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Austin Nieves and Chris Shepard teach the group and dance with the attendees during the hiphop workshop on Thursday, April 4. The teachers are from Oklahoma City and work with the Race Dance company who teach various classes. Logan Wiley

PSU dance minor organizes hip-hop workshop

Pittsburg State’s dance minor program organized a free hip-hop workshop for students, both beginner and intermediate, led by an Oklahoma City dance company. 

Oklahoma City dance studio Men of Race travelled to Pittsburg Thursday, April 4, to lead a free hip-hop workshop for all PSU students interested. The workshop consisted of two sessions, one beginner and another intermediate.  

“So our intent was to bring in some guest presenters to just kind of teach us something that maybe we don’t have readily access to in some of our classes everyday,” said Janice Jewett, health, human, performance, and recreation (HHPR) professor. “So something different, something unique. I actually had a group of students last semester in a dance performance and production class and I was showing them some grant opportunities and I put one up there from our state organization and they said, ‘Hey, the deadline for that is coming up, we can still apply for that,’ and so they were involved in writing a grant to bring these guys from Oklahoma City. …” 

Students in attendance at the workshop consisted of both dance minors as well as students interested in relieving some stress through dance. Carli Roberts, junior in graphic communication, was one of the multiple dance minor students who attended. 

“It’s just to kind of like, first of all, spread the word about the dance minor because it is still a fairly new (program), I think this is our fourth year,” Roberts said. “So it’s just kind of to spread the word and get people out there, and it’s just kind of get out of your comfort zone kind of thing for the people who already know about it; just come out here and have some fun and do whatever.” 

Austin Nieves, Men of Race company manager and director of finance, led the workshop along with his assistant and fellow company manager Chris Shepard. Nieves called Shepard his “other half in the company.” 

“It was really cool,” Nieves said. “A lot of times, collegiately, hip-hop gets brushed to the side, so it was cool that PSU was like, ‘Yeah, come do a hip-hop workshop,’ and just invited us out and we came out and jammed and had a good time and vibed out with everybody.” 

Nieves frequently teaches dance workshops, whether it includes traveling the country or staying in Oklahoma City. 

“I wanted out come out here just so that I could, the biggest thing is to spread hip-hop knowledge,” he said. “A lot of times hip-hop in studio and collegiate world gets watered down so that it can get taught a little bit easier. Maybe some people don’t know the fundamentals but people want the class, so they end up teaching kind of the best that they can. And I was really lucky growing up that I have a lot of fundamental training from a lot of, I had a lot of mentors growing up that taught me a lot of real, authentic, hip-hop style and techniques, so I try to travel as much as I can to give back that knowledge as much as I can.” 

Nieves said he started dancing when he was four-years-old, as his family owned a dance studio in his hometown. Since then, he “fell in love” with dance, which he wishes to share with others. 

“I felt like they went great, I thought our presenters were excellent,” Jewett said. “They, just from observing different teachers, they taught at a reasonable pace, they were excellent instructors, and they made everybody feel welcome and made for a very successful workshop. … I was really pleased with the turnout. We had maybe 25 in the beginner and maybe 15 or so in the intermediate …” 

Students who participated were both challenged while also encouraged to enjoy themselves through the dance, both dance minors and non-dance minors. 

“It was really fun, it got me out of my comfort zone because I always feel awkward dancing around people I’m not comfortable with, but the instructors are really friendly and they were really helpful with getting us all out of our comfort zone and feeling at home,” said Rylie Kirch, sophomore in family and consumer sciences and dance minor. “… I think … it really gets the word out saying that we actually have a dance minor because a lot of people don’t really know that we have one here, so it’s a good opportunity for people to know about it.” 

Last year PSU’s dance minor program held a music theatre workshops led by a PSU dance professor, though according to Jewett the program does plan to hold more workshops like this one in the future. 

“I had a lot of fun,” Nieves said. “There was a lot of really cool energy that I didn’t expect in a small town in Kansas and everybody just kind of came and did what they could and worked their tails off and we ended up having a great time the whole way through. It was great.” 

According to Nieves, dance is universal, even if you do not study or practice it often. 

“Even if you’re not a dancer, dance is a thing for everybody, whether it’s like at a party, at a club, at a wedding, hanging out with friends, dance is like everywhere; it’s on social media, it’s just a human cultural thing, everybody dances in some way,” he said. “So even if you’re not a dancer, it’s fun to come out and kind of push yourself in a different way to learn something that’s just kind of human nature.” 

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