The halls of Tusarvik Elementary and Tuugaalik High School were rocking to the beat of hip hop in Naujaat earlier this school semester, when Eugene Baffoe returned to Naujaat.

Grade 9 student Jenna Alaralak, left, and Grade 8 student Victoria Alakannuar, right, enjoy listening to Eugene (GeNie) Baffoe, centre, of the Winnipeg Ballet Club instruct during the hip hop dance program he was delivering at Naujaat’s two schools earlier this semester. – photo courtesy of Jonathan Bungay

GeNie, as he’s known in the hip-hop community, is a freestyle battle dancer from Montreal, Quebec, who has trained in hip hop for the past decade, and has taught, choreographed and and directed at a professional level for the past six years.

Baffoe heads Winnipeg’s newest and fastest growing urban hip hop dance drew , the Built on Self Success (BOSS) Dance Team.

For his third trip to work with students in Naujaat, Tusarvik teacher Matt Thompson said there were times it was hard to tell who was having more fun, the instructor or his students.

“His energy and attitude towards the whole situation is conducive to the kids participating, feeling comfortable and having a great time.”

Thompson said the students were totally into Baffoe’s visit; dancing their hearts out during his classes and carrying the beat with them throughout the rest of the day. The way the students were grouped together meant that most students, instead of seeing him only twice, got to work him four times.

“He tends to start with a bit of a warm up, does a little bit on dance moves, and then, a bit at a time, he starts teaching a full dance routine that’s geared to the ability level of the group of students he’s working with,” said Thompson. “So that was his approach to it and it worked really well.”

Thompson said Baffoe joked around with the kids and was always smiling or laughing during his week in Naujaat. He said you couldn’t help but be impressed with how Baffoe seemed to always be super at-ease with everyone and everything, no matter what the situation.

“You can tell he feels really comfortable in front of any grade level, and that, in turn, helps the kids feel comfortable,” he said. “With that level of comfort obtained, the students are willing to take chances, participate in the different dances and actually attempt, and often do, all the various skill moves in the dance.

The sessions started with kindergarten to Grade 6 students at Tusarvik in the mornings, before moving on to Tuugaalik in the afternoon to work on routines with the high school students.

Thompson said music plays a big role in the everyday life of the students in Naujaat.

He said the iPod is extremely popular in the community because of its smooth and compact music-playing abilities.

“The kids love it when I put music on while they’re doing their work in class. You see headphones everywhere in the community, especially when the kids are out and about, and you don’t have too many extended periods of time when music doesn’t end up front and centre,” he said. “Music is a huge deal that’s really important to a lot of the kids up here, and that includes both traditional and new-age music.

And, really, that love of music rings true throughout the whole community, not just with the kids, so it’s a huge part of life here in Naujaat.”