Hip-hop dancer Charles Parks, who has toured the world as a support dancer with Madonna, now teaches urban dance at the Pound It studio in Red Deer.
Although Parks most recently resided in Los Angeles and Arizona, the Chicago native, he admitted he was no stranger to the kind of cold he is currently experiencing in Red Deer.
In fact, Parks said he first met Pound It studio owner Rico Martinez at a dance competition in Calgary a few years ago. The two then renewed their friendship during a contest in New York.
When Martinez invited Parks to come teach in his studio, the 35-year-old professional dancer saw a double opportunity. Parks admitted he wanted to help Martinez restart his dance business now that most of the pandemic restrictions have been lifted.
But he also wants to get his name known in Alberta so Parks can continue to build his own Creation world dance team. It currently has about 86 members, from Israel to Montreal, but none in this province.
Team members are mentored by various leaders and are given a variety of dance opportunities – from commercials and part-time shows, to dance battles and concerts, Parks said. “I’m super excited to expand to Alberta…”
Martinez is also thrilled to have a high caliber instructor as King Charles (as Parks is known in dance circles) joins his operation.
The pandemic has been difficult for Pound It, which, like other fitness-related companies, has been seriously affected by the COVID-19 restrictions. Martinez said his list of 170 students is now down to around 100 students.
“But we’re going to rebuild this again,” Parks said, showing the confidence and determination that has taken him far in the world of urban dance.
Parks began his career in his native Chicago. As the son and grandson of professional musicians, Parks said he had to follow the same career. But very early on, he realized that “my body is my instrument” as he grooves to tunes from Michael Jackson, MC Hammer and In Sync.
Her mother first noticed her talent when he was around six years old and was already showing her her dance steps which she used to win a local competition. Although self-taught, Parks said he had many mentors to help him along the way.
His first break as a professional dancer came when he was hired by US cable channel VH1 to perform at a tribute to rapper Missy Elliott.
Parks then took a giant leap into the dance stratosphere when he was hired to be one of 16 backup dancers on Madonna Sticky and Sweet’s 2007-2009 World Tour. Parks said he also became a choreographer on the tour that crossed North and South America and Europe.
While Madonna was a demanding boss – “She knows what she wants and you better give it to her,” Parks said – she’s become a mother hen to dancers as well. “Madonna started out as a dancer so she’s very encouraging to the young people …
“We have become like family because Madonna doesn’t go anywhere without her dancers,” Parks recalls.
He was taken to a party at Elton John’s and crossed paths with many celebrities including Lenny Kravitz, Justin Timberlake, Pharrell Williams, and Will I. Am.
Several years after the Sticky and Sweet tour ended, Parks was recruited to teach Madonna’s children hip-hop dance.
“I had never had a passport before I was hired for Madonna’s tour. What Madonna has done for me is that she has broadened my world, ”said Parks, who has since learned Japanese, as well as French and Spanish.
As a teacher, he hopes to help young dancers “find the spark they don’t know to become the next great artist”.
Martinez learned hip-hop dance in his native Mexico. He excelled at winning street dance battles before marrying an Albertan and starting Pound It ten years ago. He recalled that his first studio started with six children in Eckville and “exploded” when news of this unique program aired.
Martinez intends to build his school now that it’s reopened. He plans to bring in another seasoned hip-hop dance teacher, Sho-Tyme, next month. The Queens, NY native has choreographed for Jay Z, Gwen Stefani, P Diddy, Shakira, Katy Perry and many other artists.
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