Tulsa B-boy transplant uses love for hip-hop to help students learn about legacy
BY JASON ASHLEY WRIGHT World Scene Writer
Sunday, January 23, 2011
5/30/12 at 6:09 AM
Adam Acosta wants to turn what you know about hip-hop music on its head - often, quite literally.
He's ab-boy, or break dancer. We met him at a recent Thursday evening, sitting back as a group of elementary kids and a couple high school students huddled around him, watching with wide eyes as he defied gravity to the beat of a blaring boom box.
But Acosta's more than just a performer - he's their teacher. And he not only defies gravity but also stereotypes of the hip-hop culture, from which his favorite style of dance was born.
Outside of his weekly classes at Lacy Park, where he teaches students ages 11 and older the basics of breaking, Acosta and his wife, Shayna, have kicked off their Legacy Project. It's a program through which they apply the fundamentals of breaking to encourage excellence among their young students, most of whom range from grade-school children and teens to 20-somethings.
More simply put, it's a way to spread the gospel through breaking.
"They see what they see on MTV and everywhere else, and that's not even close to what the culture of hip-hop is," said Acosta, who will be 27 on Wednesday. "The currency of hip-hop is respect."
Acosta first fell in love with breaking as a kid in Los Angeles. His brother met a guy who danced at a YMCA camp they attended, and they started hanging out. Being the kid brother, Acosta followed them around.
"It became a love of mine," he said. "It was something for me to do, became more of a passion than just a hobby."
Acosta wasn't born with natural ability, he said, and people would tell him he wasn't any good at dancing. That didn't stop him, though.
"When I'm challenged to do something or when someone says I can't do something, I'm going to do it just to say that I can," he said.
After his parents divorced when he was about 13, Acosta moved to Tulsa with his dad. Living in a part of town that "wasn't necessarily the best area," Acosta made friends who were involved with gangs.
"I was heading down that path just by association," he recalled. But a couple of Christian dancers started mentoring him, talking about positive choices he could make in his life.
But it wasn't like they were trying to pull him away from the hip-hop culture - far from it. In fact, it was breaking that helped keep him out of trouble. Like any art form, hip-hop was a form of self-expression, Acosta said. It created an outlet for street kids to do something more productive with their time and energy than getting involved with gangs.
Acosta practiced and gradually became a better dancer. It's what he wanted to do for the rest of his life. "Ultimately, dance was my god."
But as he grew through his teens, "I knew there was something bigger that I was a part of," Acosta said. So when he was 22, he became a Christian and re-evaluated the direction of his life.
He quit dancing for about a year. During that time, a friend called him up and asked him to come hear a DJ who was passing through town. Besides, it was an opportunity to reconnect with his friends who danced since Acosta took a hiatus.
That's the night he met his wife, who had a dance program at Lacy Park. They started hanging out, talked about dance, became best friends and, eventually, fell in love, he said. In March, they'll celebrate their third anniversary.
"I've never met anybody like Adam," Shayna said. "He's a leader. A true leader is someone who is willing to serve, and that's what makes people follow. He just serves and serves and serves people until he's exhausted."
Together, they are developing their Legacy Project, a Christian-based program using dance as a means to teach students to excel in their art, as well as their lives in general. He described it as "more of a performing arts-type program."
Part of the inspiration behind the project came after Shayna's grandfather died last year, she said. He kept daily journals, and her mom got them when he died. The words he left behind were part of his legacy.
Through their project, they hope to offer young people opportunities to create their own legacies, something positive to share and leave behind for others - something beyond the over-sexed, drugged-up landscape often associated with hip-hop.
Since late last year, the couple have been meeting with small groups of young dancers - half break-dance session, half Bible study, Adam Acosta said. They meet at various studios around town, but he hopes to have his own place this fall.
One of those students is Chris Delano, 12, from Broken Arrow. A couple years ago, a friend of his told him to try out the break-dance class at Lacy Park. Now, he loves it, and he has no intentions of stopping.
"I see myself dancing in competition and on TV," said Delano, who practices every other day at home, as well as every other Friday with Acosta. "I want to do this for the rest of my life."
That's just fine with his father, Sean Delano, who has other children who dance competitively with Shayna Acosta. Through break-dancing, his son has grown stronger - but it's more than that.
"It's given him something to do constructively," Sean Delano said. But the most important thing is the positive impact, which made it more than worth driving from their home in Broken Arrow to Lacy Park.
"It's not only dancing, it's having a role model in a guy he can look up to and trust," Sean Delano said.
Adam Acosta is proud of him, as well as his other students.
"These kids are going to be the next generation of b-boys," he said. And they'll accomplish that with more than just his tutelage.
"God is the ultimate creator, so there's no reason why, if we tap into him, we can't perform in excellence," Acosta said.
For more about the Legacy Project, check out tulsaworld.com/legacyproject.
What: Ages 11+ can learn basic moves, philosophy behind the dance
When: 5:30-6:30 p.m. Thursdays
Where: Lacy Park, 2134 N. Madison Place
Cost: $10 per month
For more: 596-1470
Original Print Headline: Break the mold
Jason Ashley Wright 581-8483
Adam Acosta leads a recent dance lesson at the Compassion Dance studio in Tulsa. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World
‘My motivation in life is not to get to heaven when I die, but to stand before God and say I didn’t punk out.’
— Adam Acosta’s recent Facebook post