Bennett Lumban (center, wearing brown beanie) poses after his dance routine with his Sacramento-based hip-hop crew, the Boogie Monstarz, at the Prelude Norcal Competition. The Boogie Monstarz danced in the exhibition division of the event. Lumban is the group’s creative director.
Lower-school assistant stars in hip-hop crew; dedicated to passion despite heavy workload, Lumban now teaches dance
Every Monday at 3:30 p.m., the MP Room echoes with the sounds of stomping, clapping and a young man chanting a beat, while lower-school children dance under his careful direction.
But this guy is always dancing, whether it’s while he’s just walking through the school or at his daily hip-hop dance crew practice.
His name is Bennett Lumban, and he’s also the kindergarten assistant and has been an ASE counselor for eight years.
Try searching his name on YouTube, and the first video you find has more than 350 views.
The video depicts Lumban teaching a routine to a group of dancers for a weekend dance workshop.
Lumban stands before the group making sharp movements with his hands, hips and legs while describing the moves.
Lumban wears all black and a backwards hat. He keeps a straight face while clenching his muscles to keep his body sharp and rigid.
Then his students struggle to learn the moves.
Other videos show Lumban performing original choreography at UC Davis to a cheering crowd of his students, peers and friends.
The routine is called “Gravity” and starts with Lumban sitting in a chair. He then walks to the front of the stage in his flannel shirt and backwards hat, dragging his feet gracefully. Reaching for the crowd, he pops and locks his neck, making him look like a robot.
Lumban started dancing in high school after he and a friend watched the movie “You Got Served” about a hip-hop dancing street crew in Los Angeles.
Right away, Lumban said, he and his friend wanted to be like these self-taught dance groups who danced as street buskers.
“We watched the movie repeatedly until we had learned all of the routines because we thought it would make us cool,” he said.
At the time Lumban, who was born in Mississippi, was living in Germany and attending Ramstein High School. And as a sophomore, he was definitely not cool, Lumban said.
When he and his friends had learned all the movie’s dances, they looked up more on the Internet.
“From then on, I was pretty much self- taught, and I never took any formal dance classes until college,” Lumban said.
When YouTube really became popular in his junior and senior years of high school, it was easier to get access to other dancers for inspiration and technique instruction.
So Lumban started to follow the best American dance crews and became a fan of famous groups, such as Kabba Modern and Jabbawockeez, both based in California.
“I was always teased as just being the quiet, nerdy Asian kid,” said Lumban. “I saw Filipinos on the Jabbawockeez, and it made me so proud to be Filipino and want to be like them.”
When it came time to choose a college, Lumban decided to go to California, in part because he knew all the best hip-hop dancers lived on the West Coast.
He eventually chose UC Davis because three of the main Jabbawockeez dancers were from and trained in Sacramento and he had family nearby, making it the perfect fit. Lumban also knew Davis was the home of MK Modern, a collegiate dance crew. He danced with them for all four years of college and was the director of the group his last two years.
After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, he moved to Sacramento. Now the creative director of Boogie Monstarz, a Sacramento hip-hop crew composed of younger adults, 18 and older, he continues to take classes and work on his moves.
And it’s all leading towards his biggest goal: dancing for Jabbawockeez, which now performs in Las Vegas.
The Jabbawockeez dance in white masks for high-energy crowds at the MGM Grand. A famous hip-hop group with almost 600,000 followers on Twitter and Instagram combined, the group appeals to Lumban because “their style is their own,” he said.
“When ‘America’s Best Dance Crew’ was on TV, I saw the Jabbawockeez performing, and it was a crazy and humbling thing to see Asian Americans killing it,” Lumaban said.
Lumban has tried out for the Jabbawockeez in the past; however, he hasn’t made it yet. He plans to continue training and working until he succeeds.
If he were to make the Jabbawockeez or a crew of similar caliber, he could be a full-time professional dancer.
In addition, Lumban wants to pass on his passion for dancing to the first through fifth graders, to whom he teaches a beginning hip-hop class.
I watched one afternoon while he taught a new routine to two students.
“Keep those hands at your sides like a T-Rex, Gavin. We don’t want any gorilla hands here!” Lumban said with a laugh.
Lumban teaches the students about making music and art through their movements, such as stomping to make bass drum noises and clapping to sound like a snare drum. When the kids start to get frustrated, Lumban stops and has them take deep breaths for a “mental break.” And, sure enough, the students perform so much better and more energetically the next time around.
“I love learning new dance moves, and Mr. Bennett is such a good dancer,” said third-grader Gavin Jackson-Waldman.
“My favorite part of Mr. Bennett’s teaching is how descriptive and easy to understand he is.”
But Lumban doesn’t want to stop there in terms of hip-hop dancing at SCDS.
“I always thought it would be great if we had our own dance team like other high schools in Sacramento have!” he said.