“This dance saved my life”

Co-Founder of School of Breaking Fosters an Inclusive and Safe Community

February 9, 2021

Chase Evered spends his days in a welcoming studio filled with floor-to-ceiling mirrors, comfortable couches, and walls colorfully painted with words like “go with the flow.” Every afternoon, the space in Aurora comes to life with a community that represents a variety of races, genders, sexualities, abilities, and religions. A community that welcomes everyone from 3 years old to 63 years old. A community of “b-boys” and “b-girls.”

Evered, who goes by the name Chase ‘Em Down, co-founded the School of Breaking nine years ago after earning his bachelor’s degree in business administration from CU Denver. Despite hardships brought on by COVID-19, Evered—joined by co-owner and coach Le’Toya Garland, who goes by b-girl Tweezy, and coach Jason Toney, who goes by Rawskeleton—continues to teach, mentor, and educate more than 75 b-boys and b-girls from across the Denver metro area, the state, and beyond. Their mission: to take a dance style born in the Bronx off the streets and teach it in a structured and welcoming environment.

“It’s great to learn the moves, but the dance itself has healing properties, and the culture itself has peaceful, nonviolent, and loving properties,” Evered said, adding, “This dance saved my life.”

From left: Jason Toney, Le’Toya Garland, and Chase Evered stand in a studio at the School of Breaking.

Finding a Community at CU Denver 

Evered was raised in Littleton in a family of artists; both of his sisters are dancers and his mother a musician. He took a different path and moved to Iowa to study and play basketball. When he fell into tough times, he moved back to the Denver metro area and transferred to CU Denver for the convenience—he could work and study. He graduated in 2007.

The downtown Denver campus offered him an education and so much more. He joined a group of dancers who called themselves the ESI (every style included) crew, performing everything from breaking to funk styles like popping and locking. They’d set up next to a DJ, or bring their own music, and perform outside of the Auraria Library and the Tivoli Student Union, drawing hundreds, sometimes more than 1,000, student spectators.  

“My time at CU Denver was a wonderful experience,” Evered recalls. “The energy of the school—we would dance everywhere.”

In the classroom, Evered acquired the business and marketing skills to start what would become the School of Breaking. Outside the classroom, he pursued his talent as a b-boy and craft as an instructor by meeting likeminded people at outreach centers and attending events in the city. Without social media back then, the only way to gain exposure to the culture was to meet the people living it, Evered said. One of them was Toney, who now coaches the School of Breaking’s youth competitive breaking team, “The Schoolyard Scrappers,” and is recognized globally as a high-level competitive b-boy.

“At the School of Breaking, we aren’t standing on a pedestal, we are standing beside our students,” Toney said of his teaching philosophy. “We are here to help the kids realize there is more potential in them than they thought possible.”

The School of Breaking’s mission is to create an inclusive community while de-stigmatizing common misconceptions about breaking and hip-hop culture. They focus on educating their students on the history and roots of the dance, which will be recognized as an Olympic sport in 2024. The safe space allows people from all walks of life to discover their own breaking style, and to express themselves without judgement. 

“My time at CU Denver was a wonderful experience. The energy of the school—we would dance everywhere.”

Chase Evered, alum and founder of School of Breaking

Garland, the co-owner, saw this happen for her son and for herself. One day while dropping off her then-4-year-old at the School of Breaking, the former IT systems administrator decided to try a class, and she was hooked. Today, she teaches classes for the 3- to 6-year-olds. Her son, who still goes to the School of Breaking, is now 11 years old.

“There’s this stigma that dancing has a life span, but it doesn’t,” Garland said. “I started dancing in my 30s. It keeps me young, happy, and healthy, and it will be part of my life forever.”

Special Offer for CU Denver Community 

The School of Breaking has remained open during the pandemic with extensive safety protocols, limited class sizes, limited class times, and new virtual classes. CU Denver students, faculty, and staff can receive 10 percent off breaking and hip-hop drop-in classes, both in person and virtually, until June 2021 by using the code CUBREAKS10 at checkout. The School of Breaking’s weekly class schedule and sign-up page is available here. For questions or more information, email info@schoolofbreaking.com or visit www.schoolofbreaking.com.

Evered and his team take pride in how they’ve adapted and evolved as a business through the pandemic. Now more than ever, they say, people need to dance.

“Dancing gives students an opportunity to step away from the computer screen, and it allows parents to have some time for themselves,” Evered said. “Not to mention it’s impact on morality, mental health, and healing.”