Penticton dance crew uses passion for anti-bullying message

Face-to-face with the harsh realities of bullying, a trio of Penticton youth have turned to their passion rather than their fists to respond.

“There are three types of bullying — physical, verbal and social. We have socially been bullied before through cyber-bullying and we thought we could brush it off but it just kept coming and coming,” said Russell Lee. “Then it started being more verbal and almost to the point it got physical. That was the time we raised our voices and said that is enough.”

Dream High Crew, which consists of Renzo Mabalay, Lee and Gurman Toor, were encouraged by Penticton School of Dance artistic director Krystal Kiran Garib to channel their feelings into their art. The result is a powerful video incorporating dance as the way to spread their message of anti-bullying.

“We want this to be a video that once people see it they think about it all day. We want it to help them be the change,” said Lee.

Toor, the youngest of the dance crew at 13-years-old, said it is wrong for someone to come after you because you are doing what you love. He said dance has helped him express his feelings in a positive way and that is how the idea for the video themed around the lasting, and sometimes fatal, effects of bullying.

“If I get really angry at something I can go home in front of a mirror and just dance it out. You can channel it all into your moves and not into your fists,” said Toor.

Choosing to take this path to speak out and raise awareness has earned them scholarships to the national annual Street Groove Hip Hop Dance Convention taking place in Vancouver this weekend. Dream High Crew posted their video on YouTube and Garib shared it with her network of colleagues and friends, when it was seen by Alex Pesusich, the director of the Groove Street Productions.

“There are going to be a lot of amazing dance instructors there. People who we have all wanted to meet since we started dancing. These are the people that inspired us to dance,” said Mabalay.

Dream High Crew will be performing along with other students at Penticton School of Dance on Feb. 2 at the South Main Senior’s Drop-In Centre for the Flavours of India dinner and show. This event is a fundraiser for the school’s scholarship fund. Besides the trio’s hip hop and breakdancing styles, different genres featured include ballet, tap and bollywood.

“The money raised at the event will go towards helping kids who can’t otherwise afford to dance. Last year we did well over $30,000 in bursaries and scholarships,” said Jas Garib, fundraiser organizer. “Last year we had almost 100 kids who received a benefit of a scholarship or monthly reduction in fees. At the end of the day giving one child the ability to do something active or to take them off the street and get them into the studio dancing, singing or whatever its worthwhile. If we can do it for 10 or more then it is that much more gratifying.”

Tickets are available at the Penticton School of Dance. They are also looking for volunteers for the event. Those interested can contact reception@pentictondance.com for more info.

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