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Rhythm City dance crew reps Boogie Down

When Alonzo Williams and Rhythm City hit the stage, heads bob and hearts pound. The Bronx hip-hop dance crew that wowed national television audiences on MTV’s America’s Best Dance Crew in August and September has popped and locked to fame and fortune: Rhythm City has booked an international tour, members plan to release music records and the crew boasts thousands of Twitter fans.

But the core of Rhythm City remains the Boogie Down borough where it all began. The crew offers classes to kids and hopes to build a talent pipeline from the Bronx to the world. Rhythm City still trains at St. Mary’s Recreation Center in Mott Haven, Williams still offers classes to neighborhood kids and members not to be named still pass gas mid-dance.

“We stay true to the roots of hip-hop and true to the Bronx,” Williams, 27, said. “The Bronx is where hip-hop started. We live it. We walk it. Hip-hop is in us.”

As a kid, Williams bounced from Morris Avenue to East 174th Street to Hoe Avenue. He played basketball at Samuel Gompers High School, attended college, worked at Washington Mutual and went to Police Academy. Williams found purpose in dance.

Williams quickly moved from dance to choreography and began to teach in his neighborhood. Soon, he had a group 60 kids strong and shows booked in Washington D.C. Dance didn’t pay the bills like Washington Mutual but the kids needed him. Williams grew up in a troubled home; he knew drugs and gangs, he said.

“They were going through what I had gone through,” Williams said. “So I quit my job and formed Rhythm City.”

Rhythm City is part dance crew, part non-profit, part record label and part talent collective. Although best know for dance – Rhythm City dancers perform in music videos for Wyclef Jean and Lil Mama, commercials for Nike and shows at The Apollo – Williams raps and member Dominique Rosario sings, while other members are stylists and graphic designers.

Denzel Chisolm, 18, was raised and Soundview and graduated from Lehman High School. Rosario, 23, is also a Soundview-bred Lion. Cochise Quinones Jr., 20, grew up in Mott Haven and Castle Hill; he graduated from Fordham High School for the Arts. Ashley Powell, 19, is from Co-op City and graduated from Discovery High School at the Walton campus. Dion Dennis graduated from the High School of Art & Design in Manhattan. Each joined the crew when wowed by Williams’ crisp and explosive choreography.

Together, they and breaker sensation Kenny Bermudez of Harlem represented Rhythm City on season four of America’s Top Dance Crew, a popular reality show produced by American Idol judge Randy Jackson. Crews from the West Coast, Los Angeles in particular, won seasons one through three.

Although Rhythm City scored points with dance fans on the MTV show and survived five weeks, the crew was eliminated and finished fourth. They bonded with crews from around the country; the show was a lesson in professionalism, Williams said.

Bronx kids are talented but are often sidetracked by family or financial issues, Quinones Jr. explained. Many who do succeed skip town.

“We want to offer Bronx kids support,” Williams said. “Why go to L.A. or Manhattan when you can succeed in the Bronx?”

For more information on Rhythm City, visit http://www.rhythmcityinc.com/

Reach reporter Daniel Beekman at 718 742-3383 or dbeekman@cnglocal.com

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