In Pierce’s northern gym, a group of nine students pays close attention to their 18-year-old choreographer, Patrick Ramos, as he demonstrates the carefully constructed movements they will soon practice together.
Every Monday afternoon, these students come together for their kinesiology athletics class, headed by Coach Jenny Ghiglia, and work on perfecting the routines they’ve created. The one-credit class is very new, born just this past semester, but for dancers such as Ramos, it has already become an important part of student life.
Ramos, who wants to major in kinesiology, has been drawn to dance ever since he started watching competitive dance shows on TV as a kid. He used to dance solely for fun, doing talent shows with his church’s youth group in elementary school. In sophomore year of high school, however, Ramos joined Taft High School’s dance team and started dancing professionally. Since then, Ramos has joined three different dance teams, including Pierce College’s Urban Dance Crew.
“[The team] was Coach Jenny’s brainchild, but it was an idea which she never really had the time or the people to make a reality until this semester,” Ramos said. “So when she put out fliers that there were going to be auditions for a dance team, some alumni from Taft, who also go to Pierce now, texted me that I should try out.”
Ramos said he actually didn’t know that the team he was trying out for was also a class he could receive college credit for. In order to add the class, students had to try out for the team first. A few days after his audition, Ramos received the add slip from Ghiglia, securing his spot.
“It’s hard to find people who do the same type of style, so what I wanted was to get people who are talented and who can represent Pierce diversely through dance,” Ghiglia said of the process. “They auditioned either as a solo or with someone else they felt comfortable with and ultimately 12 were accepted.”
Two members have since dropped out but, of the 10 that remained, Ghiglia was able to form a leading council. Ghiglia appointed Ramos, the crew’s main choreographer, as the team’s president and 18-year-old Nataly Fermanyan was made dance club captain.
Like Ramos, Fermanyan is also a first year kinesiology major who came to Pierce after graduating from North Hollywood High School in 2015. She took a class taught by Ghiglia where she realized that there was no hip hop class or team at Pierce. Fermanyan talked to Ghiglia about it and the instructor said she thought it would be a good idea to open one.
“We’re very new so we don’t know exactly how we work yet, but we’re also a very positive team and we’re on an emotional growth,” Fermanyan said. “We try to build each other up instead of break each other down, so everything else just kind of falls into place.”
Ramos laughed that their team is indeed growing in every aspect except for numbers, since it’s too late to audition and join for this semester.
“When we started there was nothing and no one really knew what to do, but now we’re growing in a sense of foundation and body,” Ramos said. “By establishing rules, guidelines, and hierarchy, we’re trying to set up the precedence of the entire club’s future.”
Ramos said that the PC Urban Dance Crew provides him with the perfect outlet to relieve stress. When he’s tired of homework or he’s feeling unhappy, teaching his teammates a new routine or choreographing a new dance helps him take the edge off and stay sane. Ramos said that, for him, choreographing is entirely dependent on the song and how he chooses to interpret it.
“When you dance, it’s a conversation with whoever you’re presenting it to, except that my body is talking to you instead of my mouth or my voice,” Ramos said, “so what I do is I try to think of what I want to embody when I move.”
Ramos said that he doesn’t have a main source of inspiration because anything in his day-to-day life can potentially inspire him and be translated into dance. He said, for instance, that that’s where the recent dance move, ‘the whip,’ came from, imitating the everyday action of driving a car.
“Patrick is really energetic in teaching and he’s eager to teach his style,” Ghiglia said. “I’m pretty happy with how this team is turning out, especially for just putting this together, and it’s because [this group is] really talented.”
Ramos hopes to continue on his path as a performer so that he can one day entertain for a living. He said he wants to encourage people to find themselves in an art.
“It’s the purest thing that a soul can be,” Ramos said. “When you’re doing art, you’re not restricted and no one’s going to tell you how to do your art because it’s your identity and no one can change it.”