Nine hundred 2nd through 6th grade students from local schools danced in their seats at The Paramount Theater last Tuesday, October 29, as part of the daytime Arts Education Program. GRAMMY-Winning hip hop artist, Cactus Sullivan, better known as “Secret Agent 23 Skidoo,” brought the house down with his infectious rhymes and funky beats.
Secret Agent 23 Skidoo combines the excitement of hip hop with the magical world of childhood. His music centers on positive themes of empowerment, love, imagination, hope, ambitions, and dreams. His 2016 album Infinity Plus One won the Best Children’s Album of the Year at the 59th GRAMMY Awards. USA Today said of Skidoo, “He empowers kids to be themselves.”
On stage with Secret Agent 23 Skidoo was his ensemble of incredible vocalists and acrobatic dancers, who performed amazing breakdance moves. The gravity-defying dancers were a hit with the students. A Woodbrook Elementary 2nd grader said his favorite part of the show was when one of the dancers spun on his head. “I danced, too,” he added, “and I almost did a flip—I didn’t, but I really wanted to.”
A 3rd grade student at Woodbrook Elementary School also enjoyed the performance. “The show was amazing!” she said. “Every part was my favorite part because I had fun with my friends.”
The day before the performance, Skidoo and his crew paid a visit to Walker Upper Elementary School to lead a group of 6th grade music students in a hip hop song writing workshop. Skidoo shared some of his own rhymes and beats, and then challenged the students to write their own hip hop verses. Students slowly plucked up the courage to share their own raps, and those who were brave enough to take up the mic received enthusiastic support from their peers.
Cathy von Storch, Education & Outreach Manager at The Paramount, attended the writing workshop and was awed at Skidoo’s ability to get students out of their comfort zone. “The whole crew are obviously gifted artists, and they also have special gifts in working with children,” said von Storch. “The level of student engagement, enthusiasm, smiles, amazing writing, courage at the mic, all spoke volumes of those gifts.”
von Storch also shared some of the overwhelmingly positive feedback she’s received from the teachers who attended Skidoo’s live show. One teacher wrote, “This was an incredible performance! It is definitely one of the most exciting, engaging and powerful performances I have ever brought students to, and they absolutely loved it!” Another teacher shared that students said it was their favorite performance at The Paramount ever.
Secret Agent 23 Skidoo’s show was just one of eleven live arts performances scheduled for area students during the 2019-20 school year. The Paramount Arts Education Program is committed to presenting the finest arts education performances for students in Central Virginia. A record-breaking 18,667 students and teachers attended Arts Education performances last year, and over 195,000 have attended since 2004. With the support of Arts Education Partners, The Paramount Theater is able to offer performances at a reduced cost or free of charge, thus ensuring that these programs are accessible to all students.