Twin Cities Temporalities: Queer Blackness and Hmong Refugeeism in The Hip Hop Dance Scene

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Twin Cities Temporalities: Queer Blackness and Hmong Refugeeism in The Hip Hop Dance Scene

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The dissertation explores the temporalities and choreographies of the Twin Cities Hip Hop (TCHH) dance scene, explicitly focusing on the interactions between groups with the battle cypher. The study adopts a qualitative research approach, combining ethnographic elements and choreographic analysis, spatial analysis, and the discourse of Breaking to gain an insider perspective into the experiences and motivations of the dancers. The primary research questions investigate how different temporalities converge and interact during battles, generating possible ways of undoing oppressive narratives in the TCHH dance scene.The dissertation comprises five chapters that comprehensively analyze the TCHH scene from the experience of the author and two dance crews. The introduction lays out the author’s methodology, methods, literature review, and an overview of each chapter. The first chapter maps the historical development and cultural significance of Breaking, outlining how patriarchal power dynamics gained a foothold and were sustained over time in the scene. The second chapter centers on the queer Black femme Hip Hop dance crew New Black City (NBC), exploring the contributions and challenges of two members, Yoni Light and Mimi Solis. The third chapter focuses on the primarily Hmong Breaking crew, The Loonies, with interviews from two members, Kou “Koulaid” Lee and Jurza Lee, centering their struggle for recognition. Chapter four imagines an epic battle between NBC and The Loonies, highlighting the dance scene’s interconnectedness of movements and temporalities. This imagined battle represents the two crews’ distinct experiences with oppressive power dynamics in the Twin Cities and how their dancing provides a way to think about undoing these forces. Throughout the dissertation, the choreographic analysis supports the idea that dance is a way to know the world and not a reflection of it. The author uses his specific dance methodology to show how power develops and circulates through the TCHH dance scene. The members of NBC and The Loonies dance challenges to societal norms and power dynamics, asserting their vision of equity within the dance space. The study also examines individual connections and the complexities of expression within the dance scene, including the cultural inheritance brought by Koulaid and Jurza’s joy of Hmong resilience and Light and Solis’s celebration of Black womanhood. The two groups’ approaches to community, adaptability, and representation contribute to the scene’s shifting utopian future. The dissertation’s findings provide valuable insights into the TCHH dance scene and the significance of various dance practices that empower two marginalized groups. These findings can be extended in future studies with other groups within the scene. The author highlights the importance of understanding temporalities and choreography as a means to understand the necessary steps of undoing oppressive power dynamics. The research offers potential future directions for enhancing the understanding of Breaking and Hip Hop dance while fostering inclusivity and empowerment for marginalized dancers within the dance practices. Overall, the dissertation showcases the profound political and artistic dimensions of Hip Hop dance as a transformative force within the TCHH dance scene.


University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. ---2023. Major: Theatre Arts. Advisor: Cindy Garcia. 1 computer file (PDF); xi, 305 pages.

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Noer, Jason. (2023). Twin Cities Temporalities: Queer Blackness and Hmong Refugeeism in The Hip Hop Dance Scene. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy,

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