This is the 5th year of operation for New York based Flex Dance Program (FDP), a program that is designed to help build and encourage “positive growth within individuals through artistic expression and freestyle performance”. The program is led by founder Ragnhild (Ragz) Bruland, co-founder Jermaine (Flizzo) Clement and Ransford (Jezzy) Odoi.  FDP offers hope to at-risk youth in New York through dance and creative mentorship sessions that strive to build self-esteem, self-confidence, and the ability to steer youthful energy into something creative, and by doing so, hopefully avoid negative outcomes.

Co-founder of Flex Dance Program Ragnhild (Ragz) Bruland - Photo by Carol Dragon

Co-founder of Flex Dance Program Ragnhild (Ragz) Bruland – Photo by Carol Dragon

The beginning of a video for FDP beautifully describes what FDP is: “The Flex Program is an Arts Education Initiative that fosters positive growth among young people in difficult circumstances through Flex Dance and Creative Mentorship.”

In an article by Katherine Huggins (9/26/19) for The New School Free Press she states that “Flexing is a street style also called “bone-breaking” that is known for its contortionist movements”. From some of the photos I’ve seen, this description sounds appropriate. Bruland has said that, unlike Hip-Hop, no movement is wrong and the way a dancer performs it is never incorrect, but that Flexing encourages creativity and individuality. Or as it was stated in the response to my inquiry: “your attitude is your style”. Huggins also writes that Bruland strives to increase FDP’s budget from the current $100,000 to $1 million this year. This increase will enable the artists to be able to teach full-time.

Bruland has a background in dance, theater and music. She has degree in Psychology and believes in the power of the arts helping create a more positive mental health for all. She decided to use her work in schools and detention centers to co-create FDP and the program was endorsed by Sonia Galarza and the Division of Youth and Family Justice in NYC. Bruland is working on a PhD in Research Psychology at the New School in Manhattan.

Flex Dance Program Co-founder Ransford (Jezzy) Odoi - Photo by Carol Dragon

Flex Dance Program Co-founder Ransford (Jezzy) Odoi – Photo by Carol Dragon

FDP consists of three programs called FlexIN and FlexOUT and FlexWorld.  In FlexIN students learn the basics of Flex Dance and they are given the opportunity to perform. All this takes place within a safe environment of participating institutions. FlexOUT includes paid youth internship opportunities. FlexWORLD’s vision is to give inner city kids an opportunity to be creative, present their personal stories via dance, and by doing help inspire others to join in the creative process. FlexWorld (Theatre Company) Dance-stage-production is described on the FDP website as “Our Teaching Artists perform as company – showcasing their talents in staged and unscripted performances. In 2016 Artists performed at Kunble Theater BK, 2017 Artists performed FLEX-Hyperborealis at Sentralen (The Vault) in Oslo, and 2019 at BRIC BK. The production chronicles Apollo’s mythical journey to Hyperborea, The Land Beyond the North Wind”.

Just recently dancers from Carlifornia that identify as Turfers (similar to Flex style in NYC) did a videoshoot with FDP next to the Brooklyn Bridge. That footage will be available soon. It is This is one of The programs initiatives – to build bridges and foster artistic collaboration and exchange. They identify if there is a need in detention centers in large cities and then bring on board local artists to facilitate the program using the same model: FlexIN – FlexOUT.

Flex Dance Program Co-founder and head teacher Jermaine (Fizzo) Clement - Photo by Carol Dragon

Flex Dance Program Co-founder and head teacher Jermaine (Fizzo) Clement – Photo by Carol Dragon

Ragz informed me that FDP partners with approximately 20 organizations to help fulfil their goals.  Each organization offers programs in different areas and for youth in different situations. Some are community centers while other are for youth in detention or foster care. A few collaborate with FDP on grant proposals  to offer workshops and events. Others act as advocates for kids or handle their legal matters. A few of the organizations that FDP partners with include ACS-Crossroads and Horizons Detention Center; Holocare, Prince Joshua Avitto Center, ITM – The New School, Man Up NYC, The Drama Club, Africa Center, Jump into the Light, Justice League NYC, and Lawyers Alliance.

To help their community cope with the COVID-19 pandemic, FDP monitor and responds to the public health and “to prioritize the health of their students, artists and staff”. One of the ways that the FDP staff accomplishes this is through what is called Flex Talks which are conversations with FDP teaching artists, performers, and Pioneers of Flex and other dance genres. Flex Talks streams live from IG TV every Monday 5.30pm EST. A few of the artists who work with FDP include Bruland, Clement and Odoi, as well as Michael Aryee, Crystal Enninful, Steve “Sticks” Harvey, Joanna Schereyll “Smiley” Southerland, and Haseem Bivins. Here is a breakdown of what Flex Talks include:

_15A7693 _15A7915 _15A8111 Dannii Carter-Coordinator-TeachingArtist Enerjaee-117-Edit Flex Dance Program-MichaelAryee-ProgramManager Flex Dance Program-SandraDeeCobb-BoardMember. Flex Dance-108-Edit Flex Dance-194-BW Flex Dance-JoannaSmileySoutherland-HeadTeacher Flex Dance-MarieBordenTeachingArtist FlexTishman by Carol Dragon Luna-by Carol Dragon230-Edit SteveStickzHarvey- by Carol Dragon012-Edit Stickz_Marie- Photo by Carol Dragon153-Edit Stickz_Marie-055-Edit
Flex Dance Program - Photo by Carol Dragon

Digitalized programming FlexIN – FlexOUT. Video response includes:

  1. Tutorial videos (free access for youth, access through donations for supporters Flex Talks – IGTV, Q and A sessions with teaching artists
  2. FlexIN Tutorial videos and sessions for youth in detention (in collaboration Holocare,and Jump into the Light)
  3. FlexOUT Wednesdays: Live sessions: for youth from Brooklyn to Bjolsen
    (International). FlexOUT Online sessions every Mondays (7pm to 8:30pm), Wednesdays
    (4pm to 6pm), Fridays (7pm to 8:30pm) and Youth Dance Party Saturdays (6pm) (in
    collaboration with The New York Youth Justice Initiative (NYYJI)
  4. Working towards a virtual or in person event: Flex Olympics in the fall of 2020 and FlexHype December 2021 (smaller pre-events will lead up to main event)

The New York City Flex Hyperborealis Production is a mythical tale of Apollo’s Journey through the art of Flex Dance featuring Flex Dance Program artists and youth. Set to the classical
score of Norwegian Composer Kenneth Sivertsen – Flex Hype harnesses the power of dance as free form movement – to unfold an epic tale of struggle & self-actualization.

FDP has a teaching/artist ratio of 1 to 5, ensuring that each student is seen and heard. Its internship program uses funds to provide scholarship to youth who work on the FDP team. Through FlexIN and FlexOUT, the program currently reaches approximately 150 youth each year, but they their goal is to raise that number to 1000 youth. FDP is also led by program evaluation to assess effectiveness and benefits of program. After winning the A3C Pitch award in 2018 for its FlexIN and FlexOUT programs, FDP began programing in Atlanta, Georgia and it has a sister program in Oslo, Norway. They stress however, that their main focus is on NYC. This sounds like a program that every city should implement.

Anyone interested in learning more about Flex Dancing and the Flex Dance Program, please click HERE.

To read the bios of some of the teaching artists, click HERE.

To listen to an interview with the founders of Flex Dance Program, click HERE.


Written and compiled by Jeff Slayton for LA Dance Chronicle.

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