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Published: Monday, 7/6/2009

Toledo hip-hop group to compete on TV show

BY FLORENCE DETHY
BLADE STAFF WRITER
House of Adonis dancers, from left, Keke Smith, Shawanda Johnson, Montre Davis, and William Hanson perform at a recent car show. Their group will compete on BET Wednesday. House of Adonis dancers, from left, Keke Smith, Shawanda Johnson, Montre Davis, and William Hanson perform at a recent car show. Their group will compete on BET Wednesday.
THE BLADE/AMY E. VOIGT Enlarge | Buy This Photo

Toledo is taking on the Big Apple this week.

Bumping, pop-locking, and dropping with Midwest swagger, a group of eight Toledoans hopes to dance its way to fame and fortune, or at the very least victory, Wednesday on BET's 106 & Park, the network's weekly Top 10 video countdown and dance competition.

"New York - that's huge. It's about as big as you can go in hip hop," said Bridget Hanson, who founded the Toledo-based dance group House of Adonis in 1995 to help young men involved in gang activities.

Taking with them big dreams, a few butterflies, and lots of anticipation, the select group of dancers piled into a 15-person van at 5 a.m. yesterday and headed east.

"We'll be a Midwest swing with a West Coast thing - in the East," Ms. Hanson said of the uncommon style and attitude the group brings to New York City.

Although House of Adonis is officially a nonprofit co-ed dance group, its members, whose ages range from 16 to 27, say it is more like an extended family that pushes each member to constantly improve, develop leadership skills, and grow - keeping each dancer out of trouble in the process.

In addition to daily practices that can last six to eight hours, dancers have pictures taken, undergo lessons in etiquette, and are expected to be ready to perform at the drop of a hat.

William Hanson, left, Shawanda Johnson, center, and Matthew Hanson will appear live on BET at 6 p.m. Wednesday. William Hanson, left, Shawanda Johnson, center, and Matthew Hanson will appear live on BET at 6 p.m. Wednesday.
THE BLADE/AMY E. VOIGT Enlarge | Buy This Photo

Almost all the group's activities are geared toward preparing members for the touch-and-go nature of the entertainment industry.

Ms. Hanson said she tells her dancers that if they cannot get their act together, House of Adonis is not for them.

She added that, because their talent is marketable, they must control themselves at all times.

"Time is money where we're going," she said. "You cannot be late. They have to grow up real quick."

Originally, nine dancers from the group were supposed to be perform at the BET competition. But one young man did not pass in school, so he is not allowed to go, Ms. Hanson said.

"Because you flunk, you're going to be punished," she said. "That's how we operate."

That kind of determination and tough love have built the group's success over the years, and members say Ms. Hanson works relentlessly to give them every opportunity to shine.

"Bridget's a go-getter," said Keke Smith, who studied modern dance at the Toledo School of the Arts and has been with the group about nine months. "When you get with people like that, your demeanor changes."

Although the House of Adonis by nature is a dance group, Ms. Hanson said its members must be more than "just dancers."

Stressing the importance of versatility, she said that everyone in the group is expected to have at least two marketable skills in addition to dancing, be it modeling, singing, acting, makeup application, or costume design.

For example, Shawanda Johnson, a 27-year-old who has been with the group since its inception, is not only the group's primary choreographer; she also handles much of the stage production, hairstyles, and makeup.

"She also spins the hottest tracks," Ms. Smith said.

At present, the group has a dozen active members. In past years, it has had as many as 30.

The invitation to appear on live television, Ms. Hanson said, is proof the group has become a force in the hip-hop world.

Melanie Massie, BET's vice president of talent, contacted the group about appearing on 106 & Park after seeing them perform at a hip-hop convention in Ohio.

And members say that wherever they perform, people are attracted to something about their attitude and style and want to know more about them.

"I think it's the fact that we have such a diverse group of people that we bring together," said Montre Davis, who added that the group's professionalism probably doesn't hurt.

Because the group is selective, all dancers had to go through what they termed a grueling audition process.

But dancers do not pay dues, as members of many area dance groups do.

Instead, donations, fund-raisers, and performance fees support the group.

All members are expected to contribute in nonmonetary ways, be it by making costumes, doing hair, makeup, and nails, or helping to choreograph the routines.

House of Adonis is paying its own way to the BET competition, to the tune of $2,000.

"This could be a really big break or a really big disaster," Ms. Smith said. "There is no in between."

The group will perform live on BET's 106 & Park on Wednesday evening. The two-hour show begins at 6 P.M.

Contact Florence Dethy at:

fdethy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6064.



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