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Student finds his tribes in hip hop and helping profession

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Thomas Read (centre) and the Tribesmen Dance Crew at the Hip Hop International competition in Auckland earlier this year.

Bachelor of Social Work student Thomas Read is dancing his way through his studies, successfully holding down two jobs, and playing a massive part in champion hip hop group, Tribesmen Dance Crew.

The 22-year-old loves what he does. "I’m constantly creating new dances, meeting new people, teaching new styles and skills. It’s really fun to watch people learn dance because there is something about dancing that makes people smile and enjoy it, even if they aren’t getting everything perfect."

Mr Read, originally from Wellington and now living in Palmerston North, is a dance teacher at Anomaly Dance Studio, teaching three days a week in age groups spanning young children to adults, as well as choreographing routines for competition crews.

He also works as a teacher aide at Ross Intermediate School, helping with their dance academy, Pasifika group, and running his own hip hop dance crew.

During his first year of study Mr Read, who is known as Masi in the hip-hop world, competed at the Hip Hop Unite World Championships in Holland, placing third with Tribesmen Dance Crew.

The 04' - an all style battle event held in Wellington last year, in which random music tracks are played and dancers have to adapt to what they are hearing and freestyle/battle their opponent. The judges then vote on who won each battle and the winner progresses to the next round. Mr Read won the event, representing dance crew Projekt Team.

Making a difference

"I believe there are really strong ties between social work and hip hop values," he says. "They’re both about community, building relationships, and supporting one another. In Aotearoa, we have one of the most supportive and encouraging dance communities so somehow linking these two in the future would be amazing.

"The truth is there is a lot of heartbreak in the world around us. There is injustice, racism, oppression and poverty. Studying social work is a way that I can place myself into these issues and challenge myself to make a difference. I am not a miracle worker and I do not have all the answers, but I have a passion for people and a desire to see change in the world around me. Social work offers a way of growing my knowledge and understanding of people, society, and myself. It is teaching me how to use this knowledge to grow relationships and make a difference in the world around me.

"For me personally, my goals are to continue to learn, teach and freestyle. I really want to continue to grow my own craft by taking classes and freestyling but I’m also at a stage where I have some knowledge and I really love sharing it and teaching others. Essentially, I just want to keep dancing in every way possible," he says.

His sights are currently set on the World Supremacy Battlegrounds competition in Australia next month. "There will be some long days and nights ahead, but performing in front of a crowd is so much fun, it’s all worth it."

Mr Read says juggling study with his work has been tough, but worth it. "I have had to prioritise what is most important to me. Making sure my assignments are done on time and turning up to class has been my top priority throughout study - it costs too much to fail so have to put it first. Then I have to make sure I am turning up to work on time so that noodles don’t become my whole diet! Also, making time for the other important parts of my life like my whānau, my partner, and God.

"But after all of that, any spare time I have is spent going to dance classes, choreographing, freestyling, and training with my crew. We often train into the early hours of the morning so it can get difficult sometimes to stay awake and on top of things, but dancing is my passion - it helps me relax and stay healthy so without it the other parts of my life would be way less enjoyable. It’s a very delicate balance but in my opinion, totally worth it."

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