Breaking it down to build them up

Sound Kreations actually gets kids excited to dance

School’s out and the sounds of hip hop and R&B greats such as James Brown and the Beastie Boys filter through the halls. Inside Capitol Hill elementary school about 20 kids jump kick and spin across the floor as they learn to break dance. A little redhead’s curls fly and a boy sticks his tongue out to the side while concentrating to get a move right. A few parents sit on benches at one side of the gym.

Patricia Ridcafort’s 11-year-old son Tavis signed up for the after-school hip hop program after Sound Kreations a residency dance company came to his gym class. "He really liked it. It’s a big thing because he doesn’t tend to participate a lot. Just the fact that he’s actually participating is huge. It’s been good for his confidence to be part of something" she says.

Tavis comes over to his mom as the class nears the end. "I would rather do this all day than go to school!" he exclaims.

Jordan Dack the 26-year-old founder of Sound Kreations explains that beyond bringing a new dance form to kids the company aims to help boost their self-confidence by encouraging them to experiment and bring their individuality to the dance floor. The company started out in Calgary teaching at a couple of schools. Five years later it has introduced about 30000 kids in the Calgary area to the art form and is looking to expand into British Columbia.

"We want to go into a school and really give students the opportunity to succeed and to try on this artistic lens…. It’s a way of seeing the world where there is no such thing as failure. All there is is creation" says Dack.

At Dalhousie elementary school vice-principal Susan Coveyduck has seen Sound Kreations’ brand of hip hop coax a few reserved students out of their shells in gym class. "They’re shy and they’re trying to figure out who they are as eight-year-olds and nine-year-olds but they’re rolling all over the floor and they’re loving it. It’s been amazing to watch all of the children be successful and feel successful" she says.

The nature of the art form means that there’s no single right way for kids to do it. In hip hop "it’s not the move it’s the groove" says Dack. "This is all about an individual expressing their individuality. One move can be done differently by two individuals."

In fact making up moves is encouraged. "Not only are you allowed to do it but that’s pretty much what defines a good hip hop dancer" explains Dack. Sound Kreations instructors encourage kids to invent their own moves by pretending to be their favourite animal or freestyling.

Back in the gym at Capitol Hill kids form a circle and take turns showing their stuff. A girl jumps splaying her arms and legs then a boy hops on one foot. "I like dancing because it lets my mind feel free. I like the moves" says Jillian age 9. Kaitlin also 9 pipes in: "You really do a lot of moves. In other (dance classes) you wait around a lot."

Dack who started Sound Kreations after his first year of university discovered hip hop himself around the age of eight. It was an unheard-of dance form in Calgary in the 1980s. He used slow motion on his VCR to copy moves from music videos.

Hip hop is a genre that engages kids far more than the line dances they endured in elementary school and junior high.

Coveyduck says the Sound Kreations instructors who taught at her school had no trouble getting the kids’ attention. "They want to stop and listen. We don’t get that same responsiveness ourselves. The music and the coolness of the instructor and the coolness of what they’re doing — the kids are really into what they’re doing. The parents are asking about it because their kids are home practising because they’re coming home and they’re excited."

Boys in particular are enthusiastic about breakdancing in a way they aren’t about other dance forms. Instead of standing around boys in Sound Kreations’ classes gravitate towards the front eager to learn. At the beginning of a class boys often think: "This is way too hard” and “The culture that I’m a part of says ‘I’m not supposed to do this’” says Dack. “By the end of one of the classes they’ve realized that they can do it and it’s really cool to do it."