“I am more than a dance instructor,” says Robert. “I am the embodiment of a tragedy to triumph story. I am an example of how hard work and dedication pay off. I am a friend who understands adversity and can help guide you through it.”
From ages 7-11, Robert and his siblings were in foster care. “My experience there was extremely negative.” That’s when he joined an after-school breakdance program offered by Jubilation Foundation grantee Arts Corps. “Breaking came at a time I needed it most. I understand the power it has on adolescent individuals.”
After a few months in the program, “I learned this really cool move that no one else could do. For that moment in time I felt powerful. I felt my voice being heard. I earned the respect of my peers. From that moment forward I knew I wanted to share my art with the world.”
Nine years later, he’s a teaching artist with Arts Corps and Jubilation Foundation grantee Centrum. He holds two degrees in chemistry, founded a dance crew, and travels internationally.
“Breaking has always been about the unification of people. The lessons I implement are inclusive. I understand that I have access to a platform that can provide youth with life-changing teaching and performance opportunities. While I use dance as the vehicle, the lessons I hold dear are life lessons: learning how to learn, how to set and accomplish goals, and learning when and how to lead or follow.”
How do you produce a vibrant learning environment?
“Learning is a conversation, not a lecture. It’s important that instructors enter the space with students as humble and eager to learn as they are. Entering the environment with this perspective allows me to connect in a more personal way.”
How do you promote youth leadership?
“First and foremost, it’s extremely important that we treat youth as equal members of society. They’re intelligent, creative, and imaginative — they just lack wisdom from experience. So every class, I give them opportunities to lead. During warm-ups, we play Follow-the-Leader, where everyone (including myself) follows a student. And I often pair students to trade off as leader and follower while creating dance routines.”
How have you evolved as a teacher?
“As my programs grow, I find myself thinking of more opportunities I can create to benefit the students long-term. One goal is to create an annual scholarship program for youth with a rough upbringing who are trying to go to college.”
What is an example of a good day for you?
“If I see that students are being challenged and remain focused for a majority of the exercises, that is a great day.”
photo by David Conkin