R.A.C.E. Dance Company

The art of dance has great power. It can evoke emotion, either soothing or invigorating. It can convey love and passion. It can be beautiful and heart-pounding. All of these things might be expected if you were to watch a performance by the R.A.C.E dance company for the first time.

What may come as a surprise, however, is the power these dancers have in affecting social change. R.A.C.E. stands for Radical Application of Creative Energy, and was founded by Hui Cha Poos, an instructor in the dance department at UCO. With UCO students and beyond, Poos saw a need for opportunities for local dancers, specifically adults, to pursue their love of dance in a professional sense.

“What I was noticing was that we were graduating a lot of really talented dancers, and there are a lot of really talented dancers around in studios,” Poos says, but explains that after graduation, there were not a lot of options for these dancers to stay in Oklahoma and dance professionally.

“If they weren’t traveling to New York or Los Angeles, which is a small percentage, they weren’t continuing to dance,” Poos says. So her mission to create an opportunity for them took the form of R.A.C.E.

Poos says that R.A.C.E. primarily teaches jazz and mainstream dance. They now have a studio in downtown Oklahoma City to serve as a training facility. Simply creating an outlet for these dancers was not enough for Poos, who is a single mom in addition to being a full-time teacher.

She wanted to use the group as an opportunity to influence the audience as well. “Our mission statement is to bring about awareness and social change through dance. We’re using dance to facilitate that,” she explains. Their last show consisted of a theme to erase attitudes of racism and discrimination. They included many different forms of art in the production, ranging from poetry, to singers and even a drag queen, all to help illustrate their ideas of equality. “We like to bring in many aspects of art because I truly believe that one affects the other and you can learn from them all,” Poos says.

R.A.C.E. has a loyal following and is gaining in popularity, Poos says. She adds that many people who are learning about the group may have never seen some of these elements before and they benefit from the exposure. Having just officially gained nonprofit status for the organization, Poos says she has plans to seek grants and facilitate programs, such as a hip-hop version of The Nutcracker, to involve local disadvantaged youth.

“We’re kind of on the cusp of beginning the journey, I think, of really having the effect that
we want.”

That journey, of course, will continue to include establishing long term opportunities for the adult dancers. One of those dancers is Rachel Parks, a UCO graduate who is thankful for having the group after college. “It’s the level of professionalism and knowing that since I’ve graduated, being with a group of like-minded people that are all striving for the same goals and love dance and love to share their art form with the community,” Parks says.

Parks’ fellow group member and UCO graduate, Brandi Gable, explains that through R.A.C.E., Oklahomans have a chance to see the less-publicized contemporary and jazz dancing in a concert setting. “I hope that people realize the talent we have in the state. Once people see what we do, I think they’ll realize what they’ve been missing,” Gable says. Poos would likely agree. She says that in a long-term sense, she hopes R.A.C.E. will help develop a more formal dance industry in the state. “We’re just going to create our own (industry) here,” she says. “I don’t see why it can’t happen. I think there are enough people here. The city is starting to boom. We have
the talent.”

Yes, it seems that change is definitely coming.  For more information visit www.racedance.com

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