Agincourt South-Malvern West studio inspiring new generation of hip-hop dancers

Simply Swagg Dance Studio is encouraging an entire generation to dance. The Green Line's Anita Li explains why this spot is so important to this community.

By Anita Li, The Green Line

A dance studio in Agincourt South – Malvern West is encouraging an entire generation to dance like nobody’s watching.

Simply Swagg Dance Studio near Milner Avenue and McCowan Road was founded by 36-year-old Paul Thurton in 2009.

“When I first opened it, I didn’t expect it to have the effect that it did,” said Thurton. “As I got older, I really started to see how dance was just the tool to really access these kids’ hearts and minds and then through that you can really see their confidence growing and their self-esteem and just their self-identity instead of searching for who they are out there and trusting what their friends are saying and thinking.”

The key to their confidence was building genuine connections in a supportive space with peers who share their love of dance.

“Before I started dancing, I was really shy and quiet and hated messing up. But ever since I started dancing here I learned not to care what people think about me,” said 13-year-old dancer Aniyah Rochester.

“With dance, you’re really vulnerable and you’re expressing yourself through movement and not just words so you really learn how to connect with one another,” said another dancer, Anika McArthur.

Scarborough is the birthplace of Canadian hip-hop and that local culture resonates with the kids at Simply Swagg

“A lot of times, especially in the arts, you can see the struggle in the craft, and you can see the conquering of the struggle as well in the craft. The storytelling and the emotions and the thoughts that go into these arts and especially spawning from Scarborough, you can feel the rooted organic culture that spawns from Scarborough,” said Thurton.

Simply Swagg’s Scarborough roots are a bonus for parents of these children like Tonya Domize Murphy, whose 15-year-old son Cashuis Murphy is a dancer.

“I’m a Scarborough native in my thirties as well and growing up I was in the arts and singing and there was no space like this,” said Murphy. “As you know, Paul is from Scarborough. He really stayed connected to his community.”

“Even though it might not be the cheapest thing to do, he really created this space that I did not have growing up. So the way that this studio has kept our kids off of the streets, out of trouble, accountable. It’s huge.”

Nineteen-year-old Abby Medeiros is an instructor and a former student at the studio. She finds a lot of satisfaction in paying it forward.

“Being an instructor is probably the most important thing to me. I have not only learned patience but how to communicate. Honestly how to talk slower and how to mentor little kids has been the most amazing experience,”

“I had this one kid who came in three-year-old couldn’t even speak and then he started this term, and he was like ‘Hey Abby!” and I was like so shocked because all of the sudden he could speak and he’s getting so much better.”

With each success, another dancer, 13-year-old Joshua Evidente is motivated to keep coming back. “When I’m working hard on something and then I nail it? It’s a feeling I can’t even put into words. It’s just out of this world.”

Simply Swagg holds classes for all age groups. If you would like to find out more, you can head to their website.

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