I came to Detroit with goals to learn more about the city and to immerse myself into the community. I know all my DukeEngage Detroit colleagues would say the same as well and this week I took a big step into furthering my dedication towards this goal.
Dancing is a passion of mine and back at Duke I am a part of a multicultural dance team known as Defining Movement as well as a Bollywood dance team known as Rhydhun. I’m experienced in traditional Indian dances such as Bhangra and Raas and have some experience in hip hop dance. A type of dance I’ve always wanted to learn and have had an interest in since I was a kid is breakdancing (breaking, “bboy”-ing, etc.). I felt as if coming to Detroit for the summer and learning breakdance from such an influential hub of hip hop and breaking culture would be an experience I couldn’t pass up on.
After some digging online and talking to people at ProsperUS, I was able to find Benito Vasquez a.k.a Mav-One. Mav-One founded the Motor City Street Dance Academy out of Garage Cultural in Southwest Detroit to stay connected to the neighborhood he was from and to pass on what he’s learned from breaking to the younger generation. I went to Motor City Street Dance Academy on Thursday to meet him and ask him to teach me how to breakdance.
Traveling from Midtown to Southwest, there was a clear change in environment that I am accustomed to seeing in Detroit as you move a few miles outside Midtown/Downtown. Motor City Street Dance Academy on Livernois Avenue is located in an artistic looking garage with a large mural on the side; the garage is known as “Garage Cultural”. When I first walked in, I saw a ton of posters on the walls about upcoming community workshops and bboy battles and as I continued to walk further in, there was a room at the end of the hall with a large dance floor, a mirror to one side, and large mural of a breakdance session on the other. Mav was teaching an advanced youth class as I walked in and told me to come in and just watch until he finished up. He was teaching 4 kids probably ranging from about age 10 to 14 and their footwork was very impressive considering how young they were. The setting was very casual even though it was a class and I met and introduced myself to the boys. A few older boys around my age walked in too and I met and introduced myself to them as well and I learned this would be their 2nd session at Motor City Street Dance. All the boys were Hispanic and they assumed I was too considering we were in Southwest and they started to converse in Spanish with me only to be met with my somewhat confused looks (as I only went to Intermediate Spanish in High school).
Mav explained to me that from 7-10 PM the space I was in was open to anyone in the neighborhood who wanted to use it to break for just $2. One of the first people that came in was a guy named Dez-G. I introduced myself as a beginner after he warmed up with some impressive footwork and power moves and asked for advice. He had been breaking for 8 years apparently and gave me some solid advice on how to do my first windmill and add flare to my footwork. Afterwards, I learned some beginner top-rock moves and continued to watch Dez-G perform power moves and footwork effortlessly.
This was the experience I wanted to have coming to Detroit and I’ll be back this week to continue to learn.