South End Hip-Hop dancers Smash Brothaz to perform at WICA

The Vanderwoods practice a dance in the studio at Island Dance.

Graham and Zane Vanderwood may not have danced themselves out of the womb, but the two brothers do appear to have been born to moonwalk, pop and glide.

The Vanderwoods, as well as their sister Andrea Burr, were born to a dance-teacher mother. Each began dancing at South Whidbey’s Island Dance Academy at around age 5, and each has continued to practice the art form into adulthood.

“When everyone else in your family is dancing, it just seems like a natural progression to begin as well,” said Zane Vanderwood.

The Vanderwoods established Smash Brothaz, a hip-hop dance duo which incorporates a medley of old school and contemporary favorites from MC Hammer and Michael Jackson to Calvin Harris and Kendrick Lamar.

Zane Vanderwood explained that he could not recall the specific instance in which he and his brother decided upon the name. He speculated that it came about in part because of the fact that they often played the popular video game Smash Bros while growing up.

“We’re really good at Smash Bros,” Graham Vanderwood said.

Next week, the brothers will take to the stage of Whidbey Island Center for the Arts along with a group of fellow dancers for a one-night performance.

The event is part of WICA’s Local Artist Series. Each year, the organization chooses four local artists or groups to perform onstage free of all rental expenses. The group or artist then receives the profit of ticket sales for the evening.

Smash Brothaz held auditions in September, inviting dance enthusiasts of all ages and skill levels to try out for the show. Though the turnout wasn’t quite what they had hoped for, the brothers said they have a solid group of dancers of a variety of ages.

The show will include 18 dances, 16 of which were choreographed by the Vanderwoods. The other two will be performed by a guest group, Contagious, from Lynnwood.

South Whidbey dancer Melyssa Smith may also be joining to perform two of her solos.

Graham Vanderwood noted that he is usually not too impressed with contemporary hip-hop videos, and said that he and his brother try to incorporate more of a storyline, “something original, more interesting,” into their dances as opposed to solely showing off their moves.

For the first segment of the show, the brothers will be dancing to a story narrated by their friend Jon Bryant. They explained that the story is about the brothers’ trip on a time machine.

“You’ve never seen anything like that,” Graham Vanderwood said. “Even the fact that one of our dances is to old Zapp and Roger music is different. People never use that stuff.”

Zane Vanderwood will be heading off to college in the fall, and explained that this will likely be the last time Smash Brothaz will perform for quite some time.

“I hope it’s not the last time we do this, but it could be the last time for quite a while at least,” Zane Vanderwood said.

Though he said he would like to pursue dance professionally, he explained that he doesn’t believe it to be a feasible career choice. He is planning to major in economics, but will continue to dance as a hobby.

“It gives me a separate identity to a certain extent. And it gives me something to do,” said Zane Vanderwood of the art form. “I’m pretty introverted. …I think if I didn’t have dance, I would never leave home so that’s also a plus.”

“It brings you something to look forward to in life,” Graham Vanderwood said. He added that being without his brother will be difficult, though both said they have been focusing on the show and trying not to think too much about it.

“I’m lucky to have Zane around,” Graham Vanderwood said. “There’s nobody else that can fill his shoes.”