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From sleepovers to the stage, Kamikazi finds camaraderie through dance

Kamikaze Dance Team
UNC Kamikazi Hip Hop Dance Team performs at a fall showcase on Nov. 10 at the Stone Center. Photo Courtesy of Emmanuel Lee.

After dancing for 17 years, junior Kayla Dehoniesto didn’t know if she could continue dancing in college until she found Kamikazi. 

“Kamikazi performed at my freshman orientation and seeing them made me want to join,” Dehoniesto said. “When I joined I thought, ‘This is the greatest group ever,’ and now I am in it for life.” 

Hip-hop group Kamikazi uses the power of dance to inspire and influence culture at UNC and beyond for over 20 years. The group was founded in 1996 as the first coed dance team on campus. The dancers perform each year at events both on campus and at showcases around the region. 

“On this campus we have an obligation to uphold the culture, and to spread the history of hip-hop,” Dehoniesto said. “Hip-hop dancers make the trends.”

Dehoniesto is one of the group’s co-directors along with junior Laura Killian. Killian said Kamikazi feels more like a family than a team — a family that just happens to practice three times a week and perform together.  

The Kamikazi dancers perform at two or three big showcases each semester, and they dance at many UNC events such as FallFest and Carolina For The Kids' Dance Marathon. Their performances consist of about 10 dances combined into two sets. 

“Performing brings an indescribable feeling,” sophomore Sophie Swift said. “I get off the stage after our team put everything together and I think, ‘Holy cow, we did that.’”

The team travels to schools like James Madison University, Duke University and North Carolina State University to perform and hosts an annual fall showcase at UNC. 

“We love performing on campus because this is our home,” Dehoniesto said. 

Performance, rather than competition, is important for Kamikazi because it generates a community of supportive dancers who share a similar passion, Dehoniesto said. She said the people genuinely care more about the art of dance over winning. 

“Kamikazi is the best thing that has ever happened to me,” Dehoniesto said. “It has made college 10 times more worthwhile.”

Teammates also build a sense of community through bonding activities. The executive team said closer friendships equates to better collaboration. Holiday parties, nights on Franklin Street and sleepovers are some of the ways sophomore Grace Bryant has enjoyed getting to know the team. 

“I have many great memories with Kamikazi,” Bryant said. “We have lots of laughs. One time someone ripped their pants on stage and I had to keep dancing, we all still joke about it.”

The camaraderie and closeness of the team is something the executive board is proud of. Fostering a welcoming environment, along with involving dancers into the world of dance beyond UNC, are the main goals of the team, Bryant said. 

“Kamikazi is a safe space for people to come be who they want to be,” Swift said. “People here will listen to you and care about you and we encourage people to be themselves.”

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