A pair of local male dance instructors are hoping they can be role models and show that dance can be a passion or turn into a career.
Rico Martinez and Teagan Morrison are both instructors at Got 2 Dance Studio in Ponoka and both have grown to love what they do.
“I was always moving around with way too much energy and had tried various sports, but none stuck,” Morrison said.
“When I was 12, I went to a cousin’s dance recital and was instantly hooked on hip hop. I begged my mom to let me take classes. After enrolling, I developed a passion for what is known to many as break-dancing, though the real term is breaking.”
For Martinez, his start came while growing up in Mexico City and it turned into a career.
“At first, we were just breaking and learning from each other. When we got a bit older, five of us formed the group Black Tendency and we won a contest called El Club,” he said.
“This lead to other jobs like dancing in commercials for Disney and a Super Bowl commercial for the New England Patriots in 2003. Then I started taking actual classes on the south side of Mexico City.”
A short time after starting, the teacher told him to be at the studio early one morning.
“I had no idea why. I showed up and there was the choreographer for Belinda. They told me to dance. I then realized this was an audition. I was hired and toured and danced for her for three years.”
Morrison has been been instructing for two years, while Martinez has done it for 13 after moving to Alberta.
“When I moved to Red Deer, I quickly realized there was no hip hop community,” Martinez stated, adding he checked out an audition because he wanted to make some connections.
“I showed up, and it was me and about 30 young girls. They asked me to dance anyway, so I freestyled.”
There wasn’t a spot for him, but he was asked to perform solo at the opening of that year’s Alberta Summer Games and they asked if he wanted to teach. He later went on to host his own classes and his own studio.
“I pursue it today because I really found a misrepresentation of what was being called hip hop in central Alberta. The culture was totally left out of the equation, nobody was hosting cyphers or battles, which is the original form of hip hop,” said Martinez.
“People were doing whatever choreography they wanted, mostly to pop or top 40, and calling it hip hop. Nobody knew any different, so there was no one to correct them. It has been my mission to deliver authenticity.”
Meanwhile, Morrison enjoys the physical demands and dedication that’s required to master his craft.
“Within hip hop I would say participation is pretty balanced in terms of male and female, although many see dance in general as a female-oriented activity,” he said.
“That is not the case. And to any of the boys that may feel out of place or awkward taking a dance class, I would say go for it if it’s something you love. I’m glad to be a potential role model for boys that feel that way.”
Martinez added that it comes down to boys being mentored by dancers that “look fresh” because it’s all about the culture, from the fashion to the music to the dancing.
And the fact that breaking in now going to be part of the Olympics, starting with the 2024 Summer Games in Paris, Martinez feels interest will continue to grow.
“I love all street dance styles, but since I started with breaking it’s always going to be special to me. Now that it’s in the Olympics, I can’t wait to see what this will do for hip hop,” he said.
Both instructors believe the biggest positive of hip hop is the connections gained, the friendships made, the exposure to the culture of dance and the enjoyment they get.
“I have made many lifelong friendships and others will enjoy the fact they can be different and enjoy the uniqueness of the abilities they gain through dance,” noted Morrison.