Justin Seidel is a charming young man whose passion for B-Boy culture (traditionally called breakdance in the media) and his Christian faith has inspired him to use dance as a method of connecting with youth.
Seidel’s sincerity, coupled with an ability to see a parallel between dance and faith, has allowed him to sidestep the superficial trappings of hip hop depicted in the media.
Instead, the social work student is currently working on a program provisionally titled Christian Performing Arts, which he is hoping to roll-out at schools and church groups. He has also been involved in helping run hip hop workshops with Indigenous Australian youth.
Seidel credits an early injury to his thumb – given the importance of both footwork and being able to use hands for B-Boys – with helping him realise just how much dance mattered to him. The scare reinforced his love for this subculture and started him thinking about how he could channel his passion.
Spotting a Facebook post from one of his early choreography teachers about youth programs involving Indigenous Australians provided a spark of inspiration.
“I just happened to look at it and thought ‘whoa that’s awesome.’ Because I was trying to think what I was going to do next year”, he said.
“I am obsessed with dancing, I looked into doing a performing arts degree, but it’s not exactly a good thing to fall back on especially after I hurt my thumb. ‘Oh maybe I’ll do social work, I’ve always been interested in helping people’,” he said, acting out the moment.
“Then I found this, which is social work with dance.”
During our conversation Seidel outlines a near encyclopaedic account of B-Boy history, from the humble beginnings of the dance form in the Bronx to the growth of the Australian scene. This passion for dance culture has led to his insight that hip hop offers a new way to express faith. He identifies its key tenets as ‘peace, love, unity and having fun’, referring in passing to music pioneer and DJ Afrika Bambataa’s Zulu Nation dictum: “Each one, teach one.”
“The more I do hip hop, the more I realize that’s what it’s about. These are very core human values and I think a lot of that is lost these days,” Seidel said.
Continuing to develop his theme, he explained: “During my journey of faith and dancing, I was looking at how they were connecting. Faith is always growing and dance is always growing. I’m learning as I go as well. With the start of this program, I thought of some major themes – love, faith and praise – aiming to communicate how that relates to dancing.
“The theme of faith in the Bible, the gift that God has given you in terms of your body, the gift of music – you are praising God by dancing, because you are showing your appreciation.”
This unity of faith and performance is communicated by Seidel as a powerful form of self-expression, particularly important today with the increasing insulation of youth by online virtual worlds.
“It’s about bringing them closer to God and keeping them physically active. It’s something that’s going to give them personal fulfilment. Once they understand that they can make their own choices creatively, they’re also going to be able to make other important choices in life. It gives them that confidence earlier.”
Seidel has developed initial dance instruction sessions with attendees at Christian Life Week events, before teaching classes at his old school for a number of weeks. He has also taken a small business course and is seeking promotional opportunities for his Christian Performing Arts project.
“In a perfect world I’d do it for free. I want to enjoy what I’m doing and I want to live and support a family someday. So I just hope that people will give me the opportunity to try something new and for me to spread what I love.”
Justin can be contacted on Justin.firstname.lastname@example.org for more information and bookings.