“The kids have been working real hard on this,” said Will Venegas, one of the founders of local dance program Hip Hop Mindset. “They are spreading a positive message to their community through this production.”

Hip Hop Mindset started in 2014 and the dance program within schools came about a year later — with Rio School District as the first partner district. Dancers come to the schools and teach hip hop lessons to the kids to get them moving and engaged. The locally owned company visits classrooms in Camarillo, Oxnard, El Rio and Port Hueneme regularly.

For several hours after school each day kids from all over the district descended on Rio del Sol School to practice for their big show. It’s choreographed down to every move, and the kids get into it. There are chances for them to freestyle dance and show off their talents. They clap for each other and encourage each other.

Rio School District Superintendent John Puglisi said he couldn’t be more proud of the hard work the students have put into prepping for performance.

“The intent beyond the story of the performance is to continue to develop arts in the Rio School District, as well as in the greater Oxnard and Ventura County area, but particularly in the Oxnard Plain area,” Puglisi said. “But this performance is particularly to engage an audience and show a performance in dance as a narrative and as an expression of ideas and dance as a language to get the audience to think about things.”

Serina Sanchez, known as Gidget during performances, said working with the kids is always gratifying and that seeing the work they’ve put in to their big production will pay off in the end.

“It’s really, really awesome,” Sanchez said. “Every time I teach students I see a reflection of myself when I was little so it’s really awesome to see all the different students and their individual styles all come together to want to dance.”

– Alexa D’Angelo, Ventura County Star

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