Krump has a space at Chuco’s Justice Center

Listen to a story by Annenberg Radio News

imageKruti Parekh’s words may shock you.

“Los Angeles locks up more young people than anywhere else in the world,” she says.
Parekh should know. She is a Coordinator at Chuco’s Justice Center, named after a community leader who was gunned down in 2005. It is located on the border of South Central and Inglewood. The center was created as a safe space for young people to play and social justice workers to organize.
Parekh explains that before raising money to have a permanent location, space was one of Chuco’s main concerns.
image“We had made a committment that we would have the center open to other folks and organizations that were interested in doing good work, helping young people, helping the community” she says.

Since October 2010, Shofu the Beatdown and a circle of krumpers have benefitted from Chuco’s mission. Shofu is part of Xtreme Movement, a well-known crew. Krump is a street dance characterized by chest pops and foot stomps that originated in South Central in 2002.

The krump circle takes place every Monday from five to nine p.m. Shofu appreciates the reliability and safety of the space. Sometimes the center provides free food and drinks. Mostly though, young people can practice and perform a street dance they love.

Shofu has been krumping for six years. He will always remember the exact date he started.

image“Somewhere in June. I think it was June 20,” he says. “I remember the day because I want to remember that day for as long as I live. I saw the krump video and it was a piece of me that I felt I didn’t have or didn’t even know I was missing.”

Meanwhile, Parekh is keeping her eyes on the bigger picture: redirecting dollars marked for suppressing crime to positive opportunities for young people like Shofu.

“If we took just one percent of suppression dollars for L.A. County, that would be 100 million dollars and that could actually provide 50 youth centers around the county, open from 3 to midnight, 365 days a year, plus 500 community intervention workers that can maintain safety within communities, plus 25,000 summer jobs for young people,” she ays.

With that kind of financial help, Chuco’s imagines a world with more krumpers and less criminals.

Visit Chuco’s Justice Center’s website for more information.

Arts Education Cuts Looming for LAUSD

imageShana Habel is the Dance Demonstration Teacher for the LAUSD Arts Education Branch. She has been with the program since its inception in 1999.

“What I’ve seen is the way that being involved in the arts can truly change the way a child thinks about themself, the way they think about their life, they way they think about their future,” she says.

Habel supervises 40 teachers, including Danielle Evers, a dance teacher at Florence Griffith Joyner Elementary in South Los Angeles. Evers has been teaching dance for eight years.

“The important thing about dance education is students have the freedom to be creative, to think out of the box, to be problem solvers, to create something that expresses how they feel,” says Evers.

Wendy is a student at Florence Griffith Joyner. She is 10 years old, and her favorite subject is dance.

“I mostly like the moves, mostly Ms. Evers. She’s a really great dance teacher. I really admire her so much. I hope I could dance as good as her,” she says.

Her classmate Jabari is also a fan of dance class.

“I like dance because I get to learn a lot of new moves and at first I didn’t think of myself as a dancer but now I know I got the potential to be a dancer,” he says.

Both Habel and Evers have seen firsthand how students who lacked confidence or did not excel in other academic areas thrived in the arts. Critical Evidence is a report commissioned by the Arts Education Partnership and the National Assemble of State Agencies in 2005. It cited that arts activities promotes growth in students’ social skills, including self-confidence, self-control, conflict resolution, collaboration, empathy, and social tolerance.
In the end, says Habel, it’s not about whether the student becomes an artist.
“It’s about giving them a different way of looking at things. Giving them new strategies to see the world with. A new pair of eyes,” she says.

Arts advocates can only hope the Los Angeles School Board does not vote blindly on March 13.

Central Avenue Dance Ensemble educates and entertains

Central Avenue Dance Ensemble founder Chester Whitmore

Central Avenue remains synonymous with L.A.’s thriving jazz and rhythm and blues scene of the mid twentieth century.

Luminaries like Lionel Hampton and Charles Mingus defined the sounds emanating from the heart of the African-American community.

Enter Central Avenue Dance Ensemble, founded in 2003 by celebrated dancer Chester Whitmore.

“A long time ago we used to be inside of a church on 62nd and Normandie, and it had a giant ballroom in it. We used to do this thing called ‘Swinging in the Hood’ once a month, and do ballroom and swing with a live big band.”

Chester Whitmore is a choreographer, instructor, historian and musician who has played with the Count Basie Orchestra. His company Black Ballet Jazz specialized in Afro-American vernacular dance and toured the world for 15 years.

“One of the amazing things about Chester is he’s not just into teaching you dance steps, but also the history,” said Central Avenue’s Managing Director Ron Parker. “Where this happened? Who was involved?”

One of Central Avenue Dance Ensemble’s proudest accomplishments is a revival of a two-hour, multimedia show, “The History of Black Dance in America.” The first act opens in Africa and then journeys to the New World, and by the time the curtain closes we’ve seen dances from the early 1800s to the present day. Some of these dances include Walking the Dog in the early 1900s, Lindy Hop in the ‘30s, Big Apple in the ‘40s, Swing in the ‘50s and early ‘60s, and one of my favorites, Charleston in the 1920s.

Whitmore points to popular TV shows like “Dancing With the Stars” and “America’s Best Dance Crew” for spurring a renewed interest in dance. “You have to have the new stuff, but they got to know where it comes from,” he said. “We have to tell them about a foundation.,”

Central Avenue Dance Ensemble performs for high schools, hosts workshops and residencies and offers classes and demonstrations.

Hoofing it at A Place Called Home

What does Black History Month sound like? At the youth services non-profit A Place Called Home in South Central Los Angeles, it sounds something like the tapping feet of kids. Every Friday in February, girls ages eight to thirteen show up and learn to hoof. Looking out at them are tap masters Gregory Hines and Savion Glover, whose magazine pictures hang on the wall.

Dance Coordinator Jewel Delegall, who holds the workshop, has a long history with tap. It was the first job she ever had. She worked on the film tap when she was 14. Her dance department also offers classes in Afro-Samba, ballet, jazz, yoga, hip-hop, capoeira and hula each week day afternoon from four to six thirty.

image“Hoofing is a little more old school, more organic,” she says. “The street versus the stage. For example, even though Greg Hines was a show tapper, in the sense of he was the celebrity, he really was organically a hoofer. The piece that I showed them was a piece that I had learned from Henry LeTang, who is one of the original choreographers and a hoofer.”

A Place Called Home is located on the corner of South Central Avenue and 29th Street. It’s a safe haven for kids to play and learn after school and in the summer.

This week, Delegall is teaching something a little more traditional, like you might see on Broadway. “Tap was my first love. And I just love tap,” she says.

Next month, her A Place Called Home dancers will be performing at Nokia Theatre.