A Look Behind the Curtain at Progressive Arts Alliance's Corporate Dance Crew Competition

B-boy Tony Fresh demonstrates a few moves at a Corporate Dance Crew rehearsal

Blogkeeping note: Only a few more days to enter the Clue Into Cleveland giveaway for 4 tickets to the Cleveland Aquarium. This Saturday and Sunday, stop by the Aquarium and help them celebrate their 1st annual Shark Weekend!


I recently declared over drinks that my dancing in public is limited to 2 places: when I’m in the car and at weddings. I’m ridiculously good at being ridiculously bad at dancing so while I may play it up in a reception hall, I tend to cower at the thought of exposing a larger audience to my “skills.”

That’s why I have very deep respect for the teams who will be popping, locking and showing off their other moves at the Corporate Cleveland Dance Crew Competition on August 11.

Corporate Cleveland’s Best Dance Crew will be named at Progressive Arts Alliance’s 10th anniversary celebration on August 11

The Dance Crew Competition will take place at House of Blues Cleveland during “Ten Years of Rhapsody,” the anniversary celebration featuring Grandmaster Flash for Cleveland nonprofit Progressive Arts Alliance.

Organizations from around the city, including the Cleveland Public Library and Bonbon Pastry & Cafe, will train and then perform a dance routine at the August event.

These Dance Crew Sponsorships, as well as proceeds from the Ten Years of Rhapsody tickets, all go to support the mission of the Progressive Arts Alliance.  Since 2002, the PAA has served 20,000+ students in schools, community centers, libraries, and other community spaces by utilizing contemporary arts – such as mural-making and hip-hop – to stimulate critical thinking and promote progressive thought.

Tony Fresh darts around the Cleveland Public Library’s dance crew rehearsal as he pieces their routine together

Last weekend, I was invited downtown to watch as a few employees from the Cleveland Public Library practiced their routine.

Each team is being taught how to dance by professional dancer Tony Fresh.  Tony himself was first inspired to break dance when he was in high school at Lincoln West and saw David Ramos aka “B-boy B-rock” perform.

After being taught a few basics, he continued to learn on his own until he won a break dance battle that the PAA organized.

Since then, Tony Fresh has worked with the PAA by conducting Hip-Hop assemblies at Cleveland public schools, teaching children and teens the four elements of Hip Hop.

Just like he was inspired as a teenager, Tony is empowering his students to gain self-esteem, embrace a healthy lifestyle and understand why breakdancing was created in the first place — to influence “peace-unity-and having fun.”

Tony Fresh lightheartedly described this move and it’s accompanying chest pop as chopping some chickens

He’s bringing these lessons to the teams who are up to the Corporate Dance Crew challenge.

Tony is working closely with each team to design a routine for them — selecting songs and dance styles based on each group’s energy and abilities.

For instance, with the Cleveland Public Library, he’s using old-school house party dancing to inform their routine – having each team member perform moves that speak to their physical strengths.

When I watched last weekend’s practice, I was amazed by how organic the process was. Instead of coming in with a set routine and making the team members adjust to it, Tony came in with a song and built the routine with the team as the hour rolled by.

He tweaked and adjusted the routine as he observed what worked and didn’t. He was respectful not just of what the team could do, but also what they wanted to do — inviting them to offer their own ideas saying “it’s your routine – I’m just here to coordinate.”

From children to adults of all ages, Tony Fresh’s only requirement is that you are willing to learn and have fun

When I spoke with Tony after watching the practice, I was curious about the differences between teaching children and teenagers versus adults.

He said that while children and some teenagers are in it just to have fun, there’s sometimes the challenge in teaching adults because a lot of people can’t get over being self-conscious about possibly looking silly (see the first paragraph of this post).  From what I observed during practice, though, Tony is very good at putting his students at ease – I was even considering dancing at one point.

He shared that designing the routines for the Corporate Dance Crews was easier than he thought it would be because the performers passed the hardest part of all by just having the courage to sign up, come to practice ready to learn something new and work as a team. This sense of unity and team work was reflected in the Cleveland Public Library’s routine — because team members hailed from multiple Library branches and programs, this was the first time many of them were meeting and working together.

It’s still possible to sign your office up for the Corporate Dance Crew competition. You’ll not just be participating in a meaningful team-building and wellness activity, but each crew will also get a group of VIP and backstage tickets and recognition at the event. If you’re interested, contact Santina Protopapa at 216.772.4PAA or santina@paalive.org.

For those who’d rather join me in watching the Dance Crew battle, tickets for the Progressive Arts Alliance’s August 11th fundraiser are available at www.houseofblues.com/tickets/eventdetail.php?eventid=75362.

Tickets for Ten Years of Rhapsody start at only $25

In addition to the Corporate Dance Crews, Ten Years of Rhapsody will feature:

  • a dance party with turntable pioneer Grandmaster Flash;
  • performances by the PAA All Stars, PAA’s most exceptional students;
  • a hands-on record scratching station for guests of all ages;
  • and a special tribute to and performance by Cleveland’s breakdancing legends Project Five featuring Councilman Matt Zone.

General admission costs $25 which includes access to the party starting at 7:30pm. VIP Balcony tickets get you additional access to an upstairs lounge, two beer or wine tickets and exclusive VIP opportunities for $50.  All-Access passes are also available which include a “Behind the Scenes” dinner with PAA artists at 5:30pm.

Disclosure: I was invited to observe a Dance Crew practice and share my experience. In exchange, I’ve received a general admission ticket to Ten Years of Rhapsody on August 11. As always, though, my opinions and the choice of events I share here are 100% my own.

5 thoughts on “A Look Behind the Curtain at Progressive Arts Alliance's Corporate Dance Crew Competition

  1. Aja

    Great article. Thanks for writing about Progressive Arts Alliance, they are a great group of people and I’m excited to be working with them on this very fun project!!!

  2. Betsy

    I love it!! The whole concept of getting people together to dance and have fun is awesome!! Great blogging!!!

  3. anthony velez "Tony fresh"

    Though it’s been over a year since this post was published, I came upon it accidentally and couldn’t help but to reply… such a great article. Thank you for the kind words. I wish PAA can host an event like this one every year. It was the BEST celebration i’ve ever attended in Cleveland. And I say that with no exaggeration. I had a blast teaching and coordinating the group’s that participated, and project 5 was amazing. Had the Time of my life!

  4. Chun

    The most famous is the teddy-bear baby beanie that was created.
    All the kids toys dont have the life, however, they would be alive
    and interesting when children play with them. Never hang any toys that have
    cords, ribbons or any kind of string in a playpen or crib.


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