Backstage at the Utah Arts Festival 2023: Making its 12th consecutive appearance, 1520 Arts set to command The Round during all three days

Now a mainstay at The Round stage, 1520 Arts will be making its 12th consecutive appearance at the Utah Arts Festival (June 23 and June 24, 5:45-8 p.m.; June 25, 6-9 p.m.). With the festival’s three-day schedule, the focus will be on the larger formats of 3 v. 3 battles, which will make the audience experience more exciting and elucidating about the art of music and rap battles and the spontaneous art form of ciphers. What adds to the spontaneity of the battles is that the teams are put together randomly so that they have to use their instinct to sync up and collaborate if they want the bragging rights of winning. “This makes it difficult to predict how a battle will go,” Perkins explains, “as here the crews will have to perform outside of their normal grouping.”

Perkins, who also will be a stage manager for The Round throughout the festival, says he is thrilled to see Junction Dance Company, a sister organization to 1520 Arts perform as well (June 24, 6:45 p.m., Festival Stage). The company was founded in 2018 in Salt Lake City by Maryland native Megan Adelsberger. Junction’s mission dovetails with 1520 Arts, in bridging gaps between age, race, religion, sexual orientation, street and concert styles of dance.

Friday June 24,2022 : Utah Arts Fest Jeff Swinger/SwingmanPhoto

Avid fans of hip hop history know the significance of the 1520 name as the acknowledged birthplace of hip-hop: 1520 Sedgwick Avenue in the Morris Heights neighborhood of the Bronx. Now approaching its 15th anniversary, the organization, formerly known as The Bboy Federation, adopted its current name to emphasize its mission as preserving the core of hip hop’s cultural influence in dance, music and the visual arts and how that has expanded in other forms of cultural expression including lowrider and skateboard.

Critical to that mission is The HERC, a facility located at the organization’s South Salt Lake home, which serves more than 7,500 people annually as a hip hop arts and educational resource. The name comes from DJ KOOL HERC, considered the father of hip hop. Perkins say that performances at UAF along with their annual show, They Reminisce at the Rose Wagner Center for Performing Arts means that the organization is serving more than 15,000 individuals who have some form of interest in hip hop culture, art, dance and music. 

Perkins says that 1520 Arts continues to expand its community presence and opportunities for artists and performers. This included a block party last month. In addition, the organization now has a K-pop group. This year’s edition of They Reminisce will take place Sept. 15 and Sept. 16 at the Rose Wagner Center for Performing Arts.  

Friday June 24,2022 : Utah Arts Fest Jeff Swinger/SwingmanPhoto

They Reminisce has become the historical and cultural anchor for 1520 Arts. Each year, the show is developed with the four key elements of hip hop in mind: rap, DJ, breakdancing and graffiti art. For example, one template covers the evolution of hip hop through developments in dance, music, art and fashion. Choreographers set their movements based on the thematic pillars for a particular year’s show but otherwise have generous territory to select music, dance styles and how they want to choose dancers. Perkins adds that the show has improvisational elements, such as the battles, similar to what Utah Arts Festival guests will see at The Round. In They Reminisce, DJs, cast members, dancers and the audience are seeing elements unfold that were not part of rehearsals. Here, the audience reaction feeds into the tone of those spontaneous moments.

Cyphers are an important feature of 1520 Arts’ performing program at the festival. As explained previously in The Utah Review, the art of cypher emphasizes the objective of community equality in hip-hop, as echoed in the origins of the word, which came from the Arabic term of sifr that represents zero. Cyphers have always been integral to hip-hop culture and where its earliest performers gathered to share creative ideas and challenge them accordingly. Cyphers are entertaining and intense but they also serve the critical function of unity that respects and protects a diverse community. They augment the good-natured senses of the dance battles.

Friday June 24,2022 : Utah Arts Fest Jeff Swinger/SwingmanPhoto

As usual, 1520 Arts will have a full complement of DJs for all three days;

June 23

DJ Allred Clouds

DJ Skratchmo

June 24


DJ Skratchmo

DJ Lamp Shady

June 25

DJ Buttahfly Boi Blues

DJ Nosy-T

DJ Skratchmo

For more information, see the 1520 Arts website

For more information and tickets, download the Utah Arts Festival app for free, available to Android and iOS users. There also are links to the UAF’s standard website. 

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