Union Station’s Mercantile was hopping the Friday before Easter. The drink and pastry Chase Evered ordered at the beginning of our interview took nearly its hour-long duration to arrive. Despite the hectic scene and the barista’s lack of urgency, Evered remained calm. “I’m a patient man,” he said with the deliberateness of a monk. Patience may not be what you’d expect from a b-boy but it’s what you’ll get– in spades– from this one. Evered (a.k.a. Chase ‘Em Down) co-owns (with Fuad “Tommy” Talybov) Aurora’s School of Breaking, a progressive break and street dancing school. Here students learn not just moves, but the rich history and culture behind them. This is in an effort to make positive changes on the individual level as well as upon society at large.
Evered’s path to dance materialized while he was enrolled at Morningside College, where he played basketball. He didn’t find dance until he’d gotten lost, he says, getting arrested and falling into drug and alcohol use. Then he discovered an outlet in movement. He began dancing at house parties in Iowa. Eventually Chase moved back to Colorado where he showed his sisters, both dancers (one in ballet, the other jazz), that he could dance, too. His sister Lindsay offered him a teaching job at CenterStage Starz in Centennial, where he spent nine years as the Hip Hop Company Director. From there, he found mentors like BBoy Ray Ray (Ray Maestas) and the late Gary Kendall (of the Jabbawockeez) who taught him the values behind Hip Hop.
“Hip Hop,” Evered says, “is an international culture of peace and prosperity.” According to Evered, Hip Hop is actually an acronym for Higher Inner Peace Helping Other People. Its main values are peace, love, unity, and having fun. Its four creative expressions are breaking (breakdancing), DJing, emceeing, and graffiti. Despite negative connotations and stereotypes Hip Hop, as Evered describes, “brings all humans together.” He says people “find understanding through body movement and the exchange of energy” Hip Hop provides, that it is “a release of both positive and negative energies in the heat of battles. At the end of the battle, cypher or dance session, all energies become positive.” Evered’s nickname comes from the aggressive nature of his dancing, yet he’s able to channel that in a positive way.
Hip Hop allows constructive rather than destructive expression. “You can still express your pain and suffering but not hurt anyone,” Evered says. “I could have been a liar, cheat, thief and criminal,” but Hip Hop “provided the tools of integrity, honesty, and confidence…you can battle with honor and gain respect while maintaining peace. I bring out that demon, that darkness in me. Everyone I battle becomes a friend.” For him, Hip Hop is not mere entertainment but a spiritual journey that he sees as innate to the human experience. “You can’t fake dancing,” he says. “It’s a genuine expression of your soul.”
It’s no wonder then that Evered has dedicated his career to waking people up, changing lives with the power of Hip Hop. He aims to cultivate his students’ creative intuition and self-esteem, especially those in middle school and high school,so that they can craft their own definitions of themselves while accepting who they are in the moment. The discipline involved with mastering Breaking enables students to push through challenges, and embracing mistakes becomes a source of learning when the student remains non-judgmental and supported.
Evered wants to take School of Breaking to the next level. He wants to provide dancers with paid work. One method for that is expanding School of Breaking with an instructor certification program and increased after-school programs at the district-wide level. With increased fundraising, School of Breaking can cover administrative costs, pay their teachers fair wages and offer programs for low-income families free of charge. “We use money for good not greed,” Evered says. Additionally, such a model would be more sustainable in the long run without such dependency on Evered and Talybov. With Hip Hop’s accessibility regardless of age, ethnicity, socioeconomic status or religion and world-wide draw, the possibilities for School of Breaking and Chase Evered seem sky high.
Deanne Gertner: A Colorado native, Deanne Gertner is a graduate of Vermont College of Fine Arts. She works for Denver-based art consulting firm, NINE dot ARTS, where she helps companies tell their stories through art. She sits on the boards of Lighthouse Writer’s Workshop and CultureHaus, the Denver Art Museum’s young professionals’ group. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming from DailyServing and Quaint Magazine.