Get in the groove: Experiencing life and uniting the community through hip hop and street dancing

During the quarantine this spring, DeShawn Fowler started getting restless. A trained dancer and laid off from training to be a flight attendant, he decided he need to get Cleveland dancing.


So, Fowler called up his friend Samuel McIntosh, a choreographer, dancer, and a professor of dance at Kent State University. The two have been holding early morning dance sessions at CWRU for the past five years.


In March, they decided to take the sessions to the next level with virtual hip hop and street dance parties—Groove Mondays.


They started with Zoom dance sessions during quarantine. The parties caught on, so two weeks ago, the pair started live, in-person Groove Mondays on the steps of the Cleveland Museum of Art.


DeShawn Fowler, founder of Groove Monday’s“Groove Mondays represent beautiful performance art in beautiful places,” says Fowler. “It’s about experiencing yourself through music.”


The events have taken off among dancers into styles like hip hop, street, and krump (a freestyle energetic form of street dancing), as well as with people who just want to move or learn more about the art form.


This past Monday, June 29, between 60 and 80 people came out to dance at the museum. “It was cool to see,” Fowler says. “I called the police [ahead of time], just to let them know, and they were watching with us.”


McIntosh says dance events like Groove Mondays are meant for everyone to enjoy. “The sessions are a place of relief for a lot of dancers—no matter what your style,” he explains. “It’s an escape.”


McIntosh also stresses that all are welcome to participate and learn more about the dance style.


“We want people to ask questions, that’s the main thing,” he says. “We want people to be inspired to come back. If you want to get up and dance, get up and dance.”


McIntosh adds that the Zoom and Facetime sessions are fun, but they are no substitute for the open-air events. Both McIntosh and Fowler stress that the group follows all social distancing protocols when they meet.


McIntosh, who founded the Cleveland-based 10K Movement to preserve, educate, and cultivate the street and hip hop culture in Cleveland, says he likes the enthusiasm with which Groove Mondays has been received.


Additionally, he points out that Clevelanders Chris Webb’s and Conrad Miles’ krump documentary, “The Session,” which was presented in the 2019 Cleveland International Film Festival, has contributed to the popularity of hip hop, street dancing, and krumping in Cleveland.


“There are still many things happening in our city as far as street dance,” he says. “Some of the best krumpers in the nation, if not the world, are here [in Cleveland].


This week’s Groove Mondays event was deemed a “battle”—a tournament of sorts featuring different styles of street dancing in front of three judges. The group forms a cypher, a freestyle dance circle in which individual dancers take turns dancing in the middle.

Judges rate the competing dancers on energy, style, technique, and personality, explains Fowler, as dancers are eliminated from the battle.

When talking about his long-term goals for events like Groove Mondays, Fowler quotes the late rapper Tupac Shakur: “I'm not saying I'm gonna rule the world or I'm gonna change the world, but I guarantee you that I will spark the brain that will change the world. And that's our job, it’s to spark somebody else watching us.


Fowler says he wants to create that spark for Cleveland and its dance community.


The next Groove Mondays will not be at the art museum (and the date is yet to be determined), Fowler says, because they want to give the entire city an opportunity to participate.


Groove Monday is a visual experience that combines beautiful spaces with expressive performance art.“We’re definitely looking at doing it next time on the west side,” he says. “It’s cool to see everybody embracing this.”


Fowler says he does plan to continue the events. “We’re going to do it for a while, keep the energy going,” he says. “It’s a good outlet for people. It’s a community project. I need to do this every week because the community needs to express themselves.”


McIntosh’s next event will be teaching a virtual hip hop class on Saturday, July 25th at DanceCleveland's Community Dance Day.


To stay up to date with Groove Mondays and other dance events hosted by Fowler and McIntosh, sign up for the 10K Movement newsletter.

Read more articles by Karin Connelly Rice.

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 20 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.