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Dancers Find 'True Freedom' at First Friday Performance Downtown

by on August 02, 2014 7:00 AM

All the world may be a stage, but Eugene Kim takes that truth more literally than most people. 

He’s comfortable dancing on a proper stage, but says he somehow felt more comfortable twisting his limbs like a frantic metronome on the corner of Allen Street and Beaver Avenue on Friday evening.

With movements whose grace were outweighed only by their charm, Kim and other Penn State students performed with a happy urgency in front of Schlow Library for a gathering crowd. Kim says this kind of public performance has a rich tradition in dance.

“This is how hip hop and freestyle dance got started,” Kim says. “It was people literally going out and taking it to the streets.”

Kim was performing with the Raw Aesthetic Movement Squad, a club of Penn State students who practice an individualized style of freestyle dance. He says that dance is a powerful tool for self-expression.

“When something is true, it’s very raw and bare bones,” Kim says, explaining the group’s name. “We’re just out there, displaying who we are.”

Olivia Sparks, an out of town visitor from Idaho, says she’d never seen anything quite like the students’ stylishly frantic movements.

“I like how everyone has a different personality in how they dance,” Sparks says. “It gives it so much energy.”

Dancer Nico Jao says it makes sense each squad member has their own unique approach to the style. Members of the club come from different backgrounds and different levels of dance experience. While some have no formal training, this doesn’t limit their power of self-expression.

“You have to dance what you feel, not what anyone might expect to see,” Jao says.

Jennifer Zangrilli says the club was performing as part of First Fridays in State College - a series of special events, performances and promotions at various downtown stores on the first Friday of every month.

Zangrilli, operations director with Dante’s Restaraunts and an event organizer, invited them to take it to the streets on Friday after seeing them dance on campus.

“It’s important to see that art is more than just drawing or painting,” Zangrilli says. “With this, you have a different form of dance that appeals to many different people.”

Jao says that dancing can be a transformative experience. As a form of self-expression, it can only reveal something about the dancer.

“This is true freedom,” Jao says.

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Michael Martin Garrett is a general assignment reporter for StateCollege.com, a graduate of Penn State and a published poet. He's also a musician who plays bass in an indie rock band.
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