News / Arts & Entertainment

Asian Americans Break Stereotypes Through Urban Dance

Asian Americans Break Stereotypes through Urban Dancei
X
June 24, 2013 10:26 AM
Hip hop culture expressed through music and dance is often associated with the black and Latino cultures in the United States. The youth of these cultures may have started hip hop more than 40 years ago in urban New York, but it has now become mainstream, with Asian Americans finding a prominent place in hip hop or urban dance. Elizabeth Lee reports from southern California.
Elizabeth Lee
Hip hop culture expressed through music and dance is often associated with the black and Latino cultures in the United States.  The youth of these cultures may have started hip hop more than 40 years ago in urban New York, but it has now become mainstream, with Asian Americans finding a prominent place in hip hop or urban dance. 

Whether it's dancing freestyle in a cypher or dance circle, or a carefully choreographed routine, when these dancers move their bodies, something magical happens, said Philippine urban dancer Michelle Salazar.

“My first mentor, he said dancing is like touching the face of God.  That’s just how I feel,” said Salazar.

Some call it hip hop, others -- urban dance.  It’s no longer just associated with African Americans or Latinos.  Philippine American Arnel Calvario is one of the pioneers of Asian American urban dance.  When he was growing up in the 1970s and 1980s, he saw other Filipinos as well as African Americans and Latinos dancing in the streets of his neighborhood in southern California.  In junior high, he said he surprised some African American girls who saw him dance.

“They’d verbally say that 'I’ve never seen an Asian guy dance like that,' you know.  That was a pivotal moment for me.  In one sense you can be kind of offended by that," explained Calvario. "It kind of felt like I needed to do something about that.”

In college, in the early 1990s, Calvario incorporated this uniquely American dance form into a Philippine culture show.  He formed the dance company Kaba Modern and started a phenomenon where Asian American dance companies began emerging throughout universities in southern California. 

“It quickly spread to the Chinese associations, the Japanese, Vietnamese...it was a really interesting time because within a year, it spread so fast,” he noted.

Lorenzo Perillo is teaching a class in hip hop dance at Cornell University this fall.

“It’s kind of like something that is seen as foreign to a particular culture and saying no, it’s not foreign, it’s actually something that we all do, we just don’t consider it; we just haven’t shifted our paradigm yet,” he said.

African American Dineytra Lee’s paradigm shifted when she auditioned for a hip hop dance crew. 

“I go to the audition and I see nothing but Asians and I’m like, 'what’s going on there.' It’s literally a legitimate culture shock,” she said.

What Asian Americans saw in their community for years was not represented on television until recently with dance competition TV shows where predominantly Asian American urban dancers exploded into mainstream media.
 
“It was never so prominent as it is now.  Now we’re all over," said Calvario. "And in these dance shows we did dominate.”

This not only breaks traditional American stereotypes of Asians being either martial artists or nerds. Vietnamese Chinese American Kan Dang said the prominence of Asian American urban dancers in the media helps older Asian immigrants see dance differently. “You normally wouldn’t tell your parents you dance cause they feel like it would be a distraction from your studies, but now I think it’s accepted," Dang explained. "That it’s like a good stress reliever or a time to meet people in school.”

With social media, hip hop dance no longer belongs to any particular minority group.  It has spread globally with dancers around the world expressing themselves through this form of movement.

You May Like

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

New in Music Alley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the latest edition of "Beyond Category" blues singer and guitarist Corey Harris performs with his band and talks about his travels in West Africa tracing the roots of the blues.