Los Angeles CA
“You don’t have to dance like anyone else. You’re the designer and architect of your dance. You pull out what is you – funny, shy, hardcore, cool — and put it into your dance. We’re supposed to feel the arts, not think them.”
Asia is a Bgirl icon, Hip-Hop pioneer, and activist. A Teaching Artist for almost 20 years, she performs, hosts, and builds with other ambassadors of Hip-Hop, working for social justice through the culture as a movement.
No Easy Props is her motto, as well as her non-profit organization, which houses Hip-Hop arts and fitness programs for youth, as well as the Bboy Summit. “In 1994, we didn’t have a place to do this dance form. Even though we had permits and insurance, Hip-Hop was public enemy #1. I was jailed for inciting a riot in Venice. The mayor of Compton bailed me out, the ACLU got the case overturned, but they took my ID, passport, and there was an unmarked cop car in front of my house for a year.
“This dance is not separate from activism. It is a form of ‘We’re here, we matter.’ Created by kids with no money for kung fu or ballet, by and for black and brown youth, to help them feel comfortable, see that their stories are similar.”
What led you to be a teaching artist?
I love this dance so much, and I love Hip-Hop culture. Part of the culture is about passing on the tradition and spirit of the art. I see what it does for youth, how it empowers them. They gain self-confidence, and awareness of their abilities and capabilities.
For a long time I was one of the only women doing this dance form, so there was a rejection of learning from a woman. But I decided it wasn’t about gender, or nationality, it was about being part of a collective, improving through your work. It pushed me further, the rejection as female, and not from NYC, so I learned more about the nuances, the history. It helped me understand it better. Storytelling is a big part of my teaching, it really helps them conceptualize, helps the dance come alive in them
The tenets of Hip-Hop include peace, unity, fun, as well as knowledge of self, respect for diversity, and each-one-teach-one.
Our primary program is called HipHop101, an exploration of the dance and art of Hip-Hop. We take youth on a cultural journey, telling stories of how Hip-Hop was started by youth just like them, from poor neighborhoods, experiencing challenging conditions and circumstances. How they created a culture that includes dance, art, and music to release stress, and connect and communicate. Much greater than just a dance, Hip-Hop is a way of life, and a lens for viewing the world through.