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New Community Hip-Hop Project Breaks Down Boundaries

Credit: Wild At Heart Facebook Page
Jasmine Crittenden · March 14, 2017

 A new community music initiative is using rap, beats and dance to bring together diverse communities, including people experiencing disability, people experiencing disadvantage, refugees and migrants. Based in Melbourne and run through Wild at Heart Community Arts, the year-long project, called Breakin’ Boundaries, launched in February.

‘Wild Heart already had an established hip hop group, Inkrewsive,’ says Phil Heuzenroeder, artistic and managing director. ‘But one of the challenges of working with people who experience disability and disadvantage is building connections. It’s too easy for the community to stay a world unto itself.’

That’s why Mr Heuzenroeder decided to collaborate. He called on Mayibuye Performance Group, which runs dance workshops for people of diverse backgrounds, and Spectrum, a service provider for refugees and migrants.

Since then, about fifteen of their participants have been meeting weekly with Inkrewsive’s fifteen members at Roth Dance Studio. Facilitated by Mr Heuzenroeder, alongside rapper MC Defrom, dancer Gilbert Douglas and theatre expert Margie McKay, the group is creating, developing and rehearsing a series of theatrical performances, featuring hip-hop, song and dance.

The project was motivated, in part, by Mr Heuzenroeder’s belief in the power of storytelling. ‘Even when people have had diverse life experiences, their stories can be common,’ Mr Heuzenroeder says. ‘The arts have the power to break down divisions and increase understanding.’

At this early stage, participants are spending time sharing their stories and becoming acquainted. ‘We’re doing a lot of energising activities and having a lot of fun, learning to be together as an ensemble … It’s amazing to be sitting in Melbourne and thinking about where everyone has travelled from, to be in that space.’

Along the way, ideas and lines with potential are being collected. The other day, for example, one of the Inkrewsive members was in the middle of a group exercise, when she suddenly said, ‘Excuse me, can I dance at the front?’ Mr Heuzenroeder says, ‘I straight away thought it was a great line. It’s such a metaphor for breaking through boundaries. People experiencing disabilities can be disregarded or stigmatised in everyday life, but there was someone saying, “I’ve got spunk and I can be in the frontline”.’

Down the track, the Breakin’ Boundaries team will take part in public performances at a variety of venues. Song recordings and dance videos are on the agenda, too.

Wild at Heart Community Arts is a not-for-profit that, according to its website, ‘provides opportunities for people who experience disability, mental illness or disadvantage to tell their stories and engage with the community through paid and unpaid high quality arts making in music, dance, video and performance.’ The organisation runs a range of initiatives in addition to Inkrewsive and Breakin’ Boundaries, including the Bipolar Bears rock band, regular workshops and mentoring programs.

Breakin’ Boundaries receives funding from Creative Victoria, the City of Melbourne via the Triennial Arts Grants and Transurban Community Grants.

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