I met children’s TV writer Calvin Leung in a puppeteering class. The first thing I noticed was how gracefully he moved, and how out of all the puppeteers, he was the only one that could tell a story with the intricate movement of his hands. Then I found out that Calvin was a hip-hop dancer that was heavily involved in the street dancing community, and it all made sense. Calvin Leung comes from a science background and specializes in the “Robot” dance move, which is why his dancer name is Centrifugal Force. He was a lab rat from Yale University that came to Los Angeles to become a storyteller at Pasadena’s Art Center College of Design, and the initial friends he found were street dancers. Calvin at first set out to write a story about the street dance community in 2000, but what ended up happening was that he became a dancer himself three years later, co-founded the dance event company Keep It Live Productions in 2010, and now, with his production company Plixyl Studios, he’s on the verge of completing “Furious Beauty”, a beautiful feature-length documentary following the Hip-Hop dance company Versa-Style, as they produce a theatrical production based on, for the first time ever, their own personal fears and desperation.
This week, I had the pleasure of meeting and dancing with the Versa-Style Dance Company, founded and directed by 3x House Champion and teacher for fifteen years, Jackie Lopez (AKA Miss Funk) and 2x Pop’N Champion Leigh Foaad (AKA Breeze-Lee). I was immediately struck by how welcoming and genuine the dancers were, and realized that they were not only a company, but also a family, and that Jackie and Leigh were not only the parents, but also the supportive mentors to the group. Versa-Style performs Hip-Hop styles such as Pop’N, Lock’N, Wack’N, Boogaloo, and Afro-Latin styles such as Salsa, Merengue, Cumbia, and Afro-Cuban for schools around Los Angeles, to instill a sense of social and political history, roots, and cultural pride in the youth. The dance members have learned that the self-worth, discipline, knowledge, and sense of unity that they’ve earned from being a part of the company is much more valuable than any fame they could garner on a show like “America’s Got Talent”. In fact, Jackie Lopez has said that shows like that have approached her company, but she always turns them down. Her focus is primarily on inspiring and motivating the dancers she works with to follow their dreams with a stronger sense of self-esteem.
Calvin Leung is starting a Kickstarter campaign this week to raise funds for an original music composer for “Furious Beauty”. This documentary is incredibly inspirational, and, with quality music, it will have the credibility to get distribution and help Versa-Style reach and inspire even more youth, not only in Los Angeles, but also across America. Please consider donating what you can to the “Furious Beauty” documentary HERE, and if you are not able to at this moment, we’d appreciate you sharing this article or the Kickstarter campaign link on your Facebook or Twitter page. Also, adding “Furious Beauty” on Facebook or Twitter helps. Calvin is hoping to raise $5000 between July 9th and August 7th, so anything you can do would be awesome!
In the video below, you’ll meet Director of “Furious Beauty”, Calvin Leung, and Versa-Style Artistic Directors Jackie Lopez and Leigh Foaad. You’ll see not only how Jackie and Leigh have contributed to their community, but also how they run a typical dance rehearsal, and you’ll see me dance with the support of the company members. In the following weeks, I’ll be posting “Dance of the Week” videos in which I’ll be learning dance moves from individual company members, so you’ll get to know each member a little more personally. Stay tuned because the videos will be super fun and you’ll learn some sweet moves. If you’d like to take classes with Versa-Style like I did, consider attending one of their classes at Evolution Dance Studios on Friday nights at 7:30 pm in Studio City, California. Information can be found HERE. Now, enjoy the video below and thank you for being a part of the “Furious Beauty” Kickstarter campaign.