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Dance camp teaches kids about hip hop culture

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WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley
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A Buffalo dance studio is holding a summer day camp program to provide children lessons and history of hip hop. WBFO's Focus on Education reporter Eileen Buckley attended the camp, called The Elements, to find out how students are learning about hip hop culture.  

Children ranging in age six through 14 were  sitting in the Verve Dance Studio on Main Street downtown.  Before they began their hip hop lesson, they listened closely to co-owner Shane Depree Fry explain how hip-hop music was derived by various artists. Fry had a stack of old vinyl albums. He cues them up on a record-player. 

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Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley
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Shane Depree Fry teaches children about hip hop music using vinyl record albums at his Verve Dance Studio.

"Hip hop, without the deejay, the breakers wouldn't have been able to dance. You need music, so the deejay and the dancing, they go hand and hand," said Fry.

Fry opened Verve 11 years ago with his wife Heather Russell. They describe their studio as a nontraditional and in a time where there is so much racial divide, Fry and Russell have created classes and events that bring people from all walks of life together.

"Hip hop is about community and people and positive expression," said Fry. 

"We help the children learn through projects and through the arts how to express themselves individually while at the same time understanding how to fit into a group or a team," said Russell.

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Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley
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Shane Depree Fry & Heather Russell run the Verve Dance Studio on Main Street in downtown Buffalo.

Russell said it Is her husband's passion for as a B-Boying hip hop dancer and her desire to be a dance educator for the reasons why they created their hip hop programs.

"My husband has been a B-Boy for 15 years and so that was really his passion. I have always been a creative person, but I have a strong interest in education and understanding that not everyone learns the same way," said Russell. 

The Verve owners want to teach that hip hop is not a stereotype about gangs and trouble.

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Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley
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Children learn about hip hop culture.

WBFO News asked what is misunderstood about hip hop culture?

"I would say many things are misunderstood," responded Russell. "But the city itself, the perception that they had of what a hip hop event was, was basically one particular racial group not getting along, so they had this impression that that's what hip hop was." 

"It's very important because it is part of American history. Hip hop is just a beautiful, beautiful culture and has a lot to offer anybody who would be interesting in learning about any of the elements," said Fry.

"It's not always so hard to do it," said nine-year-old Luca Falcone from Buffalo. He has been dancing since the age of  two.  A couple of years Falcone ago he discovered Verve and is really learning technique especially through hip hop moves. Falcone has a message for those who don't understand the hip hop culture.   

"It's a good dance and it's not all just people who take out anger, and it's not just mean stuff -- it's cool stuff," noted Falcone. "If someone has that personality with another child's personality they might just like each other and be friends."   

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Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley
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Students take to the dance floor to learn hip hop.

When Falcone returns to his class, after a lesson in hip hop music , the students jump to their feet in the large Main Street studio for their actual dance lesson. 

Verve is gearing up for it's yearly big hip hop event -- Battle @ Buffalo -- Under the Lights!  -- 5th annual Hip Hop Festival taking place August 29th at the studio featuring all kinds of hip hop styles and the B-Boy Battle. New Era Cap sponsors a cap design contest and there are exhibits, music, art and local vendors. 

Russell and Frey said this is a way to celebrate unity and diversity and it is brought together through Hip Hop culture.