If learning history or physics bores you, West Philadelphia’s Hip Hop Fundamentals can help.
Since 2002, Hip Hop Fundamentals has performed at assemblies across the country, teaching subjects — be it Newtonian physics or the Civil Rights Movement — through dance.
“The purpose is to provide good arts education for students across the United States,” Stephen Lunger, co-owner of Hip Hop Fundamentals, said.
Hip Hop Fundamentals has recently received international acclaim for its work due to a TED talk they gave in Bermuda in 2013 that discussed their unique teaching methods. Additionally, they performed their new “Civil Rights Movements: The Power of Youth Engagement Through the Eyes of Dr. King” show on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day at the African American Museum in Philadelphia.
In order to perform the Civil Rights Movement show, the group raised $10,000 via Kickstarter, an online funding program for creative projects. This money paid for the company members and allowed the group to teach for free at 10 under-served schools both in Philadelphia and across the nation.
Nate “Klassick” Pyfrom, a member of Hip Hop Fundamentals, explained the purpose of that show was to use dance to “teach people about peace, love and unity through nonviolent action, how they can create change as a people.”
Hip Hop Fundamentals teaches “breaking” — or break dancing to non-dancers — in two other performances as well: “The Principles of Hip Hop: Peace, Love, Unity, & Having Fun” and “Breaking: The Laws of Physics.”
The overall message of the principles of hip hop show is to teach students respect while exploring the history of hip-hop music and dance. “Breaking: The Laws of Physics” aims to teach students the ways in which the body and physics are inherently intertwined.
Pyfrom, who began dancing at around 15, was mentored by Lunger and his co-owner, Mark “Metal” Wong, before joining the troupe as a mentor himself. He loves working for Hip Hop Fundamentals because he gets to meet “kids from all types of walks, backgrounds and beliefs” and “make crazy changes [so] they come out of there with new perspectives as far as what’s possible.”
Lunger, a Temple University graduate, started dancing when he was 18 years old. He described Temple as a “diverse environment” that exposed him to a large part of the dance world.
“As a white guy learning dance, I was under the impression that I didn’t have rhythm, but that’s something just projected on you,” he said.
Lunger created a name for himself within the Philadelphia dance community. He has spent the last 12 years practicing, training and learning techniques alone as well as with the help of others. His mission as a dancer is to “continue to pass the torch and keep the lineage alive.”
In the coming months, Hip Hop Fundamentals will be working to revamp their shows with new material, and broaden their outreach and professional development. Additionally, they are looking to get a community center space in which they can teach the many elements of hip hop.
The company currently has 12 members in Philadelphia and three in Los Angeles.
“The point of our shows is to have at least one kid be inspired,” Lunger said. “If they’re touched and the show has opened their minds in some way, then our job is done.”