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Rico's Story.....

Rico was born in Mexico City. This city has a vibrant culture filled with music, street venders, festivals and color. He came from humble beginnings, watching his Grandfather work very hard as he sold rope to hang clothes and cleaning supplies in the local markets. Rico followed his example at a young age and began shining shoes to raise money to buy a pair of sneakers. With the difficult economic climate came crime, poverty and violence and Rico was surrounded by it all. He watched some of his friends take the wrong path leading them to incarceration, addiction and most painfully he even witnessed the murder of his friend Roberto at the age of 11.

Everyday after school Rico’s grandfather greeted him with one peso so he could get a candy, and the words, “ Hijo portate bien y no te juntes con los vagos y muchomenos te metas en problemas- be a good person and don’t hang out with troublemakers and get in trouble”. Rico was smaller than the other boys his age, he was often bullied and picked on. He fought with his classmates and he knew he needed to find a way to be accepted. He had tried many sports- BMX, skateboarding, football and soccer- but nothing made him feel the way he felt when he was dancing. Inspired by a BBoy VHS his dad gifted him, Rico knew instantly he wanted to dance and be a bboy. He started to emulate the moves from the video and began practising with his friends everyday. No studio, no mirrors, no instructors, they just took a sheet of cardboard and a boombox and jammed in the street. They started to get good. Rico noticed his former enemies were wanting to join in and he had the attention of the ladies. He had found his passion and finally felt like he belonged.

A short while later, Rico’s older cousin Hugo and 2 friend’s Daniel and Israel were talented singers and they were forming a boy band (insert laughter here) and they recruited Rico to be part of their group- honestly, it was just because he could dance. Rico remembers them getting frustrated with the choreography, to the point they told him to quit dancing. You see Rico could freestyle, copying someone's choreography was not his forte at the time as he never had any formal training. He remembers attending a singing audition with the group, Rico’s nerves and excitement took over and he began to sing on top of the lead singer! The directors stopped the music and excused the group from the audition. The rest of the group and managers were mad at Rico for veering off the plan and basically gave up on him. This fuelled a fire within Rico, as he knew he had to push even more. He wanted to prove to them that he would succeed. He pushed on with dancing and became a well known bboy in his area. Rico remembers random people coming to his door at his grandparents home to tell him about jams that were organically happening down the street and calling him out to show up and battle the other dancers. Everyone wanted to show and prove they were the best.

Rico had moved to Izcalli -just north of Mexico City with his mother to attend a different school. He found new friends that shared his passion for dance. They created a crew called “The Best Of The World”- remember these boys did not speak english. They started battling in different cities and were getting noticed within the street dance community in Mexico. Conflict in the group resulted in Rico leaving and at the age of 15 he formed another group called Black Tendency with 4 other dancers. They won a televised talent contest called El Club. He was then hired to dance in commercials for Disney and he did a Super Bowl Commercial for the Patriots in 2003. While attending one of the battles in Mexico City, Rico was noticed by a Mexican rapper Andres Castillo who was in a relationship with Guille Gomez who owned an elite studio called Danza Tres. Rico was invited to the studio - which was 3 hours from his home. When Rico arrived at the studio, Guille stopped her class and introduced Rico to the class. She said “ I hear you’re a really good dancer, let's see what you can do”. Rico then freestyled for the class. The group of technical dancers were really impressed and Guille welcomed Rico to the studio. The trip was long and Rico could not afford the tuition. Guille sat him down and asked him how serious he was about dance. She provided him with a scholarship so that if he could find a way to the studio, she covered his tuition. Overwhelmed with gratitude Rico told Guille he would find a way to get to class. He rode 2 buses and a subway to get class, and 2 buses and a subway to get home each day. 3 hours one way. Nothing was stopping Rico from this opportunity. Many family members did not support Rico’s quest. There were negative attitudes and push back telling him he will never make it.

One morning Guille phoned Rico and said “I need you at the studio tomorrow at 9am, I have an opportunity for you” Rico and his friend John met each other at the doors of the studio -both not knowing what was about to happen. Guille introduced them to the Mexican singer Belinda and her management. Next thing they know, her team were looking them up and down, observing their clothes, and asked if they “even had passports because they would be travelling to Brazil in one month.” Rico knew right away they didn’t seem impressed. Guille reassured everybody that they would be ready with choreography for Belinda’s first single Lo Siento by that Friday. Rico and John were in the studio each morning that week with Belinda and Guille building choreography. On that Friday they were met by the record label, newspaper, tour management and parents of Belinda to see them dance. Again the atmosphere was tense, Rico could feel the negative energy and doubt in the air. Guille had a smirk on her face as she asked them to freestyle. The beat dropped and Rico and John went off. There was an instant shift to the energy in the room. The onlookers lit up with applause and cheering. Rico remembers feeling great relief and they were hired before even showing the choreography they had worked on all week. Before he absorbed what just happened, designers were taking his measurements and Rico was completing a passport application. He remembers looking John in the eye thinking “what just happened?!”

Within months Rico was taking his first airplane ride to promote Belinda’s new record. He appeared at every Mexican TV station, mall outlets, shoe factories and radio stations. Photoshoots, performances, a different city everyday, then a different country everyday….Rico’s reality was so far different from the one he grew up in. He remembered those who doubted him and told him he’d “never be anybody” and sure enough these faces began to reappear in his life boasting with pride.

The next 3 years were much the same. Concert tours, music video shoots, album promotions, fine dining and exclusive hotel stays. Rico travelled to many countries USA, Brazil, Spain, France, Italy, Argentina...the list goes on. He danced in huge concert festivals that shared the ticket with artists like Jennifer Lopez and Ricky Martin.

Young wild and free, Rico began dating Belinda. Knowing that her father would not approve they tried to keep their relationship a secret. The record label and tour management prohibited them from public displays of affection. They even sent security to sit between them at the movie theatre. Eventually her dad found out. He tried to tell her not to date Rico as “he isn't the same status, he’s not the same as you”. He then wanted to fire Rico, however it wasn’t his decision and the tour management did not want to lose Rico as a dancer. At the end of the day Belinda was boss and she would not allow her father to do this. As time went on it appeared there were more and more barriers between Rico and Belinda. One day he arrived at the airport to fly with the tour to the Dominican Republic. Rico went to the first class area where he normally would go to fly with Belinda however this time he was stopped by management and told to line up in the economy line. He was also warned by Belinda’s assistant Marat that he overheard her dad talking about setting him up so he could be fired. Marat recorded the conversation and played it to Rico to protect him. The plan involved making it look like Rico stole money. He felt it was the only way Belinda would let him go. Rico remembers flying to the Dominican with heartache and anger. He knew there was no way this relationship was going to have the blessing of her father. Now faced with the potential to be set up ( and by a very wealthy man) Rico decided he needed to quit the tour. He performed in his last show with Belinda and afterwards met with her and her mother to break the news. Belinda’s mother loved Rico and always approved of their relationship. She pleaded with him not to quit. As many touring dancers will tell you, you are lucky if you get two years, maybe three- concepts change, artists change and these positions are not typically long term, unfortunately. ( Except for Pink who has publicly announced she plans to grow old with her dancers). In Rico’s case, the circumstances were difficult and painful.

After he returned to Mexico City Rico was depressed and felt like he needed to move out of Mexico. He took one last job with Disney called Kim Possible where Rico played the role of Ron Stoppable. Shortly after he took a vacation to Cabo to get away from the tabloids, drama and to just take a break. While on vacation resort owners saw him dancing in a club and offered him a job in the sport and entertainment team at the Costa Real Resort. This is where he met his wife Shannon, which would be his reason to travel to Canada… Bentley, Alberta to be exact. He perfected his english by serving in the Monkey Top Saloon. 6 months later he moved to Red Deer, excited by the prospect that there may be a street dance community there... as it was a city after all. This was not the case.

A close friend that became family, Lawrence Paull brought Rico a newspaper clipping of a dance audition to open for the Alberta Summer Games that Red Deer was hosting in 2006. Rico showed up, dressed in his freshest find a sea of 10-13 yr old girls in tights. The audition was a series of pirouettes, kicks and jumps- (all of which were thoroughly enjoyed by his now wife Shannon). The audition ended and the coordinator said- “you can dance can’t you...please show us”, It was almost as though his pirouettes didn’t make the cut. Rico’s freestyle landed him his own solo performance spot in the Centrium for the opening ceremonies….and a job teaching dance.

Rico was so excited….but thought to himself- where are the street dancers at? Where are the jams? Battles? Red Deer did not have a hip hop community at all at the time. Rico, who was in love and wanting to stay in Canada resigned to the idea that his dancing days were over.

From there Rico began working construction and then in the oil field. Long hours, away from home. The money was good but there was no joy in his work. For seven years Rico left dance. He saved money, bought a home, got married….this was life now. Yet something was missing…

One day Rico received a call from a friend of a friend, Natalie who was wanting her son to learn how to break dance and she lived in Eckville. At the time Rico wasn't sure about coming back to dance and he hesitated. He then told her that for him to travel from Red Deer it would be better to have a few kids, thinking he would probably never hear from her again. She filled an entire class, in Eckville AB, in a tiny upstairs yoga studio above a gym. Then there were 2 full classes, then 3.... Rico was on fire with passion and gratitude! The universe had pulled through once again and dance had found its way back to his life once again. Winter of 2012 he opened some Sunday morning classes in Red Deer and by spring he secured his small studio space which we now call the ”Black and Yellow”. Going into Pound It’s 10th year as Red Deer’s only street and club dance studio, the hundreds of students that now embrace the culture, know its roots and its core values... the reflection is surreal. This was meant to be.

As a leader in Central Alberta’s Hip Hop community Rico often thinks back to that scholarship that was given to him and the doors it opened. Riding the buses and trains for hours and hours and doing something everyone told him was a waste of time... Rico is the first to say that hip hop saved his life. His words of advice to his students is “Never let anyone get in the way of your dreams. If you want it bad enough,keep pushing and go get it.”

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