Hip-hop hits Severance Hall this weekend when Lords of the Land take to the streets

Last year, Samuel McIntosh, founder of the 10K Movement—an organization with a mission to preserve, present, and cultivate authentic hip-hop and street dance culture in the Greater Cleveland area and the world—took over Public Square with Lords of the Land, a four-day festival designed to highlight all Northeast Ohio's street dance scene.

“We've done battles in the past, but last year was the first time we did Lords of the Land and we kind of knew it was going to be our annual big battle,” McIntosh, who has spent more than a decade studying the roots, trends and styles of hip-hop and street dances on both the east and west coasts and in Cleveland,

He was right. Last year’s event was a success and left people wanting more. “Spectator-wise, [we had] about 1,000 people throughout the day at Public Square,” says McIntosh. “And as far as competitors we had about 150 from across 12 states and, of course, Cleveland dancers as well.”

So, McIntosh is hosting Lords of the Land II: Street Dance Festival this weekend again.

McIntosh says last year’s Lords of the Land was so popular that he expects this year to gather momentum and draw in new appreciation.

“Last year was crazy—we had everybody that was in the scene from decades ago to this one,” he says. “We're going to elevate that. And I think what we're doing right now is bridging the gap between generations and then bridging the gap between audiences. And that's the goal. That's how we preserve.”

McIntosh is elevating this year’s Lords of the Land II—bringing it to Severance Hall’s  Grand Foyer with even more dancers, spectators, and events during the two-day festival tomorrow, Friday, July 29 and Saturday, July 30.  

The festival will have dance workshops, dance performances and dance showcases, a live DJ, local vendors, food trucks, and open dance cyphers. The event concludes on Saturday with a dance tournament in hip hop, popping, and open styles with $1,500 in cash prizes on the line.

Anastasia Rokisky, who is with strategic operations for 10K Movement, adds that she thinks Severance Hall is an appropriate location for Lords of the Land II because the organizers are so focused on preserving the culture and tradition of street dance. “One of the reasons we're so excited to hold this at Severance Hall is because we think it's really important for this beautiful culture to be elevated as well,” she says.

In addition to other 10K Movement events occurring throughout the year, McIntosh, Rokisky, and programming director Madalyn Lucier have been planning this year’s Lords of the Land since last year’s event. This year has gone international.

“This year an exciting piece is that it's going to be many more states representing and also more countries,” says Rokisky. “We have folks from Norway, Japan, Canada, China.”

McIntosh adds that Cleveland is on the hip-hop competition circuit this year—likening the season to an athletic schedule. “Usually, the summer is really the hot season for dance and if you are in some of the major cities, that's where a lot of the major events are happening," he says. "[The dancers are] like, ‘okay what other battles are going on?’ So, we might have some international world champs come in. It's always a good time.”

Holding Lords of the Land II in the Severance Hall grand foyer adds to the grandeur of this year’s event, says McIntosh. “It will have a real arena feel—usually what you get from some of these bigger battles it just feels like it's like a sporting event and a dance concert at the same time,” he says. “It's like a sports team—everybody has a favorite player. In this case, you have your favorite dancer.”

Additionally, Severance Hall builds on the culture of street dance and builds a following. “We want a different audience, we want to create fans of street dance,” McIntosh says. “In Cleveland I don't think a lot of people have even seen a battle or know what a battle really looks like.”

Rokisky adds that the venue illustrates how approachable street dance is, and that everyone is welcome. “You can come in without any prior knowledge and feel completely accepted, enthralled in what you're seeing, and eager for more,” she explains. “And that itself drives the preservation and the presentation of culture because then we see folks get really curious.”

McIntosh says one of the motivations behind Lords of the Land II is to celebrate the origins of hip-hop and street dance and educate attendees on the culture.

“A lot of people don't know that it's an American folk culture, but specifically a Black and Latino and Indigenous folk culture,” he says, adding that hip-hop and street dance originated in New York and Las Angeles as social events—stemming out of the sounds of James Brown and street jazz.

Each coast developed its own style over time, with those styles continuously evolving, but McIntosh says—50 years after the origins of hip-hop—today it’s all about preservation of a social and accepting culture.

“Everybody at the time liked to party,” says McIntosh of the origins of hip-hop in the 1970s. “The party is this social gathering—that's how we communicate. And a lot of parties that happened were in basements in New York and L.A—they were doing similar dances, but everybody used to call it Boogaloo or the Jerk. It was the same infrastructure as the jazz infrastructure, which was what you’d see in Harlem from the 40s to the 60s when people were doing Lindy Hop, the Charleston, or a mixture.”

As the culture has evolved, so have the styles, says McIntosh. For instance, he says Boogaloo is California, while hip-hop is dominant in New York. And while Krump (kingdom risen under mighty praise) originated in Los Angles, it is also prominent in Cleveland.

“It's a praise that's actually a church dance, but when people see it, they think it's angry, it's aggressive,” explains McIntosh. “It's a spiritual dance and it comes from L.A. But what happened in L.A. was that a few pioneers came to Ohio. They taught [Krump] to some people in 2005, when the dance came out, and those people [in Ohio] have a long lineage of students till this day. And it's been dominant ever since. So, Cleveland is special.”

Click here for a full schedule of Lords of the Land II events. Tickets are $10 for Friday and $12 to watch Saturday’s tournament.

Karin Connelly Rice
Karin Connelly Rice

About the Author: Karin Connelly Rice

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 20 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.