Dancers' suicide prevention message

The Penticton School of Dance (PSD) announced Monday that junior faculty members and students Renzo Mabalay, 22, Russell Lee, 17, and Gurman Toor, 13, of the school's Dream High Crew each received scholarships to the national annual Street Groove Hip Hop Dance Convention taking place in Vancouver on Jan. 26 and 27.

Responding to their personal experiences with bullying as well as the Amanda Todd cyber bullying tragedy, the street dance crew was encouraged by PSD Artistic Director Krystal Kiran Garib to channel their feelings into their art.

What followed was a self-produced dance film with a strong anti-bullying message.

"I can't speak for the boys, but what I can say is that this video comes from a very heartfelt place,” says Garib. “We always encourage our students to share their frustrations and feelings in a constructive manner which, in this case, is through dance. By making a video, these guys could share their message with the world. The work speaks for itself. We are very proud of their resilience, hard work and passion.”

After putting it up on YouTube, Garib shared the video with her network of colleagues and friends and was contacted by Alex Pesusich, director of Vancouver’s Groove Street Productions who invited the Dream High Crew to attend the Street Groove Convention on full scholarship.

After viewing it,  Pesusich posted, “I'm actually speechless.  I'm sitting here and don't know what to write. All teared up and full of emotion. What a beautiful video! It's super powerful and … makes you think about the repercussions of bullying."

Members of the crew, who often perform at the Penticton Farmer's Market and other events in the city, said they were thrilled by the response.

"We were inspired to speak up and we feel very happy, overwhelmed and appreciated," said Mabalay. "This is really great news for the crew."

Lee said response to the video has been great and they were even contacted by the Penticton mayor.

“We are so excited about the scholarship. It’s really great knowing that all our hard work is paying off.  There will be a couple of teachers there that I’ve been inspired by and I’m so thrilled to be able to work with them as well as with all the other dancers from so many different styles,” he said.

Street Groove Hip Hop Dance Convention attracts dancers from across Canada and offers a full weekend of classes by the entertainment industry's top choreographers and dancers. For more information go to www.groovestreet.net.

Dream High Crew has been sponsored by Penticton School of Dance since 2011 under the guidance and mentorship of faculty members Mike Cota, Krystal Kiran Garib and Jesse Catibog (So You Think You Can Dance Canada and PSD Guest Faculty Member). DHC presently teaches Junior Hip Hop at Penticton School of Dance.

For more information visit www.pentictondance.com.

Here is the Dream High Crew YouTube video. Please note that viewer discretion is advised.


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