Angie Bunch is a hip-hop pioneer. As hip-hop music catapulted into the mainstream, the musical theater pro and Nike dance athlete traded in her jazz shoes for sneakers. She began to explore an emerging form of self-expression—hip hop dance—and engineered an outlet for other dancers to do the same.
She launched Culture Shock Training Academy in 1993, backed by her Nike sponsorship, and brought together like-minded dancers interested in delving into the art form. Her mission was to cultivate self-worth, dignity, and respect through the power of music.
“When Culture Shock was founded 30 years ago, I don't believe we even called it hip-hop yet. It was street dance, and it was athletic and powerful and empowering, and it seemed to reflect certain communities that had to have a voice,” she says. “It was easier to dance it out than to speak it out.”
The dance company evolved over the years, incorporating novel subgenres, such as break dancing; adding programs for older dancers, teens, and younger children; hosting after-school and community programs; relocating from NTC to midtown; and becoming a nonprofit. Culture Shock also expanded its reach, forming offshoots in Los Angeles, Oakland, Las Vegas, Chicago, Atlanta, Washington, D.C., and Toronto.
“We just grew ridiculously in the first five years,” Bunch says. “I [danced] with them for a while, then it was like, ‘Get over yourself, step back, and let them govern themselves.’ So, we appointed artistic directors and it all made sense. It all worked out beautifully.”
As with many organizations, the pandemic proved catastrophic for Culture Shock and forced the closure of its studio. However, the company has undergone a revival and is back in action in San Diego and planning its 30th anniversary showcase. It’s also working to add an educational division and even open a chapter in New York City.
“I figured out how to find that place where we all spoke the same language and were sharing this lived experience together,” Bunch says. “To see these artists still so strong and beautiful and amazing, it just makes me feel good.”
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