The anticipation in the Garfield High School gym was palpable as hundreds of fans awaited the start of this year’s “Bubblin Brown Sugar” high school dance contest on Saturday. Crowds filled the seats. Moved by the DJ-spun tunes, a few children even started dancing. The contest, which originally started in the early ’80s, ran for more than 20 years before taking a hiatus. It made its big comeback last year, instantly regaining its legendary status as an event not to be missed.
This year’s contest featured performances by Rainier Beach, Cleveland, Garfield, and Franklin high schools. In between school performances, exhibition teams also made their mark. Among them were Kutt’N’Up, Malicious Allure, Baile Dior, the Electronetts Drill Team and the Throwbacks, a group made up of former Garfield, Rainier Beach, Franklin and Nathan Hale dance team members.
To add to the excitement, “Bubblin Brown Sugar” also featured Kayla Jones from the Lifetime Show “Bring It!” as a dance judge, along with Seahawks cheerleader Mhkeeba Pate, Ron Gatsby, artistic director of The Purple Lemonade Collective, and comedian and activist Isiah Anderson, Jr.
To determine the best high school dance team of the four schools, the judges used a scoring rubric considering the dancers’ routine (35 points out of 100), execution (35 points), presentation (25 points) and the crowd’s response (five points). Teams were also awarded separately for the titles of “best theme,” “best costume” and “crowd favorite.”
While the judges deliberated, several dancers from each team participated in a choreography challenge. The 10-year-old champion Ardaja Callandret from the Kutt’N’Up dance team, won a free dance class with instructor Makia Chantel at The Kutt Dance Studio, run by accomplished dance instructor Tyrone Crosby.
Although there was only four high school teams competing this year, the competition was fierce with Garfield taking first place, last year’s champion Cleveland taking second and Franklin placing third. The “best theme” and “best costume” awards were given to Cleveland High School, and Franklin High School won the title for “crowd favorite.”
Correction: A previous version of this story misspelled “Bubblin Brown Sugar.” It has since been corrected.