Hip-hoppin’ to tackle bullying

Halkirk teen showcases acting, dance talent in poignant music video

Josh Blumhagen

Josh Blumhagen

Josh Blumhagen is anything but a bully, but the Halkirk native played the role to perfection in a music video released online last weekend.

Blumhagen, 17, also showcased his smooth hip-hop dancing ability in the anti-bullying video, which features Edmonton urban-pop vocalist ESMA.

The production attracted more than 3,500 hits within three days of the video being posted on YouTube.

“The video was pretty good,” said Blumhagen, a Grade 11 student at Gus Wetter School in Castor. “I think it turned out well.

“This was my first music video that I’ve done. I was pretty excited, for sure.”

The 24-year-old ESMA recruited Blumhagen from his Edmonton hip-hop dance studio, 3rd Street Beat, to play a lead role in a video for her new single, Fall Back.

“Last spring, ESMA and her casting partner came into our class and they gave us information about it,” Blumhagen said Monday from Edmonton.

“And then ESMA approached me after that and she asked me to sign up and to come by, because she wanted me as the role of the bully in the video.

“She just said that I had the look for the part, and she had seen my dancing a little bit beforehand. She just thought I’d be a good person for the role.”

In the opening scene, she takes Blumhagen’s iPhone from him in a school hallway after he commits an online bullying offence. He remains prominent throughout the video as one of the dancers in the forefront.

ESMA told the Edmonton Journal last weekend that she plans to donate at least half of the proceeds from Fall Back sales to the Amanda Todd Legacy Fund, an anti-bullying campaign founded after the suicidal death of the 15-year-old British Columbia girl in 2012.

“Her story just touched me,” ESMA said. “(The song) is about having self-confidence and knowing your self-worth. And when people try to bring you down, just tell them to fall back.”

Todd’s mother, Carol, visited Stettler last summer as part of her anti-bullying educational campaign. The legacy fund supports anti-bullying programs and offers help for teens with mental-health issues.

ESMA’s colourful video was shot last summer over two days and features scenes from her old school, J. Percy Page, along with skatepark shots showing Blumhagen dancing in the bowl.

“It was really cool,” he said of the filming. “There was a lot of action going on behind us. We had our own graffiti artist go there and do the Fall Back sign on the skatepark … Yeah, it was really cool.”

At the same time, a poignant message was delivered, as ESMA intended.

“I think she did a very good job of promoting her message and her cause that she had against bullying, and cyber-bullying in particular,” Blumhagen said.

“Her cause is definitely a good one. It’s really important to get the word out there and to help people that need it in those types of situations that are being bullied or cyber-bullied.”

Blumhagen might be a relative newcomer to acting, but he’s a seasoned dancer who has been into hip-hop for a decade.

“I’ve been dancing since I was about seven,” he said. “I started at Peacock Dance Academy — that was in Castor — and then I just recently moved to 3rd Street Beat. This is my second year there.”

He spends three days a week in Edmonton — Saturday through Monday — while residing with relatives in St. Albert. He stays connected with his Monday high school classes at Gus Wetter via Skype.

Sandwiched between two-hour practices on Saturday and Monday is his five-and-a-half-hour dance session each Sunday.

“It’s definitely a workout,” Blumhagen said. “The studio I go to, 3rd Street Beat, is an all hip-hop studio. And they go into all the different kind of genres of hip-hop, all the different styles that there is … there’s a lot of variety there, so it’s good.

“I really have noticed a difference (since joining the Edmonton studio). I’ve learned a lot of history and a lot of stuff about hip-hop. I’ve really expanded what I know about it and my skill-set.”

Blumhagen believes he might be on a career path and envisions dancing in his post-high school plans.

“Absolutely,” he said. “There are post-secondary programs, or there are some semi-professional companies that can help you make the transition from just a student into a professional dancer. There’s quite a few opportunities out there — a lot of different paths that you can take.”

On his dance path, his inspiration to try hip-hop came from his older sister, Anissa, now a college student studying fashion design.

“I had seen her (dance) classes and I kind of wanted to try it out for myself, so that’s how I started with Peacock,” Blumhagen said. “And the studio owner there, Carmen Peacock, she was really good. She kind of led me into the hip-hop world.”

Blumhagen’s passion for dance might be the road less travelled for young rural Albertans, but there are no such boundaries in his academy, he said.

“Most of the dancers are from in and around Edmonton, but it’s not too different (for me). Everybody at the 3rd Street Beat is really good at accommodating everyone. They’re just really friendly and it’s kind of like a big family there.”

When he’s not dancing, Blumhagen likes to ski. But he’s never far from the dance scene. Even when he’s home, he instructs aspiring dancers.

“I’m doing a few private lessons,” he said. “I like passing on my knowledge to other people and introducing them the way I was introduced into hip-hop, as well.”