At just five years old, Penticton’s Damien Evans has a bit of a star quality about him.
Not one to shy away from showing off his dance moves, Evans is the main character in a children’s book written by his father.
“I think kids will like it because they like dancing,” said Evans. “My dad is teaching me in the book and I like learning different moves.”
His dad, Jake Evans, is well known in the Okanagan as a hip hop instructor with Jake Evans Dance Instruction (JEDI), together they have published Feelin’ The Beat – dancing hip hop with Jake and Damien. While it gives the younger Evans a chance to shine, it also fulfills a dream for Jake.
“I love teaching kids so this fit right in with that. It is not just inspiring kids to read but also to get up and dance and to be active,” said Jake. “
He had the idea for a children’s book involving dance a few years ago, but with a busy schedule it was put on the back burner. That is, until Jake received some encouragement from Raise-A-Reader volunteer Jasmine John-Thorpe. With their financial backing, and partner Valley First Credit Union, Jake got local artist Endrené Shepherd to shoot some photos of his son and him doing some dance moves.
“Even if we stopped there I would have been cool with it because the photos were so great. But, I started putting them in order for an actual dance and made kind of a comic book out of it. Then Endrené came in and made these great illustrations,” said Jake, adding that Angela Hook designed the book.
Now with the book in hand, Jake and Damien have been touring local schools reading to kids and getting them dancing. Jake said he hopes it doesn’t stop there.
“I want these kids to take it home and read it with their parents and grandparents. Anybody can do these moves and they are really simple by design. My goal is to go right across the country with this in dance studios and schools and maybe even some spinoff books,” he said.
In turn, he hopes to ignite a passion for kids to try dancing. In a way it is paying it forward for the instructor. He recalls the first time he was ever introduced to breakdancing when some older youths came to his school and were breaking, popping and doing the robot.
“I was in Halifax and the farthest away you could be from any of that kind of culture. It blew my mind and was so profound, but in my small community no one was adventurous enough to try it and, to be honest, it wasn’t really seen as cool for guys to be dancing at that time unless it was a traditional cultural type of dance. It was always stuck in my head though,” said Jake.
It wasn’t until he was 27 that Jake questioned why, as a drummer that keeps rhythm for a whole band, he couldn’t dance. Behind closed doors in his bedroom and living room he began practicing.
“I then went to Los Angeles for an intensive workshop and these guys armed me with the funk. Everything I was doing up until then was stiff and not right. They had this groove that I was missing and when I went back home people noticed a difference and started to seek me out for instruction. That was the start of a huge urban dance scene I started there,” said Jake.
For the past seven years, Jake has been growing that scene in Penticton through his JEDI classes. His son naturally took to it, learning all the moves he sees his dad doing.
“There was no pressure on him to dance. I do it for fun, the art and the way it makes me feel and so does Damien. Now I am still teaching dance, have a great son, a new book and I couldn’t be more excited,” said Jake.
To order a copy contact Jake at firstname.lastname@example.org or on the Facebook page JEDI Urban Dance Studio.