ROOT — Since its inception in 2012, the “Movement” in the Sweatshop Movement name hasn’t been limited to the nonprofit dance academy’s energetic hip-hop, pom-pom and break-dancing moves.
For director and Racine native Erika Bozinovski, “Movement” also encapsulated the nomadic state of the organization’s existence – it was always on the move, with more than 20 locations from Wisconsin over the years to Madison, Oregon, Milwaukee, Burlington and, since 2015, in Racine.
“We jumped a lot over the last eight years,” said Bozinovski, a 38-year-old Park High School alumnus.
Sweatshop Movement aims to promote and foster legitimate hip-hop and dance training for youth in an accessible and affordable way, including after-school programs in conjunction with the Racine Unified School District.
Bozinovski was inducted into the Wisconsin Association of Cheer and Pom Coaches Hall of Fame in November 2018.
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After initially renting space in community centers and schools, Sweatshop Movement began renting after-hours space in tap and ballet studios.
“I wanted to bring the kids to traditional studios,” Bozinovski said. “They deserved mirrors and a (dance) floor, things like that. They had all those hours when the studios were empty and could have generated some revenue to help with the rent. I started renting a studio and bringing the kids in, offering pop-up classes to reach as many kids as possible, trying to help studio owners.
But renting space from another organization came with challenges, she noted — working around booked basketball games at gyms, scheduled events at community centers, and having to work around dance studio class schedules.
An unexpected silver lining to these trying times, Bozinovski said, was the community and camaraderie that formed between members of the Sweatshop Movement as they coped with the limited resources at their disposal.
“Children would come after school and sit in the yards and do their homework while they watched the big kids dance, and the big kids would come and help the younger ones,” she recalls. “It created this sense of community – a hub of learning and sharing. It’s more than just dancing. That sense of community is really important in what we’re building and what we’re trying to do. is important to their lifelong success.
Bozinovski praised his students for making the most of less than ideal studio situations over the years.
“The tenacity I’ve seen has been impressive,” she said.
put down roots
Since key sales Aug. 1, the award-winning Sweatshop Movement – a halftime crowd favorite at Milwaukee Bucks and Wisconsin Badgers basketball games and a familiar local sight at community gatherings in Racine, including the Parades and Downtown Party on the Pavement and Origins of Hip-Hop Festivals, finally has a dedicated studio space of its own. Sweatshop occupied 1,700 square feet of former warehouse space at 2723 Carlisle Ave. in the Fred M. Young, Sr. Industrial Park near Mount Pleasant St., a few blocks north of Horlick High School and Gilmore Fine Arts K-8.
“It’s a perfect place for us,” Bozinovski said. “It’s super exciting. It gives us a home. It is a space dedicated to them. These youngsters deserve mirrors if they want to compete nationally/internationally. These kids deserve floors and mats and all this tumbling equipment that I’ve acquired over time and all this other stuff. It gives us a home to move all of that around – it gives us all of our rugs, all of our tumbling blocks. We can install mirrors. We can decorate. All this will contribute to their training. It is enormous. They deserve it. There are all these talented kids who could use this outlet. It does a lot of positive things for them.
Logistically, having dedicated studio space will ease a longstanding burden for Bozinovski.
“I no longer travel with rugs in my trunk and a box full of bandages and hair ties,” she said.
Bozinovski said Sweatshop Movement’s new dedicated studio space will allow the organization the physical resources to once again host Youth Battle break-dancing competitions, a popular part of the organization’s programming in its Madison years.
“We haven’t really had a venue where we could do that here other than Party on the Pavement outside,” she said. “Now we have a dedicated space where we could bring our Youth Battle series back.”
News welcomed with enthusiasm
Bozinovski said recent news of Sweatshop Movement securing its own space has been met with great enthusiasm in the community.
“We had a huge community response to the news,” she said. “It’s good to see people recognize that a program makes a difference and recognize that kids are working hard for something they love. I think we spend a lot of time shining a light on kids doing inappropriate things, kids in bad situations. We don’t pay the same attention… to the things children do that are positive and good for them and good for the community.
Sweatshop Movement’s first set of classes at their new studio are scheduled to begin mid-September through the end of September. An opening party is planned, with a date to be announced.
Bozinowski said Sweatshop Movement has started a fundraising campaign for various items and services needed to properly outfit his new studio.
For more information, visit Sweatshop Movement online on Facebook or Instagram, or call or text Bozinovski at 608-442-3542.