A dance studio can be a place of freedom for dancers to improve their craft. It also has some really great autistics, that make it ideal for having an interview. It is one of the things that made a recent sit-down between Hip Hop fundamentals and Hypefresh magazine so enjoyable.
Founded back in 2012, Hip Hop fundamentals is run by Mark Wong, also known as Metal and Steve Lunger. Both men have been breakdancing long before the birth of their organization. Since 2004, they had been breaking as a group. They did everything that they were capable of with breakdancing, traveling all over the world to battle other crews, and putting on street shows and performed their moves at parties. Eventually, Metal and Steve found themselves teaching breakdancing and discovered that they liked it.
“You can see and feel the result very instantly, I’m working with a kid, they’re having a good time, they’re getting it, then you see this like light bulb go off over their little head that’s like super satisfying.”
From there, they started to do more community center programs, and then from there, assembly programs. They became to brainstorm and experiment with mixing academics with the arts. This led Metal and Steve to create programs, teaching subjects like physics and the civil rights movement, using dance. From these concepts, Hip Hop fundamentals was born. Metal and Steve have gone into almost every school in the Philadelphia area, and many through New Jersey, and use their breakdancing skills to teach children.
“What can we do with breaking? Everything. But most of our bread and butter is youth education.”
When asked why do and use breakdancing the way they do, Steve and Metal both responded by that’s just who they are. Breakdancing is as natural to them as walking down the street. Metal and Steve have dedicated themselves to perfecting their craft and teaching it to others. Metal believes dance to be something that can transcend language and be an important aspect of teaching. For them, the movement of their bodies is, at its core, a pure art that they can use to teach anyone anything.
“Every kid knows how to jump around and move. We’re taught many kids who do not speak English. You don’t have to speak a lick of English to dance.”
Metal and Steve both cited by their own background in education as influences on their organization’s plan. Though, Metal specifically has taken influences from other movement classes and teaching styles that he has seen and been a part of. Steve remembers being inspired by the Kickstarter campaign that he and Metal found when Hip Hop fundamentals was just starting. During this time, they had created a civil rights show, with the help of a friend of Metal’s who was now a teacher. They performed the show for free, just about everywhere that they could. According to Steve, they performed it in Clark Park at least ten times. These shows got press from some well-known news outlets, like the inquirer, leading to major funding for their organization. That money allowed for them to host workshops at school, at no charge to the school.
Metal’s view of Hip Hop Fundamentals mission comes from his past with DJ Scheme. Metal has a “Graffiti Mentality” that he got from Scheme. “When I look back, I want to look back and say that I did this beautiful piece, it was beautiful, it was intricate, it was gorgeous, but I also bombed mad places, I did mad things, and for me, that translates to, I reached as many young people as possible and impacted their lives as much as I could with the time I had them, and there’s also young stars I look at and say that’s my masterpiece. It’s a quality and quantity thing.” Steve shares that vision. Both men are looking to do everything they can to help all the kids they can through dance.
Steve and Metal structure their classes to based on who they are teaching and the subject. “The kids are our clients,” Steve said and Metal agrees with the philosophy. They try to keep the class as flexible as possible, to fit the needs of the children. “A lot of kids tell us, this is the only time that I get to be a kid.” They take responsibility for their influence on student very seriously because of this. They attempt to connect with and push the kids who host them as long as they are with them. According to Steve, education is a two-way street. While the kids are learning from them, they should be learning from the kids how to be better teachers.
Typically, when they perform, they will let one person lead the performance. While everyone they work with is talented, too many clashes of style can be bad. So, they give leadership of a set to one person and from there, let the rest follow. Metal and Steve have performed in schools throughout Philadelphia and New Jersey. They’ve reached countless kids through Hip Hop Fundamentals who themselves have gone onto becoming professional dancers. “I don’t care of you never remember me, I had a positive influence on you, then that’s enough.”
There are very few companies, if any, that are doing what Metal and Steve are doing. None of them are doing it the way that they are though. What makes Hip Hop Fundamentals so special is them. Metal and Steve have a rare combination of talent and a powerful drive to do good.
They are not just satisfied with what they have right now though. Metal and Steve are looking to expand their organization even more. They have already started some of their programs to other schools in California.
Metal and Steve have learned so much from their time at Hip Hop Fundamentals. They have learned about Philadelphia, not just from a geographical standpoint, but they have managed connects with other dancers too. “Philly is a dancing city.” Philadelphia, according to them, is a city that keeps them honest. In Philly, you always have to improve your skills and prove that you deserve your fame.
They have also learned about themselves, on a physically and mental level. They have grown as people since they have been responsible for youth education. Steve, particularly, has learned how to be more patient.
If they could give any piece of advice to upcoming dancers, it would be to be original. Everyone is dope. Find the thing that makes you special and own it.