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

Is Air Travel Safe?

Aviation expert says despite tragic losses of Malaysian Airlines flights 370 and 17, industry experienced lowest fatality rate in recorded history last year More

Multimedia 100 Days Later, Nigerian Girls Still Held

Activists holding rallies in Nigeria and several other countries to mark 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls being held by Boko Haram More

Chocolate Too Bitter? Swap Sugar for Mushrooms

US food technology company develops fermentation process using mushrooms to reduce bitterness in cocoa beans, believes it will cut sugar content in candy More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israeli
X
Carolyn Presutti
July 23, 2014 1:21 AM
The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israel

The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video NASA Focuses on Earth-Like Planets

For decades, looking for life elsewhere in the universe meant listening for signals that could be from distant civilizations. But recent breakthroughs in space technology refocused some of that effort toward finding planets that may harbor life, even in its primitive form. VOA’s George Putic reports on a recent panel discussion at NASA’s headquarters, in Washington.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

The Hamilton Live

Acclaimed jazz saxophonist Tia Fuller has made a name for herself appearing with such high-profile artists as Beyonce, Esperanza Spalding, and Terri Lyne Carrington. Tia and her quartet performed music from her CD “Angelic Warrior” on our latest edition of "The Hamilton Live."