Throughout this semester I have worked closely with the start- up company, Bmore Than Dance, in an effort to raise positivity in Baltimore through the creative expression of dance.
Errigh LaBoo(who goes by “Neek” on stage) is my business partner, the founder of the “King of Baltimore” series and Bmore Than Dance, as well as a mentor for many “Shake It Off” dancers. I had the wonderful opportunity to do primary research on the effect of the arts in inner- city culture at events and competitions. The Qualifying Events at the end of each month allowed me to conduct surveys and interviews to gather more information about the nature of the dance and the community that surround it. I have heard many times how beneficial this dance is for the city of Baltimore. I have met many talented individuals who have a passion for artistic expression with no outlet to really explore it fully.
“When I was 16 I watched my brother dance around every day. I continue dancing because I enjoy it, it’s something to build off of, it gives me something to occupy my time and keep me out of trouble”- Diquan Gwin
“Not all is bad in Baltimore. If they took a look at this they would see this is something positive” –Ryan AKA Shaggy
“I started dancing when I was 16, it was the only way I knew how to prove to the world that I do also have a talent. It impacted me by keeping me off the streets and away from drugs. I continue to dance because I love to dance, I don’t see myself stopping any time soon. ”- Luigi
“I started dancing because it provided me with another form of an outlet that allowed me to ‘escape’ reality when I needed to. Dancing gives me the opportunity to help others.” – Kenneth “Spazz” Tisdale
Early on, I developed a team comprised of students and mentors to help with website development, public relations, communication, and marketing. A big problem the community has faced is the lack of space to perform or rehearse, and they often take to dancing in the streets or each other’s homes. This discourages many people from continuing to dance, and there are many stories about good dancers who end up badly after they quit. One of the main focuses of the program is to prove to the dancers that their talent is worth something and not to go give up. While our sponsorship has not yet allowed us to attain a space, we are getting much closer. My project has now been funded the Undergraduate Research Award of $1,200 through the Office of Undergraduate Education, and through our promotional events, we have been approached by many, many other organizations interested in working with Bmore Than Dance to secure space for our group.
I have been working on the company website, which was previously only a video that one could click on to watch a short trailer summarizing the movement. I wanted the website to help the movement grow, to be able to show to sponsors or festival and performance managers or schools interested in after-school programs we offer. The website has been a tremendous success for Bmore Than Dance. I have received daily emails through the site from individuals asking questions about booking the dancers for performances, events, photo shoots, interviews, and magazine spreads or inquiring about classes.
You can read the article here.
The Bmore Than Dance movement really took off during the Freddie Grey Protests. Bmore Than Dance held daily events where dancers and audiences gathered to support the positivity the arts brought to the community at that time. With so much attention on Baltimore, and so much of the city joining together, the dancers believed it was time to act. I designed flyers to hand out at their events containing information on Bmore Than Dance and was approached by multiple people and non- profit organizations (including the Baltimore Urban Dance Project and Urban Artistry) interested in holding events, having the dancers teach after school programs, and giving space and funds to Bmore Than Dance. Our page received over 100,000 views in less than 24 hours.
Bmore Than Dance also teamed up with the I Love Baltimore movement. The events coordinator approached me at the event the preceding day as she was passing by and asked if Bmore Than Dance could perform, providing dancing and music before the marchers begin to walk. This march aimed to allow the youth of East and West Baltimore to write questions to the mayor on posters and march to City Hall. That was an incredible opportunity for Bmore Than Dance to spread the positivity we talk about in our mission statement, as well as a chance to expose Baltimore Dance as an art form, and a chance for the dancers to receive media coverage of their talent.
I felt that Bmore Than Dance hugely impacted the Baltimore community with it’s positive youth movement and emphasis on dance as an emotional outlet. My work with the company helped it to gain the resources they needed through partnership with other similar non-profits, and I was able to find the dancers a plethora of opportunities for performances and photo shoots. Before this class, I wouldn’t have thought of this as activism, but I absolutely view it as such now. Dance, to these kids, is so vital, important, and positive in their lives, and I am so proud to say that I could help them. Activism doesn’t mean you have to protest or be angry. I was an activist by taking part in a movement I deeply care about in a city I deeply care about, I sent emails, I designed flyers, I had a phone call with a Councilman! Over the summer, I’m planning to expand my team so we can really keep the movement growing.
You can help by checking out the Bmore Than Dance website, sharing and reposting the TONS of videos and pictures available through the site, and using the hashtags #BmoreThanDance #DanceforJustice