It has been almost a decade since World of Dance (WOD) began as a single event in Pomona, Calif. with the goal of promoting dance as a multimedia art form. The timing was perfect. It was 2008 and the creation of WOD coincided with the explosion of the what founder David Gonzalez calls the "You Tube generation."
"The idea was to create an event bringing dance styles together under one roof and then display them online," said Gonzalez. "If you look at dance in the past, it never really had a media space." Print couldn't support the visual nature of dance. Video based websites were too expensive. You Tube presented the perfect opportunity to make quality videos available to a large audience, free of charge.
Over the years, WOD has grown into a platform with a reach of more than 5 million on social channels as well as 15 domestic live events and international events in more than 27 countries.
On Saturday, the live competition returns to Atlanta's Rialto Center for the Arts featuring dancers and crews from around the world battling against one another for top billing. There is also an All Star Battle, a live art exhibit and appearances by WOD favorites and You Tube dancers. With such a large footprint, it was only a matter of time before television came calling.
This spring, Jennifer Lopez surfaced as executive producer and lead judge of "World of Dance," the NBC show which is modeled on the touring competition. WOD also serves as producer.
WOD has always had the goal of elevating dance, Gonzalez said, but it has become increasingly important to move that goal beyond the dance community. One way the brand helps to do that is by removing the barriers that limit a dancer's creativity and exposure.
WOD draws every style of dance from hip-hop to ballroom. Groups of dancers compete right alongside solo acts. Dancers are young and old, they speak different languages and they are not required to meet technical requirements for scoring which allows them to come with a dance style and performance all their own.
B Girl Shorty, a dancer who has been involved with WOD since the beginning, recalls how the early shows would bring different communities of dance together. Though b-girl style dancing is her base, she transitions into all different styles -- a quality she notes has become increasingly important and present in younger dancers.
"Ten years ago everybody was good at one thing. Now because of all the shows like WOD, they welcome all types of dance. It is expanding and the kids now are insane. They do everything and they are good at everything. I think it is great," she said.
B Girl Shorty said the Atlanta competition is a lively event. The All Star Battle in particular is very popular, as it draws a host of freestyle performances, a rich part of Atlanta's dance scene.
Dancer registration is closed, but you can still get tickets for the show.
Event Preview: World of Dance Atlanta
$40 - $100, 2 p.m (VIP admission), Sat., Oct. 7
Rialto Center for the Arts, 80 Forsyth St NW, Atlanta
For tickets and additional information visit www.worldofdance.com