For many Asian-Canadian youth growing up in Canada, there is an underlying expectation to find a career in a stable field such as medicine, engineering or accounting. However, the same cannot be said for the arts, especially dancing. Kevin Choo’s love of dancing began at nightclubs, the usual Friday and Saturday nights out with his friends. However, his true passion for dancing didn’t transpire until him and his friend John Nguyen battled a crew. Kevin wasn’t a break-dancer at the time and in his own words he says, “they destroyed us and made a fool of me on the dance floor”. After that night, Kevin decided to take dancing more seriously. He would rent studio space at his university and practice with John. Some members of the crew Kevin first battled began to take notice and eventually started practicing with him. He eventually went on to become a member of their crew Grim Reminder, a collection of dancers experienced in break dancing and other forms of street dance; a dance group that has competed across Canada and USA.
‘When you are a part of a cultural group you then form deep connections within that eco-system. I have been able to tap into this connection with the group that I dance with. Hip-hop as a culture provides me with that connection much like being part of a Chinese/Korean or Malaysian group.’
A passionate artist, Kevin uses his love for various art forms in hip-hop such as dance, rap, and beat making to contribute to the community and has been working with youth over the years in various capacities.
‘Hip-hop was invented by youth with New York being the birthplace, which is why I believe the youth are drawn to the arts, to hip hop … a lot of youth are affected by oppression in many forms. Hip-hop gives them an outlet to express themselves and channel their energy into something else. It is a ticket out of their current scenario and an opportunity to become a part of a community and belong.’
Talking of his experiences as an Asian Canadian, he says,
‘My story isn’t as raw, for me there was definitely a societal and cultural oppression; there was always expectations to go to school and have a conventional career. I think it oppressed my creativity and hip-hop was my way out.’
Kevin has worked for Unity; a charity that uses hip-hop to improve young peoples lives. He has worked with the Autism Asperger’s Friendship Society (AAFS) a community group providing recreation for around 1000 families. This year he organized a Hip-Hop summer camp where he recruited hip-hop heroes such as emcees and dancers in Calgary. He has also worked with the Calgary Young Offenders Centre (CYOC). He says of the youth,
‘When you have experienced trauma and abuse, you tend to grow up very fast. Using my art to interact with youth gives them an opportunity to play and to feel emotions like kids are meant to. At the same time it gives them the chance to get their emotions out, for example, through poetry. It gives them the opportunity to be validated, share with their peers and built a support system using a healthy channel.’
Kevin lets his love of art and hip-hop guide him to his next destination and is passionate about encouraging artistic expression among youth.