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More than dance moves, Vibes of Styles dance club gives teens a sense of community

  • Claufy Lankuma, 15, dances during his solo at the Vibes of Style showcase on Saturday, June 7, 2014 at Concord High School.<br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Claufy Lankuma, 15, dances during his solo at the Vibes of Style showcase on Saturday, June 7, 2014 at Concord High School.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Shamecca Brown (left) hugs Giavanna Brunetti, 13, while talking to the crowd at the end of the Vibes of Style showcase at Concord High School on Saturday afternoon, June 7, 2014. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Shamecca Brown (left) hugs Giavanna Brunetti, 13, while talking to the crowd at the end of the Vibes of Style showcase at Concord High School on Saturday afternoon, June 7, 2014.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Noah Cooper, 12, dances in the Vibes of Style dance group's annual showcase on June 7, 2014 at Concord High School.<br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Noah Cooper, 12, dances in the Vibes of Style dance group's annual showcase on June 7, 2014 at Concord High School.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Bobbyline Barquor, 12, dances in the Vibes of Style dance group's annual showcase on June 7, 2014 at Concord High School.<br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Bobbyline Barquor, 12, dances in the Vibes of Style dance group's annual showcase on June 7, 2014 at Concord High School.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Chloe Darling, 6, dances in the Vibes of Style dance group's annual showcase on June 7, 2014 at Concord High School.<br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Chloe Darling, 6, dances in the Vibes of Style dance group's annual showcase on June 7, 2014 at Concord High School.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Hemanta Dhungel, 14, dances in the Vibes of Style dance group's annual showcase on June 7, 2014 at Concord High School.<br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Hemanta Dhungel, 14, dances in the Vibes of Style dance group's annual showcase on June 7, 2014 at Concord High School.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Juliette Anderson, 11, dances in the Vibes of Style dance group's annual showcase on June 7, 2014 at Concord High School.<br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Juliette Anderson, 11, dances in the Vibes of Style dance group's annual showcase on June 7, 2014 at Concord High School.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Vibes of Style dance group's annual showcase on June 7, 2014 at Concord High School.<br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Vibes of Style dance group's annual showcase on June 7, 2014 at Concord High School.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Vibes of Style dance group's annual showcase on June 7, 2014 at Concord High School.<br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Vibes of Style dance group's annual showcase on June 7, 2014 at Concord High School.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Kaylyn Lewis, 13, gets help from Bobbyline Barquor, 12, backstage at the Vibes of Style dance group's annual showcase on June 7, 2014 at Concord High School.<br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Kaylyn Lewis, 13, gets help from Bobbyline Barquor, 12, backstage at the Vibes of Style dance group's annual showcase on June 7, 2014 at Concord High School.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Shamecca Brown (green shirt) talks with her daughter Sanaii Bagura, 4, before she goes on stage at the Vibes of Style dance group's annual showcase on June 7, 2014 at Concord High School.<br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Shamecca Brown (green shirt) talks with her daughter Sanaii Bagura, 4, before she goes on stage at the Vibes of Style dance group's annual showcase on June 7, 2014 at Concord High School.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Bobbyline Barquor, 12 and Claufy Lankuma, 15, dance during the Vibes of Style showcase on Saturday afternoon, June 7, 2014 at Concord High School. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Bobbyline Barquor, 12 and Claufy Lankuma, 15, dance during the Vibes of Style showcase on Saturday afternoon, June 7, 2014 at Concord High School.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Vibes of Style dance group's annual showcase on June 7, 2014 at Concord High School.<br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Vibes of Style dance group's annual showcase on June 7, 2014 at Concord High School.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Vibes of Style dance group's annual showcase on June 7, 2014 at Concord High School.<br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Vibes of Style dance group's annual showcase on June 7, 2014 at Concord High School.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Emma Vargas, 12, and Kayley Lewis, 13, dance in the Vibes of Style dance group's annual showcase on June 7, 2014 at Concord High School.<br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Emma Vargas, 12, and Kayley Lewis, 13, dance in the Vibes of Style dance group's annual showcase on June 7, 2014 at Concord High School.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Sanaii Bangura, 4, dances in the Vibes of Style dance group's annual showcase on June 7, 2014 at Concord High School.<br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Sanaii Bangura, 4, dances in the Vibes of Style dance group's annual showcase on June 7, 2014 at Concord High School.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Giavanna Brunetti, 13, dances in the Vibes of Style dance group's annual showcase on June 7, 2014 at Concord High School.<br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Giavanna Brunetti, 13, dances in the Vibes of Style dance group's annual showcase on June 7, 2014 at Concord High School.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Claufy Lankuma, 15, dances during his solo at the Vibes of Style showcase on Saturday, June 7, 2014 at Concord High School.<br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Shamecca Brown (left) hugs Giavanna Brunetti, 13, while talking to the crowd at the end of the Vibes of Style showcase at Concord High School on Saturday afternoon, June 7, 2014. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Noah Cooper, 12, dances in the Vibes of Style dance group's annual showcase on June 7, 2014 at Concord High School.<br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Bobbyline Barquor, 12, dances in the Vibes of Style dance group's annual showcase on June 7, 2014 at Concord High School.<br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Chloe Darling, 6, dances in the Vibes of Style dance group's annual showcase on June 7, 2014 at Concord High School.<br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Hemanta Dhungel, 14, dances in the Vibes of Style dance group's annual showcase on June 7, 2014 at Concord High School.<br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Juliette Anderson, 11, dances in the Vibes of Style dance group's annual showcase on June 7, 2014 at Concord High School.<br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Vibes of Style dance group's annual showcase on June 7, 2014 at Concord High School.<br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Vibes of Style dance group's annual showcase on June 7, 2014 at Concord High School.<br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Kaylyn Lewis, 13, gets help from Bobbyline Barquor, 12, backstage at the Vibes of Style dance group's annual showcase on June 7, 2014 at Concord High School.<br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Shamecca Brown (green shirt) talks with her daughter Sanaii Bagura, 4, before she goes on stage at the Vibes of Style dance group's annual showcase on June 7, 2014 at Concord High School.<br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Bobbyline Barquor, 12 and Claufy Lankuma, 15, dance during the Vibes of Style showcase on Saturday afternoon, June 7, 2014 at Concord High School. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Vibes of Style dance group's annual showcase on June 7, 2014 at Concord High School.<br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Vibes of Style dance group's annual showcase on June 7, 2014 at Concord High School.<br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Emma Vargas, 12, and Kayley Lewis, 13, dance in the Vibes of Style dance group's annual showcase on June 7, 2014 at Concord High School.<br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Sanaii Bangura, 4, dances in the Vibes of Style dance group's annual showcase on June 7, 2014 at Concord High School.<br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Giavanna Brunetti, 13, dances in the Vibes of Style dance group's annual showcase on June 7, 2014 at Concord High School.<br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

When Claufy Lankuma first arrived in Concord from the Congo, not many people at school talked to him. He didn’t have much confidence, he said.

But that was in 2010, before he joined Rundlett Middle School’s Vibes of Style dance club as a sixth-grader.

At the group’s showcase performance yesterday, Lankuma – now in eighth grade – took center stage during one of the few solo dances. Under the bright stage lights, the 15-year-old flashed a grin at the crowd as he began a hip-hop dance. The beat pumped through the speakers, repeating the lyrics “the champ is here,” and Lankuma clapped his hands over his head, encouraging the audience to do the same.

“Once I start dancing I just block out everything,” said Lankuma, who is now known throughout the school because of dance. “This program has helped me a lot. It has shown me not to be scared of anything, to express yourself through your dancing and to believe in yourself,” he said.

Those were some of the goals that dance teacher Shamecca Brown had in mind when she began Vibes of Style six years ago. “I want them to know who they are, where they came from and each other,” she said.

What began as a small, mostly female group of 10 dancers has ballooned into a club of more than 70 students with members as young as 2 years old up to age 17. To help tie together a diverse group that many of the kids call a family, the club blends different styles including hip-hop, reggae, calypso, Zumba and salsa.

All of those genres were on display yesterday afternoon during the three-hour Soul Train-themed show, for which the audience filled out most of the Concord High School auditorium. Brown’s husband served as a live DJ and the dance performances – all choreographed by Brown – ranged from Michael Jackson tributes to freestyle.

The students have been practicing their moves over the past few months. The club members also hang out together outside of practice, going to movies and out to eat. “We do a lot of things

other than dancing,” Brown said. “They just come together as one; that is what I like.”

For Brown, dance has always provided a sense of community. She grew up using her moves and remembers dance battles about the age of 7, when her aunt took her to block parties and parks across New York City.

“My aunt used to put me in the middle of the crowd, and I used to go against 14-year-olds, and I was probably 7,” Brown said. Despite her young age, she said she doesn’t ever remember being afraid. Once she began moving and dancing, there was no fear, she said. “I can’t even explain it myself, you get this rush.”

When Brown moved to Concord from the Big Apple nine years ago to take a job at Rundlett Middle School, she saw a need for dance and to institute the sense of community it can create.

“There wasn’t any diversity here, and mostly I feel like there was a lot of separation,” she said. “You would see Africans with Africans, whites with whites, you just didn’t see them talking to each other. No one knew about their different cultures.”

Sharing cultures has become a central part of the group.

Lankuma’s mother was a dancer, and he grew up with African dance. When he first joined the club, he didn’t know much about other dance styles.

“When I came here they taught me hip-hop moves, I taught them African,” he said. “We vibe off each other, we teach each other new things. We’re like one big family.”

The community aspect of the dance crew helped eighth-grader Giavanna Brunetti get through middle school, which she said can be a tough stage because kids are constantly being judged by others.

“Being with Shamecca and dancing with her, I totally don’t feel that at all,” the 13-year-old said. “I am happy to be myself and to be dancing how I am . . . and just to be able to be free and not care what other people think.”

Brunetti was never really into sports, and when she started dancing with the crew in sixth grade, she said she was probably the worst dancer. But during yesterday’s show, she performed two solos. At the start of one, another group member massaged her shoulders covered in a boxing robe as Lankuma pumped her up before the song “I Can’t Stop” came thumping over the speakers.

“Becoming a dancer, I realize I can do more than I thought,” she said.

Through the dance club, Lankuma learned to have patience with the other kids, which he said has made him a better leader. Toward the end of the program, Lankuma led a tribute dance for Nelson Mandela with a handful of other students also from Africa.

Both Lankuma and Brunetti are on the Vibes of Style Crew that battles other dance groups, and both plan to continue dancing with Brown.

“If Shamecca keeps doing it, I will even convince my kids to do it with her,” Lankuma said.

(Allie Morris can be reached at 369-3307 or at amorris@cmonitor.com.)

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