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Dance camp helps students new to dancing find their own groove

Collaborative instructor Archie Saquilabon and dance instructor Brittnie Aguilar both aided in PNG x Body Rock: Dance Camp 2019, an event held over the weekend that aimed to balance nurturing individual style and group synchronization in beginner-level dancers.
(Amy Dixon/Daily Bruin senior staff)

By Max Kieling

July 7, 2019 9:03 pm

Individual style and group synchronization are often difficult for dancers to balance.

Last weekend, PNG x Body Rock: Dance Camp 2019 aimed to address this contradiction.

Passion Nurtures Growth, a dance organization, and Body Rock Dance Competition held the camp at the John Wooden Center on Saturday and Sunday. The event’s 10 master classes were taught by experienced instructors such as Buddha Stretch – a choreographer and dancer who worked alongside Michael Jackson and Mariah Carey – as well as instructors from multiple dance fields. Despite the instructors’ experiences working with professional dancers, PNG executive board member Alicia Yang said the camp aimed to help new dancers develop their own styles while teaching them the basics of dance and choreography.

“An important mission of all PNG camps is to create a safe space for dancers to step out of their comfort zones and discover new styles,” Yang said.

The classes were structured so that students could discover and enhance their own individual styles. The teachers’ distinct dance backgrounds are shaped by styles specific to where they are from, Yang said, and offered students a wide array of choreography to learn. Students could choose to attend small group activities sessions, a class focusing on individual artistic development and Q&A panels. Brittnie Aguilar, a dance instructor at the camp, said these sessions helped the dancers create and build on their distinct styles.

Aguilar said students and instructors broke into smaller groups to engage in short activities. Each teacher then conducted their class, with the separate classes allowing the instructors to get more one-on-one time with the students.

“By offering such a wide variety of classes and activities, students (could) choose whichever form of dance or choreography they preferred to work on with up-close attention,” Aguilar said.

A diverse faculty helped give students these options. For instance, Stretch taught hip-hop and instructor Alyson Van specialized in multiple technical styles such as contemporary, jazz and street style.

“We have faculty from Canada, Korea and all over the United States,” Yang said. “The dance camp is almost like a big family reunion, except the family reunion is open to new friends that want to join us.”

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Stylewise, the camp featured representatives teaching hip-hop, contemporary and street style such as Chicago footwork, along with an urban dance community, Yang said. This amalgamation of styles allowed new dancers to discover their own methods of dancing by opening them up to a variety of stylistic possibilities, said collaborative instructor Archie Saquilabon. Taking classes in different styles helps dancers figure out what type of dance feels good to them, which Saquilabon said can help them continue to build off that foundation.

“The PNG workshop offers opportunities for students to break the ice and ask questions about the journey and styles of each instructor,” Saquilabon said. “This way the students can get to know us and our teaching styles better.”

To assist in the dancers’ learning, the camp conducted drills that focused on hard-hitting and soft-textured movement – which Saquilabon said helps students learn choreography from their instructor while highlighting how the differing moves impact their bodies. The drills facilitated an intimate level of growth and learning between instructor and student, Saquilabon said.

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Prior to the dance camp, many members of the faculty had been working with professional dancers – now working with new dancers, Yang said, the contrast presents a challenge for the teachers. However, PNG instructors are able to individually help new dancers by focusing on elevating their strengths or addressing certain weaknesses. For example, Saquilabon said the camp pushed the students to improve difficult skills through flexibility and posture drills while also including moments where they could showcase movements they were more comfortable doing.

“As instructors, it’s imperative to learn how to adapt to the student’s learning style so we can form a bond and help the student to the best of our ability,” Saquilabon said.

Since communication between the students and the teachers is so important, the instructors recommended attending “The Journey,” a Q&A panel before and after the classes were taught, Saquilabon said. PNG x Body Rock: Dance Camp 2019 was intended to help develop each student’s style by providing a space for guidance, pushing them stylistically while allowing them to reach their destinations on their own by discovering their own styles, he said.

“Regardless of the exact method, the most important aspect of teaching for PNG is communicating and understanding the goals of the dancer,” Yang said. “The dancer always comes first.”

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Max Kieling
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