Breakdancing on the Move

Fog rises from the Teslin recreational centre stage where the Rock-C Rollers jump and shriek their way across the blacklit platform.

A guitarist grasps the instrument’s hard-plastic neck and manipulates the faux electric guitar high into the air as an AC/DC solo pummels the portable speaker system.

To her right, two lead singers, bejewelled in facial glitter, croon the invisible audience to their feet as a semicircle of supporters raise their hands in rock-and-roll salute behind them.

A senior camp instructor, hidden on stage right under a hooded black sweater, flicks a light on and off in mere second intervals, crafting a strobe-like effect that heightens the band’s feverish uproar.

Dressed in a mishmash of sunglasses, sequins and the most-vibrant colours they could find in their dresser drawers, these rockers are ready for their music video debut.

While the Rock-C Rollers are stars in their own right, they are actually 19 participants, ranging in age from five to 13, who are enrolled in the BYS 2009 summer hip hop/breakdancing camps.

The recreational centre gym has been transformed into a rocking backdrop with the help of the participants to coincide with this week’s theme of rock and roll.

Pieces of paper, boasting the band’s name, adorn the back wall. A super-awesome rock-star machine, constructed from cardboard and duct tape and decorated with cut-out music paraphernalia, sits in the wings.

How else would the Teslin rockers get to main stage where an audience of fanatic millions waited?

Instructors Nick Robinson, Mellisa Kwok and myself, under the direction of Andrea Simpson-Fowler, lead the participants through a week of dance, choreography and arts. Robinson and Kwok entertain the participants with hip hop and breakdancing choreography, throughout the day.

Simpson-Fowler teaches a preschool dance class for children under five. I work with the kids in the afternoons – crafting, filming their choreography and assembling the video. The camp week and its hip-hop-focused activities culminate in a music video and show put on for the community.

The camps, which run until August 21, in Whitehorse, at Leaping Feats Creative Danceworks studio, are currently underway in Yukon communities. Teslin is the second of four stops where the camps will run for one week, along with Carcross, Dawson and Mayo.

While much of the excitement for the young participants lies in being taught dance moves by breakdancer Robinson and hip hopper Kwok, the other component is being part of the music video that features them.

The video features their newly acquired dance skills as well as their own student choreography. The kids also partake in creating the storyline and video theme.

We frequented Teslin during our community tour last summer and it’s already apparent dance is catching on quickly in the territory, even in rural areas like this.

This year’s participant turnout in Teslin is far greater than last summer’s and, watching everybody shadowing Robinson and Kwok, it’s evident many of the Teslin youth have been practising.

Some youth have the opportunity to travel to the territory’s capital for recreation and sports, but, for many, summer camps put on in their communities is the only time to partake in such activities.

While the community camps have challenges of their own (including far fewer participants showing up in the morning and more at-risk youth), it’s extremely rewarding to see these dance projects get off the ground.

It’s even more rewarding to see the participants step-touching and top-rocking with smiles on their faces. At our camp-end show, held on Friday, the recreational centre was packed.

All of the chairs that the youth aligned for family and friends were full. Our week of dance camp was a success, and I have no doubt the Rock-C Rollers have acquired rock-star status here in Teslin.

Aislinn Cornett covers dance and dancers in the Yukon. If you have an upcoming dance performance, please contact her at [email protected]

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