Annie Jupiter-Jones, Deputy Director of Arts & Community – Annie has been a participant, performer, instructor and parent with Loco Bloco. She was born and raised in San Francisco’s Mission District and has worked with the youth and families of the Bay Area for over 30 years in both schools and community arts organizations. She holds a BA in Liberal Studies with a concentration in Spanish as well as a Multiple Subject Teaching Credential from San Francisco State University. Annie has worked as both an Elementary and High School teacher in the SFUSD and as a community outreach coordinator for ODC/Dance. Additionally, Annie has taught dance for kids ages pre-school through high school at many Bay Area organizations including Aim High, BAYCAT and within Loco Bloco’s own Youth Program. She is proudly raising her 3 daughters in her home Mission District of San Francisco. Annie’s experience with education and youth development and her passion for the performing arts are what drew her to Loco Bloco and she hopes to help sustain, LB’s vital programs so that they will be available to all future generations of San Francisco Youth. Outside of Loco Bloco, Annie is working to change the game of baseball through Girls Baseball advocacy and currently serves as the Girls Baseball Commissioner for the San Francisco Youth Baseball League and the manager of the San Francisco Bay Sox Girls Baseball Program.
Pedro Gomez, Director of Arts Education – Pedro Gomez has been studying Latin percussion and performing for over 20 years. He is the Co-Founder of Bayonics a Latin fusion band and a Teaching Artist in the World Music Program at Ruth Asawa School of the Arts. Growing up in San Francisco’s Mission District, Latin percussion is almost part of your DNA. Pedro was introduced to the drum at the age of 13 in a rumba circle. His connection to music has always come from a place of community and rooted in the traditions of the African Diaspora. He has had opportunities to study and perform in Cuba, Brazil, Puerto Rico and Central America; taking with him cultural perspective and influence from his studies with master musicians. Pedro’s passion for performing and teaching stems from the belief that musical expression is a form of healing and power. He is committed to passing on traditions that uplift young people and their communities.
Vanessa Sanchez, Dance & Performance Lead – Vanessa Sanchez is a dancer, educator, and choreographer who focuses on community arts education and multi-cultural dance forms. Based in San Francisco, Vanessa has studied and performed throughout the United States, Mexico, Brazil and Europe. Her dance styles range from Tap and Jazz dance to Bhangra and Afro-Caribbean styles, including Afro-Brazilian and Afro-Cuban. She is the Artistic Director of La Mezcla and continues to train on a regular basis with Master Instructors both in the Bay Area and abroad. With a background in dance education and over 20 years of dance training, Vanessa is an accomplished teaching artists in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her teaching skills range from preschool and elementary aged classes, to adult classes of all levels, as well as mentoring new teaching artists. Vanessa holds a B.A. in Child Development and Dance Education and currently teaches with various local non-profit arts organizations, creating and implementing curriculum that draw on technique building and Social Political Awareness. For the past 10+ years, Vanessa has been dancing and performing in the Bay Area and beyond with groups including Bomberas de la Bahia (Afro-Puerto Rican Bomba), Afoutayi (Afro-Haitian), Arenas Dance Company (Afro-Cuban), Aguas da Bahia (Afro-Brazilian), and Duniya Dance and Drum Company (Bhangra/Bollywood/West African). She founded her dance project La Mezcla in 2013 to make a space for the creation of multi-disciplinary rhythmic collaborations that explore cultural identity and social justice.
Aura Urbina, Arts Program Assistant – Aurita Urbina was born and raised in San Francisco, in the heart of the mission. She is a visual artist, musician, dancer, poet and a protector at heart. Driven by her passion to grow creatively and develop her artistic skills she became a part of Loco Bloco at the age of 16. Loco Bloco emerged her into a community so welcoming and vibrant where she was able to fully transform into the woman she is today. They introduced her to a broad spectrum of music including Afro Brazilian/West African/Hip Hop/Funk and an experience that continues to positively influence her life. She has traveled extensively and has been blessed to perform in places like Cuba, Chicago, Guatemala, Miami and all around the Bay Area. Art is central in her life and she is so excited to be among all these amazing, talented and magical youth whom she admires very much. Spreading love through movement, art and music is an important part of her life and she is committed to giving back to her community and world by sharing love and embracing the knowledge she has learned throughout the years.
Akemi Smoot, Teaching Artist: Dance – Inspired by a street performance and the music around her, Michigan native Shaneeka “Akemi” Smoot began her dance journey as a young girl. “Akemi learned how to salsa, bachata, merengue, before she could walk,” her family jokes as to how she learned the various styles. From humble upbringings Akemi’s family couldn’t afford dance classes, so a lot of her style was self-taught, until she later began break dancing with her cousin who introduced her into the world of hip hop. That sparked something in the young Akemi to create her own dances. With over 15 years of performance and 6 years of teaching experience, she continues her study of dance in and out of the studio here in San Francisco. Akemi is an instructor with Loco Bloco, as well as the Boys and Girls Club of America and the YMCA. She is in the process of getting her BFA. Her later goals in life are to travel the world, own a dance a studio/theater. After she becomes too old to dance she will be become a chef! “Dance is the hidden language of the soul.”- Martha Graham
Anttwan Stanberry, Teaching Artist: Drum – Anttwan started Loco Bloco in 2003 as part of the Teen Ensemble Crew (aka TEC). Since joining Loco Bloco, Anttwan has not only been a part of TEC, he served as an instructor as well as being a part of Loco Bloco’s Board of Directors. In 2009, Anttwan moved to San Jose where he worked for Boys & Girls Clubs of Silicon Valley and started his own drum group known as the Stipe Drumline, and when he moved back to San Francisco in 2014 he started The Mission Drumline at the Boys & Girls Clubs of San Francisco-Mission Clubhouse where he teaches youth 3rd-12th grade drumming and dancing. Anttwan currently serves as the High School Services Director for the Boys & Girls Clubs of San Francisco-Mission Clubhouse.
Aimee Zawitz, Teaching Artist: Stilt/Dance – Aimee Rose Zawitz is a proud San Francisco native & life long dancer. As a young child she studied tap and jazz and in high school she would get together with her friends and create choreographies of varying genres. For the last 10+ years she has studied the folkloric styles of Hatian and Cuban, West Africam, Bhangra, Silvestre technique, and Samba. Aimee has danced with Valerie Watson’s Alafia Dance Ensemble, Djenane St. Juste’s Afoutayi, Temistocles Fuentes Betancourt’s Grupo Nago Experimental, Katy Alanis Rous’ World Dance Fusion, Susana Arenas’ Dance Company. Currently she dances with Amor do Samba and Duniya Drum & Dance Co. She directs her own dance company, The Trapsettaz Dancehall Crew. Ms. Zawitz teaches Rythym & Motion and Tropi-Cali Dancehall at ODC.
Polly Bates, Teaching Artist: Stilt – Polly began creating dance opportunities for herself in her small town from a very young age. Polly fell in love with Samba and Afro-Brazilian dance while traveling in Brazil, and after learning to walk on stilts she began performing with Samba Stilt Circus of Santa Cruz and Sambafunk of Oakland. She later took her dancing to higher heights, learning and eventually teaching Aerial Silks through Circus MECCA. All of this opened many doors for her and she recently spent 3 years based in Portland and touring the country with the MarchFourth band as an acrobat/stiltwalker/dancer/aerialist/artistic director. In 2015 she decided to take a break from the road and return to the Bay Area where she performs with D.A.M, Samba Conmigo, and Catalyst Arts and teaches stilt dance with Loco Bloco and at the Culture Jam youth camp in Oregon. She has traveled, studied, and performed in Cuba and Brazil and in 2016 she began participating annually in Trinidad Carnaval alongside the traditional Moko Jumbie Stilt walkers.
Ras Joe Gell, Teaching Artist: Drum – Ras Joe first began playing Drums in 1996. He has been studying and performing African Drumming since 2000. He has been blessed to learn from great Drum masters like Ayo Adeyemi, Obbo Addy, Titos Sompa and Francis Awe. Since 2002, Gell has taught numerous workshops and classes around North America. Ras Joe released his first youth drum instructional book “Djembe Fun For Everyone Vol. 1” In September 2015.
Morgan Hernandez Teaching Artist: Dance – A passion for dance, movement, and music has always been a part of Morgan’s life. At the age of three, inspired and captivated by her sister’s dance class, Morgan would imitate the choreography she saw in the dance studio lobby. Unknowingly making her love visible to the instructor landed her the opportunity to join her sister’s class, despite not meeting the age requirement, and she began exploring dance ever since. Morgan danced Ballet and Jazz for 10 years at the Santa Clarita Ballet Academy in Southern California and became a certified ballet dancer in the Royal Academy of Dance at age 15. She also dipped into other styles within those ten years including Contemporary, Modern, Tap, and Character. As a young adult, Morgan felt a yearning to connect deeper with her Mexican culture and La Raza roots and she saw her love for dance as a perfect way to begin that journey. Today, Morgan dances Bachata for Inessence Dance Co. on their Show Team and Ladies Competition Team. She also enjoys social dancing Timba and Mambo and taking every opportunity to grow her knowledge and understanding of the various Afro-Latino styles out there. This Summer 2018 Morgan will be joining the Loco Bloco Team, teaching dance to K-2. She hopes to continue on as a Dance Instructor for the following school year, helping the youth nurture and flourish their love for dance and discover the ways that they can integrate it into their process of self-discovery, self-awareness, and self-love.
Marivel Mendoza, Teaching Artist: Bloquitos – bio coming soon
Ras Mo Moses, Teaching Artist: Drum – bio and photo coming soon