Led by Michael Marrera and Joseph Reyes, the class welcomes kids of all skill sets to join each Thursday.
Some challenges in teaching children the disciplined art of dance includes having to combat short attention spans and restlessness, but Marrera is adamant about the importance of teaching them to express themselves through movement.
“At these young ages, it’s the time that they explore, so especially with breakdancing, it gives kids more control over their self expression,” Marrera said. “In terms of their personalities and developing their own styles, they all seem to be growing at the same time so they’re relatable.”
Even though the program has been going on for six years, classes have expanded over the course of the last year. Much of the class’ success has arisen from the Flushing community having interest and being open to exploring different cultures and dances. The class itself is good way to keep kids active and away from negative influences.
“Speaking from my own experience, I stayed away from trouble so many times because all I wanted to do was practice,” Marrera said. “Half of the time, my mom thought I was going out but what I was really doing was going out to practice and rehearse with my friends.”
During the classes, the children learn basic breakdancing moves, from the six-step to the knee drop and crab walk. Children also learn more about music and rhythm as well as working with an eight-count.
The first two weeks are always the toughest, Marrera explained, because the kids are meeting a whole group of their peers for the first time. In fact, it’s similar to attending the first day of school somewhere new.
But for Marrera and Reyes, it’s all about building each child’s confidence. In fact, Marrera believes that through dance, a child’s confidence in social situations is more likely to be apparent because of the discipline and social aspects of learning the choreography.
He’s noticed that after feeling comfortable with dance, the kids are more likely to befriend a peer quicker or it becomes easier to communicate with others. The teachers have also enlisted the children’s parents to get involved and become more complimentary of their kids’ achievements.
“It’s good to get the confirmation from your teacher, but also to hear encouraging words from their parents,” Marrera said.
In the future, the team hopes to expand classes for teenagers and perhaps even adults. But for now, they’re going to focus all of their energy into teaching the children about a dance that came to popularity in the 1970s. Whether it’s just a place to practice a hobby or it becomes the home of the next breakdancing sensation, the Flushing YMCA hopes to give kids an entertaining class which builds passion for the art of dance.
“If we could continue this class, we can get more kids to get back in touch with their artistic side,” Marrera said. “It’s very similar to drawing, we teach the kids to do something out of emotion.”
“We let them mess with the formula a bit to make it their own and show off their creative sides,” he added.