People making a difference: Rex Kinney and the Shorecrest Dance Team

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Members of the Shorecrest Dance Team take a bow after completing their second performance of Physical Poetry, the annual hip-hop showcase hosted by choreographer, Rex Kinney. The Shorecrest Dance Team celebrates its 25th year in this edition of Physical Poetry by performing routines inspired by ‘90s hip-hop. (Photo by Claire Butwinick)

Shorecrest Dance coach brings diverse students together with hip-hop

By Claire Butwinick

When Rex Kinney started coaching the Shorecrest Hip-Hop Dance Team, he was 20 years old and had no experience in coaching or running a dance program.

Now 16 years later, Kinney’s choreography has earned the team three national titles, eight state titles and 14 consecutive district titles.

Years ago, Kinney started dancing as a freshman on the Shorecrest High School Dance Team, a hip-hop group that performs and competes with students from diverse backgrounds in the Shoreline community, after a friend convinced him to audition. Kinney immediately gravitated to the inclusivity of the dance community, and throughout high school he joined a dance company and began teaching classes.

Before a varsity dance team rehearsal, Kinney meets with a student to discuss the team’s uniforms for an upcoming performance at the Redmond Invitational. (Photo by Claire Butwinick) 

After graduation, Kinney was invited back to Shorecrest to assistant coach the dance team, and take over as head coach the following year.

Kinney now coaches the Shorecrest Dance Team part time, and is also the dance education and performance manager with Seattle Theater Group in downtown Seattle.

After 20 years in the dance community, Kinney said that he is still learning as he goes.

“I’m always thinking about what else can I do better for myself and for the program, or what else there is to work on,” Kinney said. “You kinda change things up every year.”

The dance team is about finding belonging and students who join the dance team create an immediate family that grows stronger over the course of each season, Kinney said.

Shorecrest junior, Wintana Eyob stretches before rehearsal with the Shorecrest Dance Team. The varsity team competed that weekend at the Redmond Invitational and won first place in the hip-hop category. (Photo by Claire Butwinick)

Wintana Eyob, a junior at Shorecrest High School, said that she joined the dance team because of her love for hip-hop music, but stayed because of the friends she has made on the team. She said that she can see herself staying in touch with her dance friends long after graduation. 

“There’s a lot of people from different backgrounds on the hip-hop team. We just all have the common interest of loving hip-hop and loving dance,” Eyob said.

At a recent rehearsal with the varsity Shorecrest Dance Team, Kinney rounded up the students in a circle and asked them to share their goals for the upcoming practice. This exercise allowed the team to listen to one another and focus on improving as a group.

Kinney challenges his varsity dancers to master difficult hip-hop routines for each competition, but prefers to highlight the process rather than the results.

“I always let them know that it’s not about winning or losing, it’s about training to be at your best and not to be the best,” said Kinney. “It’s about working to your best ability and being happy with what you’re putting into it.”

For over a decade, the Shorecrest Dance Team has been able to travel across the nation for competitions. Yet, like most dance teams, Kinney has to fundraise to pay for transportation, uniforms and coaches salaries.

In 2008, Kinney debuted the team’s fundraising production called Physical Poetry, a showcase of contemporary, traditional and international dance performed by the Shorecrest team and local dance companies.

Kinney said that he created Physical Poetry to raise money for the dance team, but was moved by how much the Shoreline community embraced the show’s global representation.

Kinney hopes that when young people watch the diverse group of performers in Physical Poetry, they see that they, too can dance.

“With dance, we try to make sure that that’s inclusive of everybody because dance is for everyone.”

This past month, Physical Poetry held its 10th annual performance and sold out every show. This year’s showcase also paid tribute to the Shorecrest Dance Team’s 25th year.

Shorecrest Dance Team Alumni toast Kinney and his students to celebrate the team’s 25th anniversary. Alumni came from across the country to congratulate the team on this milestone. (Photo by Claire Butwinick)

To celebrate the quarter centennial, Kinney invited founding members and advisors of the dance team to acknowledge their progress since it began in 1993. Alumni members even performed on stage with the current Shorecrest dancers for the final hip-hop number of Physical Poetry.

Katherine Jimenez Winston was honored at the 25th annual celebration for starting the Shorecrest Dance Team when she was a sophomore in high school. Jimenez Winston shared that she started the team because she wanted to see modern dance styles represented at her high school. In its first year, the team was all female and included girls from diverse backgrounds.

When Kinney joined the team three years later, he was one of the first boys to audition, and began a movement toward an all-inclusive group.

Katherine Jimenez Winston (bottom row, second from the left) poses for a yearbook photo with the original members of the Shorecrest Dance Team in 1993. In the beginning, the dance team was all girls who choreographed their own routines. (Photo courtesy of Katherine Jimenez Winston.)

As the team continues to grow, Kinney hopes for it to be self-sustaining. 

“We’ve got a great support system within our community,” Kinney said. “What’s been really fortunate is to have so many different alumni to come in and help with the program, whether that’s coaching or assisting.”

One day, Kinney will carry on the tradition he started and pass down his position to another dance team alumni, he said.

But for now, his focus is on wrapping up this season.

“We’re making sure that the kids have a good time in the process of doing well individually,” Kinney said, “that they’re happy with their own performance, and ending positive with our competitive season.”

Video: A few days before competing in the Redmond Invitational Dance Competition, Rex Kinney taught the Shorecrest Varsity Dance Team new sections in their ‘90s inspired routine. Later that weekend, the team won first place in the hip-hop category. (Video by Claire Butwinick)


2-11-18 minor edits

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