Investing where it matters most

When a site reaches out to us to host four workshops in a single day with over 250 kids, I gladly accept without hesitation. It has nothing to do with the confidence I have in myself; it stems from the belief I have in our talented team. I have the privilege of working with my mentors, peers, and friends in the dance scene. Our work doesn't happen without them, and it happens at a high level because of them.

The moment I arrive for the all-day workshop, I'm greeted by teachers Daniel 'Chrybaby' Cozie, Kim Holmes, Cebo Carr, and Tweet Boogie and Director, Michele Byrd. We're all in high spirits, laughing with each other and getting pumped for the onslaught of kids and teenagers that will be streaming down the corridor towards the dance rooms.

All the teachers aren’t leading at the same time, but we are there to support each other. As one teacher takes the lead, others jump into the class as well to assist and pick up on the movement. I’m not dressed for it, but I join in and show that I still have it (or at least I think I do). We learn from and push one another. That’s how hip hop dance culture has progressed — competition. It is not always in a sense that someone wins and someone loses — though it can be that way sometimes. Through exchange, we challenge each other to elevate. We take inspiration from someone’s move, add our own twist, and share it back so the cycle can start all over again. So when I see some Chrybaby’s movement that day inspire some of Kim’s movement and vice versa, I’m reminded of the power of community.

After a week of travel and coming off a red-eye a day earlier, I’m full of energy as we wrap up the afternoon classes. This part of the work fuels me. It makes the hours of travel, writing, presenting, asking, and organizing work it.

How do we ensure this culture exists as we scale our organization?

We remember who we serve As much as our platform gives young people a quality arts education, it also provides an equally valuable experience to our teachers. It gives them the opportunity to grow and utilize their talents. They are able to learn from their peers about teaching tools and best practices. And as a leader, I need to make sure we tend to our most valuable customers - our students and our teachers.

Investing where it matters most We spend a majority of our budget on our direct programs - making sure the kids have access to dance and the teachers have access to training and professional development. We prioritize tools that allow the dancers to focus on teaching.

Create environments for peer-learning and exchange to happen Outside of our trainings, which occur monthly, we are fortunate to have opportunities for teachers to interact with each other. There are sessions, classes, and events that where were we can catch up informally. It gives us the chance to be in environments where it’s not about work, but about strengthening our own community.

Stay connected to the needs of the community I spend more time these days visiting our classes, observing and participating. The teachers don’t need me there. However, I need to be present to understand how to best support what they do. Is there more staff support needed? Is it complicated to get the audio set up? Are there space constrictions? I can theorize about these things all day, but when I experience it, I can go to work on them.

To understand what is needed long-term, I can never lose sight of what is going on at the ground-level each day. Luckily for me, that’s often the highlight of my week.

Location Spotlight: The Peace Corner Youth Center (Chicago)

by Brandon Jackson

The Peace Corner Youth Center is an organization located in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood, providing employment services, skill development, mentoring, tutoring, and a push in the right direction. EDN!C instructors Nadell Jackson & Chris Ayala create an enjoyable environment within the weekly classes. Once the kids get into the choreography it becomes an area full of fun and excitement. “For kids their age, they catch on to the choreography very easily and execute in a very high level,” Jackson reflects. The majority of the classes are relatively small; with roughly ten kids for each class, providing an intimate and personal experience with the choreographer.

Weekly classes are a core component to EDN!C’s mission of youth empowerment. Through dance, a creative outlet for achievement is provided for students. For many, dance becomes a natural therapeutic avenue for emotion expression and coping. With many of our students living in low-income areas, it is important that we help them advocate for themselves and their futures as the leaders of tomorrow.

If your school or organization is interested in classes, please contact chicago@everybodydancenow.org

Chicago Community Member Spotlight

Meet Monyett Crump!

by Briana Madden 

Monyett Crump may have just pulled off two extremely well-received and quickly beloved workshop events in Chicago, but most in the community just know him as an exuberant teacher and committed student. Reveal Vol. 1 in September of 2017 got the ball rolling for an even more successful Vol. 2 earlier this month. Instructors and dancers alike can’t seem to stop lauding the talents Monyett brought together to create an inspiring, positive and community-driven event. As footage from classes like Melvin TimTim’s, Vinh Nguyen’s and of course, Monyett’s, continue to circulate, it’s safe to say Chicago is ready for Vol. 3 in the fall.

All this buzz could easily go to a person’s head, but for Monyett, it’s really about sharing his craft and focusing on the simpler, core values of hip hop. As a self-proclaimed “YouTube kid” who only took his first formal class five years ago, Monyett got his start at family parties and through learning choreography from YouTube videos. “When I imagine hip hop, I imagine it to be a big party, everybody just jamming and having a good time together, listening to music, and just dancing…To me, if you want to dance, and you like to dance, then that’s it,” he said.

According to Monyett, social media is the reason for both positive and negative changes lately in the culture around hip hop and urban choreography. He praises platforms like Instagram for helping bring exposure to hip hop dance in general and helping some dancers book jobs in the industry. However, he’s not a fan of how some talented artists get left out entirely, saying, “There’s so many dope choreographers and teachers in the world, versus the ones that we just see on social media, that don’t get the recognition that they deserve.” If Monyett has anything to say about it, that will be changing.

With high hopes that future volumes of Reveal will continue to create more job opportunities for Chicago dancers and choreographers, Monyett has a clear vision for the type of energy he wants to cultivate. He even refused to even call it a “convention,” because he dislikes the competitive nature of the word and has dubbed Reveal a “dance experience” instead. “There’s no real passion in the word, ‘convention,’” said Crump.

A workshop event that’s actually by the community and for the community may seem too good to be true, but Monyett Crump made it happen and is committed to continue building the experience.  He truly just wants to show off the talent in the community, saying “The more talent that is seen and revealed (I love that word), the more opportunities that can come.”

For info on the Chicago-based dance experience, Reveal, visit www.revealdance.com

→  Follow @crumpitize_me to view more of Monyett's dance journey  ←

Staff of EDN: Jordan Ordonez

Meet Jordan Ordonez!
EDN! Chicago Chapter Director

by Alyssa Leahy

Jordan Ordonez is a dancer and leader in the dance community who continuously aims to learn more in his experiences to share with his works and community. He has been a part of the EDN! team for four years now; one year as Assistant Director and the last three years as Chapter Director.

Within his time with EDN!, Jordan has been able to work with the Chicago team in rebuilding program models and implementing new leadership structures into the community. He is working with the EDN! branches to help these models grow and expand youth empowerment and community involvement. Having different branches around the country, EDN! is able to have so many different teachers and backgrounds to work with; which is a huge interest for Jordan.

Jordan continues to learn and practice different styles while in Chicago and traveling, such as house and hip hop, and brings his experiences back to teach others what he learns. Outside of EDN! and dance, Jordan is working on his pharmacist career and finding his way to help and serve the underserved; sharing his knowledge with those who need it.

Within both Jordan’s dance life and personal life, he is aiming towards building more community involvement and being a leader while learning from his surroundings in the process. Jordan says, “The mission of EDN! is truly a passion of community building and youth empowerment, both on a micro scale and a macro scale.” He is happy to dance and work with people of the past and new connections to help get to the mission of our future!

Gratitude - A Director's Note

by Jordan Ordonez

At this point in my life, I have grown to strongly value four things in life: gratitude, understanding, happiness, and authenticity. This list is by no means complete, but during my twenty-six years, I have adopted these core values into my identity. Today, I would like to talk about gratitude.

I wholeheartedly believe that the best way to express gratitude is, not by simply saying, “thank you”, but by the act of “paying it forward”. Dance has been a part of my life for more than ten years and it has given me so much - passion, love, life-long friendships, and so much more. Dance makes me happy, it has become a therapeutic tool, and it gives me community.

I have been with Everybody Dance Now! for four years and have put in countless hours of work. This is my way of paying it forward and showing my gratitude to dance and my dance community. For the new year, I call on all of my friends, loved ones, and acquaintances to take stock of your life, find the part that has given you joy, and show your gratitude by paying it forward. Use your art, sports, or your profession to find a way to give back. That might be with your time, your money, or your support. Exchange and spread the knowledge that you have with others in your community. Volunteer your time, or donate a few dollars. Anything counts. It all matters.

- Jordan Ordonez

 

Honesty and transparency feels nice. Community and team support feels even better.

Kind disclaimer: I have not yet moved to India. My husband and I will move here October 2018 to October 2019 for his doctorate work on Tibetan Buddhism, as there is a well-known Tibetan University here amongst a few already established Buddhist holy sites and temples. We are here this Winter to figure out how we will live here for a year.

།དྲང་བདེན་དྭངས་གསལ་དགའ་ཉམས་ནས། །མི་སྡེ་རོགས་རམ་བདེ་ཆེ་བ།

Finally arriving after twenty-two hours of travel, Jed and I followed our cab driver out to the parking lot with our two backpacks each in tow. We plopped in the run-down car and established our destination as Sarnath, a forty-five minute drive from Varanasi. The driver fiddled with the radio until he landed on a song that suited his mood for the drive. I do the same thing back home in the States.

The music reflected and enhanced all that we witnessed and all of the visceral, direct experiences that India emanates: the sway of cows as they walked across the middle of the road, the men laying bricks in mud to complete half-built homes, the barefoot children laughing as they flew their homemade kites in the brisk wind, the teenagers walking home from school in uniform with scarves across their mouth protecting their lungs, the permeating smell of burning coal and car exhaust, the dust flying as our driver quickly weaved and honked by every moving object, and the mothers rocking their young ones on the back of motorcycles cautiously moving along the hectic road. I don’t see these same things back home in the States.

We arrived at our guest house and were greeted in the small garden entrance by a woman wearing a beautifully colored Sari. With gratitude for this well-maintained facility, we thanked the host for her hospitality in showing us to our room. Although lacking the appliances of an average rental back home, and regulating extra pay per day for heated water and a space heater, the room was a palace in comparison to what most families have in this town. Culture shock is a real thing ya'll, and one needs to be given the space necessary to integrate a very different way of living. The shock reminded me of when I had moved from small town Missouri to New York City when I was nineteen... but multiplied times one hundred. 

During our first couple days, my husband and I attended a conference relating religious approaches to “mind” and science. His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama attended and spoke at the first seminar, and what an incredible gift his words were. He spoke on the strength of global peace brought about through ongoing discussion. The more we can recognize our boundaries are only in place due to lack of communication about our differences in thought, the more we can cultivate opportunities for dialogue, eventually breaking down boundaries and bringing peace. He said that war was an outdated mental construct, and that we as a global consciousness can prevent war through conversation. We will realize that our strength exists in our differences.

I am beyond grateful for the flexibility that my work allows due to the open minds and creative beings that Everybody Dance Now! maintains. My colleagues understand that family takes priority, and have been supportive of my request to remain working remotely during the next year. Honesty and transparency feels nice: This is where I am at, this is what I need, how can we make it work. Community and team support feels even better: We got your back, let’s work together to find a way to make it work.

This is where we must be headed as a global consciousness: create work mindsets and opportunities that serves the employee as much as it serves the company as much as it serves the community as much as it serves our greater existence.

(Video taken on our only stretch of straight/paved driving)