Our Hip Hop Community Deserves Respect
Our Hip Hop Community Deserves Respect
Why this petition matters
Dear President Tuminez,
My name is Ashley Nitzen Kimsey. I was the hip hop teacher from January 2011 to February 2019. Hired by Nicole Ortega and let go by Doris Trujillo.
I am writing this letter to let you know of how MosAIC got started, my experience teaching at UVU and the lack of support and respect from the Dance Dept. I hope this letter will ignite change in the way the hip hop classes are being treated.
I started teaching the Hip Hop 1 class in Fall 2011, The first year of teaching; I put on a free performance for my dancers. We invited local hip hop crews and artists to come and perform in the courtyard. I called it "The Night of Hip Hop, A Choreographers Showcase." We had well over 200 in attendance. My ex-husband and I had purchased white shower curtains and Christmas lights and hung them as our backdrop to our make-shift stage. A few local companies came out to donate free snacks and drinks, and it ended up being a magical fun night.
That year I was asked to judge UVU's Best Dance Crew. Kyle Reyes was a judge as well, and after watching all of the fantastic talents from UVU, I came up with a plan to create a Hip Hop team. I first reached out to Kyle Reyes and Nicole Ortega, who were both supportive and insightful. They helped get the company started, and that next year we had Mos.A.I.C "Most Artistic Inspired Creators."
The first few years were a learning curve for me and my dancers. I went from teaching two hip hop 1 classes to three hip hop 1 classes, the hip hop 2 class and Mosaic. Our first year as a team, we had our end of the year showcase in the Grand Ballroom. Tickets were $5, I had a friend film the show, we had a small stage to work with and no dressing rooms, but that didn't stop us from selling out and putting on one of my still favorite shows of all time. I remember falling to my knees when it finished and cried because I was so happy.
As happy as I was, I never truly felt welcomed or wanted by the Dance dept. Nicole was amazing and was always there to help guide me and walk me through processes. Other teachers were not so kind or happy with the team. I was told a few times " The other companies already have a hard time finding space and performance scheduling so that is why they're not happy that your team was created".
Unfortunately, things changed even more when Nicole stepped down as head chair. My classes were continually being blamed for scuff marks on the wood floors, dirty mirrors, loud music, etc. We also were restricted from using any of the money we made from our sold-out shows to take outside classes, travel, or have a company retreat. Our showcase dates were asked to be moved around due to other companies wanting our dates. I always took criticism, demands, and changes with a smile on my face. I was just grateful we had a safe place for dancers in our community to come together, dance, and create life-long friendships.
A few times I was told I can't have dress rehearsals for our end of the year show because they can't pay me. I remember thinking, well how are we going to put on our show? Silence. I still ended up scheduling dress rehearsals and putting on incredible shows. For me, money was never the reason, In my 8 years I had spent countless hours of my own time creating and working with MosAIC and I don't regret one second of it.
For years I wanted to take my students to Monsters of Hip Hop. This dance convention changed my life in college, and I wanted my students to get that same experience and compete. When I mentioned the convention to Doris the head chair of the dept, I was told no. A few days later, Doris stopped by my rehearsal and handed my kids out of state travel papers to sign. I let my students decide for themselves if they still wished to go or not. They signed themselves up, rented their own Airbnb, and I flew out and met them the day of the competition. I wasn't going to let my team go alone. We ended up taking 1st and walked away, feeling accomplished. Next week, I was let go, just a few shorts weeks before our end of the year showcase.
Mosaic has now gone through 3 different teachers since my departure. Each time the department has reached out to dancers in our community before discussing with the current teacher. The current teachers were originally part of Mosaic in the first two years, so these teachers have been with me since the beginning. All of them have been passionate, dedicated teachers who deserve to know why they are being let go instead of finding out through the community. I understand as adjuncts, we are all disposable, but I do think we deserve more respect. Kyle and I even tried moving our team to another department because of the lack of care and support. Unfortunately, this never happened.
Moving forward, Mosaic will no longer be affiliated with UVU. It deserves better. The dancers deserve it, and the teachers even more. Our entire Hip Hop community has donated their time, money, blood, sweat, and so many tears to make this family what it is today. And the UVU dance department just doesn't deserve it anymore.
It's really unfortunate that UVU's dance dept couldn't see the potential MosAIC was creating for its community and University. I can't tell you how many times I asked for meetings to see how we could get MosAIC to be part of a major or minor dance degree. To allow it to be more than just a class. To be treated like the other companies and to be given the same opportunities.
The dance dept can keep their hip hop classes, MosAIC was just another class to them anyways. I genuinely hope change comes from this letter and the dance department treats their hip hop teachers better and even more so their students.
Mosaic has created a lot of opportunities for people. It has not only created jobs but friendships, relationships, and unforgettable experiences. I have asked anyone who has been a part of any of the hip hop classes or Mosaic or has supported this community to come forward and sign this petition as an endorsement of this letter.
There has been 9 years of unfair treatment to this team, If I could write and share every experience I would. I know I'm missing a lot in this letter. If you wish to hear more I'm happy to share.
Thank you so much for your time reading this,
Ashley and MosAIC
- President TuminezUtah Valley University
- Kara SchneckChief of Staff UVU