Back in 2008, Brian Gerardo and his fellow teacher and good friend, Cynthia Chavez, decided to introduce hip-hop dance into the curriculum for their students at Reach Partnership and Baltimore Freedom Academy. The duo didn’t have any intention of beginning a club or an organization, instead seeking simply to create a better relationship with their students. But when word got out about their fun classes (and the fact that their students’ grades and attendance had improved), what began as a 12-person after-school workshop evolved into three youth programs and a hip hop dance company.
“The heart at what we do is about building relationships through hip hop dance,” says Gerardo. “These relationships are about building a student social capital, and creating long term connections that can support them throughout school, college, and into a career.”
The Baltimore Dance Crews Project includes an elementary school program, two middle school and high school companies, and an adult dance company that mentors the younger dancers. The programs focus on inner-city students, hoping to inspire creativity, interest in education and a citywide community.
“We’re bringing students from all parts of Baltimore together. People who would usually stay in their neighborhoods come together,” says Gerardo. “We are bridging the gaps of our city, which is huge for us. People of very different backgrounds are coming together for same reason: wanting to help youth. We’re all realizing that if we are going to tackle a challenge, the people who are closest to the challenge are the ones to solve it.”
One of their latest challenges? A $130 million budget cut to the Baltimore City Schools. The lack of funding ripples into after-school programs, leaving many students with nowhere to go when the final bell rings. BDCP is trying to reach students, as well as their families, by offering a safe, inspiring environment where students can dance, form friendships, and feel the support of the BDCP community.
“Our mission before was just to build relationships, but now we added that through hip hop dance we initiate and support relationships for students from school to career,” says Gerardo. “Now, it’s more of a village concept. The teachers can’t do it all by themselves. We need the families, the teachers, to build a crew around the student. That’s why we’re called the Baltimore Dance Crews Project.”
Baltimore Dance Crews Project presents its fifth annual concert, “I Can B-More,” on May 13th at 5:30pm at Notre Dame of Maryland University. Tickets are available online and at the door. www.baltimoredcp.org
Image courtesy of the BDCP Facebook.