LOS ANGELES -- Tiffany Bong is an international hip hop dance artist and faculty member of the University of Southern California Glorya Kaufman School of Dance.
She is also program director for Kaufman Connections, a new initiative for community engagement, which this year has brought BFA dance students from USC to the 32nd Street Magnet School to teach students from grades 3 to 5 how to hip hop dance.
Today is the spring culmination showcase where the USC dance students, called “teaching artists,”and their kids get to show off what they've learned over the past two semesters.
“Hip hop was created by kids, and kids need a voice,” explained Bong at the Glorya Kaufman campus. “So what we wanted to do was empower our future generation to have a voice, to continue the tradition of hip hop. Really, it's about them taking the basics and expressing themselves.”
The program has been teaching some 200 kids not only the basics of hip hop movement, but also about the culture of hip hop. The idea is to help kids to develop the life skills that are embedded in the dance making process.
32nd Street Magnate School teacher Nikki Feldman said, “They learn how to choreography their own hip hop dance. So, they've had to work together in small groups and just come together as this little community of new dancers…and they are so excited.”
Tiffany, who's worked in K through 12 dance education for over 10 years, acted as mentor throughout the process as the teaching artists from USC worked with each school group to learn their dance vocabulary and develop their routines.
“Not only is it great for your brain and your body, right, but it's good for your social emotional well-being,” said Bong. “In hip hop culture, everyone is invited to the table.”
Jada Fry, a student at 32nd Street said, “It gets your heart pumping and you get exercise out of it, which is fun.”
After each school group had showed off their dance routines the teachers, friends and family of the students joined in for some freestyle fun in a giant dance circle that capped off the day.
“To be 8-10 years-old and to walk on stage and dance, that is a lot, and that can transfer into other areas of their life,” said Bong.
This is the first year for the Kauffman Connections hip hop dance program, but Bong says that as the program solidifies, the plan is to continue and share the dance with even more schools.