Hip hop instructor shaping Nunavut b-boys and b-girls
“Seeing the children happy is my main goal"
When Jenni Linkson walks into the Kullik Ilihakvik elementary school gym in Cambridge Bay, all of the kids run over to hug her.
She’s a bit of a rock star around here.
For the last five years, Linkson has been teaching students hip hop dance and all the pride and confidence that comes from learning and honing a new skill.
“Seeing the children happy is my main goal,” said Linkson, who has been teaching dance in Niagara Falls and Toronto for 22 years.
When she’s not working as a paramedic assistant or a firefighter in Ontario, she travels once a year to communities in Nunavut, such as Cambridge Bay, Kugluktuk and Kugaaruk, to teach children how to dance.
“The thing I really strive for is teaching the children hip hop at a level they need to be taught,” said Linkson, who is a certified ballet, contemporary and jazz teacher. “My program suits [the kids]. I’m not here to show off, I’m here to teach them proper techniques.”
This year, during her two-week visit in Cambridge Bay, Linkson is spending her time at the elementary school teaching students dance moves during their daily gym classes.
She also teaches free dance classes after school hours at the community hall for any student from Grade 2 to Grade 6 who wants to learn more.
“[I go to the classes] because I love to dance so much,” said 10-year-old Averi Kaiyogana. “It’s so much fun. The Uptown Funk dance is my favourite.”
On Jan. 30, Linkson will host a concert for all the kids to show off what they’ve learned during her stay. This includes different types of individual moves and a choreographed group dance, like the Uptown Funk.
“I want to thank all the families for supporting the kids every year,” said Linkson, the mother of three competitive dancers. “[The parents and grandparents] always come out to the show and it really makes the kids’ day.”
On top of the performance, one of her goals is to eventually start a local flash mob.
A flash mob, if you want to look it up on YouTube, is when people show up to a venue unannounced — a mall, a street corner, a subway station, etc. — perform a routine and then leave.
“I want people to drive up in their skidoos and be like ‘oh my gosh I want to join this,’” she said. “I’d even send the video to Ellen if it was filmed right.”
But Linkson teaches the young students more than just how to move their bodies to the beat.
While at the school, she takes time to talk to students about bullying and gives them signed anti-bullying posters to take home with them.
“I want to try and help them change their reactions to help them take better actions,” she said. “I want to see these kids grow and develop into leaders because a big part of any community is inspiring people.”
And Linkson thanks the entire community of Cambridge Bay for making the dance program happen.
“I want to thank First Air, sports and recreation, the wellness centre and the hamlet,” she said. “Plus the teachers’ happy promotion makes it a lot easier for me to get my message across.”
The ultimate message is that dance is a superb way for small-town students to stay happy, healthy and out of trouble.
“The arts is such a fantastic world, it’s a love everyone should know,” said Linkson. “Like I always say, hip hop ‘till you drop.”