Hip hop 101: Artist in residence teaches Edmonton students valuable lessons

Kids, and some staff, at Virginia Park school spent a week studying with a professional dancer and the school’s first hip-hop artist in residence.

'I always wanted to learn how to do hip hop, but I never thought I’d get the chance'

Josh Capulong cheers on students as they demonstrate the hip-hop moves he taught them as Virginia Park School's artist in residence. (Sheena Rossiter/CBC)

At Virginia Park School, elementary students are encouraged to learn a wide range of skills.

This month, kids and some staff spent a week studying with Josh Capulong, a professional dancer and the Edmonton school's first hip-hop artist in residence.

Classes from kindergarten to Grade 6 showed off their moves to a packed assembly on Friday.

A group of teachers and staff also took to the gymnasium floor for a surprise performance. And after the audience insisted, Capulong danced and did a couple of back flips for the crowd of cheering kids. 

Virginia Park School brought in professional dancer Josh Capulong as artist in residence to show students and staff a few hip hop moves. 0:22

Evan Harris, a Grade 6 student who learned to do the "Sponge Bob" last week, said he'd like to continue taking dance lessons.

"I always wanted to learn how to do hip hop, but I never thought I'd get the chance because I do soccer instead," he told CBC's Radio Active on Monday.

Capulong said he enjoying showing the boys that there are many male dancers making careers in the growing hip-hop dance scene.

Growing up as a "typical Canadian boy," Capulong said, he mostly played hockey. But when he was 17 he saw a music video that made him want to try dancing.

After a first failed attempt to learn, he said, he tried another class and loved it. When he turned 18, he went to Los Angeles to learn from some of the best.

In L.A., Capulong studied with Luam, one of Beyonce's choreographers, and credited her with inspiring his professional career.

"[She] really drew me in and made me want to become a dancer," he said, "She made all the students in her class feel amazing."

As a full-time dancer, Capulong, 27, has performed with Janet Jackson, Sean Kingston and choreographed a music video for K-pop stars NCT Dream.

He said he's grateful to be able to inspire other students.

Capulong said one parent of a Grade 2 boy told him her son has anxiety, and in the past week dance has helped him come out of his shell.

"He's been at the dance class, he's at the very front of the class, he's moving and he's wanting to be in school," Capulong said.

"[His mother] usually comes to pick him up early because he doesn't want to be in class. But the other day, when she came and talked to me, he wanted to stay and talk to the kids."

A group of students at Virginia Park School wow the crowd with a hip-hop performance, after spending a week studying with professional dancer Josh Capulong. (Sheena Rossiter/CBC)

On Friday, Grace Truscott demonstrated the shoop/hype move she learned. The Grade 6 student said she thinks the week has built up a sense of a community in her class.

"My friends and I have always had up and down with each other, but now that we're dancing and get to show each other our strengths we're a little closer than we were a week ago," she said.

Virginia Park assistant principal Robyn Davies said the school has had an artist in residence for the past few years, but this is the first hip-hop dancer they've invited to the school.

"A lot of the students haven't been able to do hip hop at this level before," she said. "It's not only challenged their bodies, but their brains as well."

Virgina Park School staff show off their choreographed dance. 0:45

Capulong said hip-hop dancing is growing in mainstream popularity all the time, from Grammy performances to Apple commercials, so it makes sense that students should have a chance to try it.

"This is something I never had growing up," he said. "And these kids are so lucky to be able to have the options of trying so many different arts.

"To me this is perfect. To be able to give back what I love and what has been so amazing in my life."


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