DANCE DANCE REVOLUTION
“Dance can change the world. If you can dance, then you can start a revolution,” says Greg David, the current artistic director of Culture Shock DC.
CSDC operates as “a troupe of individuals who, through the power of music and dance, cultivate self-worth, dignity, and respect for all people…through professional entertainment and youth outreach,” according to the organization’s website. The organization emphasizes three things: community outreach, artist development, and innovative performance. The majority of the organization’s staff are volunteers who commit to keeping the company running and perform in addition to working other jobs full-time.
A nonprofit dance organization, Culture Shock DC was founded in 2001 by Margareta Chughtai, who was a core dancer with the original Culture Shock chapter in San Diego. After moving to the east coast, she and co-founder Brian Resurrection wanted to establish a branch of Culture Shock in the DMV area. In 2009, CSDC was incorporated as its own 501c(3) non-profit and has since grown to encompass five different dance crews and more than 120 dancers in the company overall.
Over the past 15 years, the company has gained a reputation for the level of excellence they bring to each performance, attracting members from as far away as Virginia Beach. “We offer something to dancers that makes the commute worth it,” said director of operations Cameron Bennett, who has been with the organization since 2012.
CSDC’s age-based dance crews allow it to cater to dancers of all ages. There are three programs for youth: Mini Shock (ages 5 and under), Mighty Shock (ages 6-13) and Future Shock (ages 14-17). As dancers progress in both age and skill, they can move up through the various crews — allowing them to maintain a connection to Culture Shock throughout their childhood.
CSDC’s youth program first took shape in October 2005, when Lisa Norman, a longtime dancer in the company, took over the program. “Future Shock started with thirteen kids… then ten months later we had 60 kids show up to audition,” said Lisa. CSDC’s reputation does most of its advertising for them, and they are able to draw large numbers of dancers to auditions through their events, word of mouth, and the performances they put on throughout the year.
“I wanted to take on Future Shock because as a child, I grew up with low income and my passion was to dance. This was my way of giving kids access to affordable dance, and giving back to the community,” Norman said. “To me, outreach is reaching out to any child in any neighborhood—our job as leaders or mentors is to help them no matter what. Outreach means reaching out, period”.
One of the most notable aspects of CSDC is the emphasis it places on community enrichment. Every Future Shock crew member has to maintain a 2.75 GPA in order to dance, and all are required to participate in community outreach events. CSDC does a wide variety of community service outside of its scheduled events, ranging from packaging potatoes and food for the needy to school performances. The shows at DC public schools function as a way to raise awareness of the power of dance to kids who wouldn’t typically think of dance as an outlet. Culture Shock dancers put on a performance and then teach the kids a routine.
“We get the kids involved, teach them movement, how to relate to a song on a fundamental level…it’s great to watch the kids be inspired and show them that dance is fun,” said Carolina Azcuna, a Culture Shock member who is entering her second season with the company. “To me, it represents community and education. Dance has brought me so many close friends, and I’ve learned so much through meeting people of all types of backgrounds.”
Many members of Culture Shock DC have been dancing from a young age, and joined the organization because of the impact that dance had on their own lives. “Dance to me is an outlet to let go,” Lisa said. “(It’s) a place you can go to not think about anything. Watching other people dance, especially kids, is emotional for me because I know what they’re feeling and I’m glad they can experience it.”
Culture Shock’s 7th annual Youth Showcase took place on March 20, 2016. All images from CultureShockDC.org or the company's YouTube page.