I knew that I had to have the mindset that I needed to win, and our team needed to win," continued Malkopoulos.
In 2022, CrewQ enrolled for the UDO World Championship in London for the very first time. They needed a strong spirit to compete in the world's most prestigious street-style dance competitions.
Coach Gerald worked hard and choreographed all the dances for the competition.
"Our dance routines were based around Bruno Mars songs. We had seven styles: Litefeet, locking, afro, popping, house dance, opening style and waacking." 12-year-old Maeva Humblot recalled to Scenes.
The international dance competition was coach Gerald's chance to introduce the world to Qatar's street-dance scene. "I think my goal only at that time is to give everyone a great show. That's it. And winning is, like, extra for me," he explains.
CrewQ danced off against 19 other international teams to finally be crowned champions in the Under 16 beginners division at the UDO World Championship.
"When we won, it felt gratifying because of all our hard work under those three months of conditioning, repeating the dance incessantly. It paid off." Froilan tells scenes.
"I just hope they have fun dancing and continue to dream. They can do anything if they can believe it." says Coach Gerald.
The UDO World Championship was just the beginning for CrewQ. Since then, they have been selected for the Euro Dance Competition in 2023.
CrewQ is also aiming to develop a more vibrant dance scene here in Qatar, recently performing for the public at Mall of Qatar.