Saturday, June 23

Incoming freshman evolved from televised competitive dance to hip-hop

Since winning "Abby's Ultimate Dance Competition" in 2012, incoming first-year dance student Brianna Haire has explored different styles such as hip-hop. (Chelsea Zhang/Daily Bruin)

Since winning "Abby's Ultimate Dance Competition" in 2012, incoming first-year dance student Brianna Haire has explored different styles such as hip-hop. (Chelsea Zhang/Daily Bruin)

Brianna Haire placed first in Abby Lee Miller’s show, “Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition,” creating a reputation as the redhead who wowed the “Dance Moms” coach.

The incoming first-year dance student pursued dance seriously after dancing her first competition piece at the age of six. She then practiced competition dance until she placed first in the 2012 Lifetime series with her final solo. Haire now uses her competition dancing roots while exploring hip-hop dance’s different movement techniques and environment.

“People forget there’s so much more to me than just being that ginger on Abby’s show,” Haire said.

Haire said she knew her final contemporary dance number about her grandmother set to Rupert Pope’s “Burn So Brightly” was the last solo for her competitive dance career because she did not see the point in continuing to compete after having gone undefeated for at least a year.

“I got to the point where I questioned if I really needed another trophy,” she said, “I wanted to learn and do more.”

[Related: Dancesport Club at UCLA members waltz into world of competitive dancing]

Following the show, Haire decided to explore different dance styles like hip-hop because she never had the chance to do so earlier in her dance career, she said. She went to hip-hop conventions and auditions across the country in cities like Los Angeles and Las Vegas, until she started training with The Pulse, a touring hip-hop convention comprised of professional choreographers.

Haire said hip-hop was like nothing she practiced before, which excited her because she saw it as another challenge to take on.

“I got to the point in my improvement where I thought ‘Thank god, I’m no longer a little competition dancer attempting hip-hop,’” she said.

Haire said hip-hop also fosters a more collaborative than competitive atmosphere compared to competition dance.

“I was drawn to that hype-supportive and amped up atmosphere of the hip-hop world,” she said.

Haire said her involvement in her high school’s dance team made the transition from competition dancing to hip-hop more smooth.

But competition dancing still remains at the roots of her dancing experience.

Simone Swift, Haire’s high school team’s dance coach, said Haire’s title as winner of “Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition” did not impress her as much as Haire’s work ethic and dedication to the art, which she developed while training for competitions earlier in her career.

“I always tell students that you should never feel forced doing something you love, and Brianna epitomizes that,” Swift said. “I never had to tell her to go full out or to work hard because this is what she loves to do.”

[Related: Dancer explores race, masculinity in final UCLA show ‘ONDA’]

Swift was pregnant from 2015 to 2016 and was therefore not able to choreograph or dance to the best of her ability, she said. As a result, she only half-choreographed one of the team’s dance pieces, and Haire volunteered to complete the other half, Swift said.

Haire proceeded to choreograph and stage 30 dancers in diagonals and window formations by the end of the class period.

In addition to structuring dance pieces, Swift said she thinks Haire also knows how to engage her audience.

“She’s performed for so long that she mastered ways to connect with the audience,” she said. “She always one-ups herself.”

During the West Coast Elite dance competition, Haire had an eight count to freestyle a solo during the team’s hip-hop number. She dropped into the splits and lifted herself a few inches off the ground only to fall back into the splits repeatedly, sending the audience into a frenzy, Swift said. Haire’s team placed first with that number.

Brian Haire, Brianna Haire’s father, said competitive dance’s cutthroat environment helped his daughter build up her confidence and maturity, which are necessary to navigate her desired career paths.

“Dance parents constantly ask me why I let my daughters do competition dance,” he said. “I just tell them that it builds a child’s confidence like no other hobby.”

Brian Haire said he remembers his daughter smiling and speed-walking off the stage following her peformance of a somber contemporary piece, “Let It Be” at the Showstopper dance competition. Looking back on the piece, he said he can see how his daughter has grown to become a strong-willed, young woman now ready to leave for college.

“When she auditioned for UCLA, she told me the campus feels like home,” he said. “With UCLA being a sea of more than 30,000 students, which can be intimidating, hearing that as a father is comforting.”

Haire said she is thrilled to be in Los Angeles for the job opportunities and learning in store for her. She is also looking forward to exploring more styles of dance, she said.

“When you grow up as a competition dancer, you don’t really learn about the culture or the origins of dance,” Haire said. “I’m excited to expand my worldview and learn about what I’ve been doing for the past 14 years.”

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