RACINE — On the second floor of the old YWCA building in Downtown Racine, above the Living Light Christian Church, Erika Bozinovski runs a dance studio with a purpose.
“The mission is to legitimize hip-hop and dance in an accessible way,” she said.
Bozinovski, 34, was born and raised in Racine and born and raised with dance. In 2008, she created Sweatshop Movement, as a way to share her passion for hip hop dance and teaching with youth across Wisconsin. But she only recently brought it back to Racine.
“I felt the dance style needed to be legitimized,” she said. “There’s a lot of teachers that don’t know the culture, don’t know the history of the dance, don’t know the difference between popping and locking and make up terms for things.”
The Park High School graduate moved back to Racine in 2014 after more than a decade in Madison to coach the poms team at her alma mater. In February 2015, she acquired the studio space at 740 College Ave. and officially brought Sweatshop Movement to Racine.
While the studio is ideal from a size standpoint, its location in a low-traffic area and signage difficulties have made bringing the business to Racine difficult. It flourished with local kids in Madison, according to Bozinovski, partly because she had fewer restrictions on advertising in schools.
“There are tons of kids here that I know want to dance and love this, they just don’t even know it’s here,” she said. “That’s been the biggest challenge.”
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A key portion of Sweatshop Movement’s mission involves making dance classes accessible and affordable for Racine children.
Bozinovski makes sure the locations she chooses are close to bus lines so that students whose parents can’t drive them still can make it to classes. She also raises funds through letter campaigns and showcases, such as an annual show in Madison, which allows her to subsidize the cost of admission for students.
“The communities that are struggling are also the communities that may really be able to take advantage of a program like this to keep their kids out of trouble and off the streets,” she said.
And even when the difficulties with getting the word out about classes and the studio have her down, the smiling faces of her students keep her going.
“In my Monday night class, the moms know that we come out five to 10 minutes late because I cannot get these girls out the door,” Bozinovski said. “Their faces when they work on things and achieve them is the most rewarding part of the job.”