It's a group effort: the Projekt Team is a street dance collective that dreamed up Britomart Backyard Battles, a competitive (and entertaining) event that's a showdown of the best street dance styles in Takutai Square. Here, members of the group talk to Britomart's Tia Sagapolutele about what dance has given them, and how they're giving back. 

TIA SAGAPOLUTELE Thanks for chatting with me today. Would you mind introducing yourself?

HAPPYFEET What's up everyone! My name is John Vaifale aka Happyfeet and I am a dancer from the Projekt Team. I'm also one of the people behind the scenes. 

MELE My name is Mele Tae'iloa aka MarshMele. I'm the director of Projekt Team, the Head of Dance at Manurewa High School and an advocate for funk styles in Aotearoa. 

TIA What is Projekt Team and how did it all start?

MELE Cool. So the Projekt Team are a collective of dancers. The meaning of the collective is in the name, where we come together to create projects. We started in 2014 by our creator Josh Mitikulena, also known as Kokonut. At the time there were a lot of dance crews and companies who would stay within themselves and Josh wanted to create a space where street dancers were allowed to go out and learn from different people. I love that we don't have to be committed or pay crazy term fees. If you're free to jam then you're welcome to come. It took away the pressure of being a part of a company and it's worked for us ever since.

HAPPYFEET It's what got us into making these events like Britomart Backyard Battles where it's free expression through street dance styles and battles.

TIA For someone who isn't familiar with dance events, can you explain a bit more on what the Britomart Backyard Battles are?

MELE The Britomart Backyard Battles are a monthly event where street dancers battle each other for the ultimate honor of being crowned the night's champion. The battles provide a space where dancers can feel confident in themselves while dancing. We hope it inspires others to do whatever they want to do. It might not be dance but just being confident in stepping out or owning what they're doing in the moment.

JOHN They can expect a lot of energy, positivity and good music. I think, in the most cliche way, a lot of happiness. The atmosphere is really cool.

TIA How has it been creating Britomart Backyard Battles and being in this space?

HAPPYFEET I think the one thing I've liked running the dance battles here at Britomart is that it's so open. Everyone can hear it from a mile away or see the dancers and wonder what's going on. For the longest time, we've ran events indoors and it's been hidden away but being outdoors means some kid can walk past and get inspired by all these dancers being themselves.

MELE Yeah, it's been awesome to put these dance battles on here at Britomart. We look out to the audience at every event and there's a whole range of people – children, elderly, so many people who stop and watch for a long time. It's also been a great opportunity because I'm able to share this opportunity with other people in the street dance community and ask them if they want to run an event. It's been a great space to practice our skills and share space with each other. Britomart is a battle space now. When dancers think of Britomart, they know there will be battles. It almost feels like home for them. It's really cool.

HAPPYFEET For dancers, the space has a familiarity to it. There's a sense of connection. It's cool that there's a partnership with Britomart and the street dance community.

The next Britomart Backyard Battles is on Friday 3 May in Takutai Square from 6-7.30pm. Free for all ages. You can roll up and participate, but most people just like to stop by and enjoy the spectacle. 

Photos by Geoffery Matautia @southsides