“Hip Hop is a misunderstood weapon of social change in the fight for racial equality, which has been colonized by the corporate media and sold back to Americans as ‘Authentic Black Culture”
– Campbell States, “Philadelphia City Paper”
Why We Are
Versa-Style: Performance Education Community is a not-for-profit private philanthropic organization that began as a response to budget cuts in the arts. Aware of the dramatic dropout rates in Los Angeles public schools, and knowing how critical arts education was to our own academic achievement and success, we have committed ourselves to ensuring that our youth have an equal opportunity to a complete education with Hip Hop dance as the driving force.
What We Do
VS:PEC utilizes Hip Hop dance to guide passionate, dedicated young individuals from marginalized Los Angeles communities to use the arts as a tool to navigate the varied and infinitely complex personal landscapes they live every day. As Hip Hop ARTivists, we provide enriching opportunities through dance education in the form of school performances, teaching residencies, weekly dance classes and individualized mentorship through a pre-professional Hip Hop dance experience. We empower the next generation with historical knowledge, cultural and societal awareness, and provide space to celebrate the strength of the Streetdance community.
Hip Hop ARTivist Pipeline.
Our Seeds & Our Soil
Kevin Kane: The Teacher
Monica Horan Rosenthal: The Visionary
Phil Rosenthal: The Funder
The story of VS:P.E.C. begins with three friends whose lives were profoundly impacted by access to arts programming in high school and who wanted to pay it forward:
Kevin Kane met Monica Horan Rosenthal in Pennsylvania in 1977 while performing in their high school musical. Kevin met Phil Rosenthal in New York in 1980 when they were both theatre majors at Hofstra University. In 1986, Kevin introduced Phil to Monica in NYC, after Phil attended a performance of a play that Monica performed in and Kevin had directed. In 1989 Kevin, Phil and Monica all moved to LA. Phil and Monica married in 1990.
By 1996, Kevin (now Dr. Kevin Kane, currently Director of the Visual and Performing Arts Education Dept. At UCLA) was teaching at Marshall High School, LAUSD, where he created the seminal program, Theatre Workshop.
That same year, Philip Rosenthal created the hit TV comedy Everybody Loves Raymond, which was on the air for nine years and continues in syndication. Monica joined the cast that first season.
Monica and Phil supported Kevin’s Theatre Workshop program from its inception.
By supporting Kevin’s work, the Rosenthal’s were made acutely aware of the gross inequity in our public schools, particularly around access to the arts.
Having seen the impact Theatre Workshop was having on the students and entire community at Marshall HS, and with the belief that every student deserves a complete education that includes the arts, Kevin, Monica and Phil founded The Flourish Foundation.
The Flourish Foundation supported Kevin’s visionary work, provided scholarships to students, funded various teacher initiatives and arts programs. In addition, the work of The Flourish Foundation further informed the education and equity focus of The Rosenthal Family Foundation.
Rooted in the belief that the issues of inequity are best addressed by supporting and working with those most grossly impacted by inequity, Monica maintained the vision that the students participating in programming created by Kevin and supported by The Flourish Foundation (students like Jackie Lopez, Leigh Foaad, Harry Weston and Ernesto Galarza), would one day not only work for the foundation, but eventually govern it–transforming its mission to their own lens, their own experience, and their own capabilities.
VS:P.E.C. is the realization of that vision.
Jackie Lopez and Leigh Foaad
Jackie was introduced to Leigh Foaad in 2002, when Leigh participated in Kevin Kane’s Theatre Workshop summer class at UCLA. In 2003-2004, Leigh became a vital part of Jackie’s work at UCLA. They discovered that together they shared a common passion for dance and performance and this connection resulted in the creation of Versa-Style in 2005, which has contributed to the evolution of The Flourish Foundation to Versa-Style: Performance Education Community
As LA Natives, they embrace the culture and honor the history/legacy of Hip Hop dance by passing it on to the future generations. They have been guest choreographers for Santa Monica College, LA Valley College, Columbia College and University of Utah. Jackie and Leigh have served as cultural ambassadors for the U.S. through the Arts Envoy Cultural Exchange Program in which they were able to perform, teach and lecture in countries such as Israel, Egypt, India, and Colombia. As a mainstay of Hip Hop culture, Jackie and Leigh have traveled to several Hip Hop dance battles nationally and internationally, winning many victory titles in places such as Korea, Italy, Canada and France. In addition, Jackie and Leigh’s biography premiered in their documentary “Furious Beauty” at the LA Film Festival where it garnered glowing reviews.
Lastly, they were awarded with a Lester Horton Artist Appreciation Award presented by the Dance Resource Center in June 2015. Currently, they are both Lecturers for UCLA’s World Arts and Cultures/Dance Dept. They owe a lot of their fortune to the legends and culture of Hip Hop, as well as the future generations that have contributed in profound ways to the future of VS:P.E.C.
As shared in our Mission statement, Versa-Style: Performance Education Community is led by former students of the program. The organization has flourished into what it is today due to the heart and effort of countless individuals over the years, and in particular we would like to recognize the contributions of Harry Weston, Leanne Iacovetta-Poirier, Alli Gray, Ernesto Galarza, Bianette Linares, Brandon Juezan, Cynthia Hernandez, Anthony Berry, G’bari Gilliam, Jessi Pontillas and Brianna Grey and Joey Velasquez. These ARTivists have consistently contributed to the work, mission, and evolution of Versa-Style as an organization for many years and have offered formative contributions during our initial transition. Also part of this team have been our consultants, the incredible Rachel Levin and Andrea Sorin, part of the Fundamental team who have guided us on this journey. To all those involved in the building of Versa-Style over the years, THANK YOU it takes a village. We are grateful for the Los Angeles community who have helped us empower this organization. All of you and many more are part of our history, our present, and our future. Let’s keep on building in order to support the leaders of tomorrow and the hope for our city.
Versa-Style Next Generation…
May these young souls/artivists continue to inspire us all of the possibilities of what our world can and WILL be…
We hear you and may you all continue to GUIDE us.
The youth of today are the leaders of tomorrow!
Leigh Foaad aka “Breeze-Lee” was born in New Orleans and at the age of 3 months he moved to Los Angeles…
Ernesto Galarza was born and raised in the San Fernando Valley and first met Jackie Lopez as his 6th grade after…
Community Outreach Coordinator
Brandon Juezan began his journey with VS:PEC after meeting Jackie Lopez at a local high school dance competition…
Lead Teaching Artist
Allison “Alli” Gray-Odeniyide is a dancer, choreographer, and teaching artist based in Los Angeles, California…
Bianette is a first-generation high school and college graduate born and raised in the innercity of Los Angeles…
VSNG Assistant Manager