This is the philosophy of Haitian-born Boulderite Rico Changeux, dancer and owner of Streetside Dance Studio. His philanthropic spirit is one of practice and consistency, believing in his students’ desires and dreams, believing that youth need real skills to be productive and successful citizens in the world.
“If I see that there is a kid that needs something, it’s hard to turn a kid away that wants to dance,” he says.
Coming to Boulder around 1999, Changeux was excited by the culture of dance in the area, participating in the Boulder Dance Festival and making connections with the Colorado Ballet. He spent time coming back and forth from Los Angeles, until he finally saw that there was a place for him here, a definite niche to fill. So he brought his extensive experience, packed with many a famous name and gig, to Boulder, where he opened his own dance studio to share a world of dance styles, including hip-hop, Capoeria, salsa and more.
At Streetside Dance Studio, he provides an outreach program for people who want to dance, and he is on a mission to give something worthwhile to the people in Haiti. Prior to the devastating earthquake that hit Port-au-Prince on Jan. 12, Changeux established the Vertile Foundation, named after his mother, to help give children a stable home and a place to build real-life skills.
Orphanage is not his preferred term. He calls it a youth center/ housing facility, a place that will “provide that void” for children who are older and less likely to be adopted in Haiti. Through land donated by his family in Haiti and his foundation, he is seeking to build a place for displaced youth to gain an education and learn a specific trade.
He stresses the fact that most people who seek to adopt prefer babies and not older children. There is a shocking number of children orphaned by the earthquake, too: According to UNICEF, some 200,000 children lost their parents.
Changeux talked with family from the island and discovered that the most pressing need is food and medication. He’s happy about the aid flowing into Haiti but wonders how long it will last, noting that to be of real help, Haiti is going to require support for the next five to 10 years in order to truly get back on its feet. And what about Haitian culture and art?
“I think the artists, they don’t have a place to practice. I’m thinking that it’s going to be a huge impact because all the old people that were artists, a lot of them are dead,” Changeux says. “It is a huge loss in our culture, especially right in the middle of the culture, you know, Port-Au-Prince. I’m going to know more when I go there.”
In the meantime, he says, “Come celebrate life and art with us and help these local artists contribute to building back up this community in Haiti. We will also be acknowledging and honoring those who are struggling in Chile.”
The support behind Changeux’s mission is growing in great tides as he gains more support from those around him. He will hold a second benefit, “Boulder 4 Haiti,” for the Vertile Foundation on March 18 at the Boulder Theater. Changeux has put up all of the money for the rental of the Boulder Theater in hopes that a silent auction and great line-up of musicians will bring in the funds necessary to help the foundation build and restore what has been lost.
Sounds from the African and Latin diasporas will be in full effect at this cause, including Boom Klat, Debajo del Agua, By All Means Band, Quilombo, Sambadende, Flor de Cana and Zivanai Masango & Pachedu — all local bands donating their time and talents to raise money for this cause.
In addition to his benefits for Haiti, Changeux also offers a solid roster of classes, performances and events happening in Boulder, including a May 15 show at Monarch High School, his Streetside Studios youth show, the Boulder Creek Festival during Memorial Day Weekend, and the VeRVE Hip Hop Competition that is coming up on April 16 in CU’s Glenn Miller Ballroom at the University Memorial Center.
“My philosophy is community first,” Changeux says. “My mother instilled in me the value of art, dance, and music and always reminded me to give back to others less fortunate.”
On the Bill
The Boulder 4 Haiti benefit concert is at the Boulder Theater on March 18. Doors at 7 p.m. Featuring Boom Klat, Quilombo, Sambadende and others. Tickets are $12. 2032 14th St., Boulder, 303-786-7030.