Smash Life Spotlight EP. 5 - Arnel Calvario

We sat down with Arnel Calvario, founder of Kaba Modern, president of Culture Shock International, member of Kinjaz, and Doctor in Occupational Therapy.  Calvario takes us through his journey of loving hip hop dance, starting Kaba Modern, the life after America’s Best Dance Crew, giving back to the community through education, joining Kinjaz, and finding his career in Occupational Therapy.

Calvario’s first exposure to organized dancing was through cultural dancing, with his aunt, a renowned choreographer in the LA area. Growing up during the golden age of Hip Hop, Calvario was inspired by his older cousins (Poppers and B-boys) and legendary dancers like Mr. Wiggles and fell in love with the culture and history.

Entering his freshman year at UC Irvine, he joined the Filipino Club, Kababayan. Growing up as a Filipino-American, hip hop played a huge part in Calvario’s life, it was part of his identity. Having experience building a dance crew in high school, he approached the President of Kababayan to build a modern dance piece during cultural night. Not realizing the sarcasm from the President of Kababayan, he set out to recruit dancers, resulting in creating the group Kaba Modern.

The group started performing once a year at cultural night but felt the desire to perform more often. Kaba Modern started performing at car shows and club events. Calvario’s roommate, also a member of Kaba Modern, wanted to create a fundraiser for his fraternity. They decided to create a dance competition known as Vibe, one of the largest dance competitions to this day, which created a safe and ideal space for Kaba Modern and many other dance groups to perform.

Vibe lead to the creation of many dance competitions we know today, including NBC’s America’s Best Dance Crew. With the credibility of Randy Jackson's name on the show and hiring Mario Lopez as the host, the producers call Calvario to see which crews should be included in the auditions. Calvario saw an opportunity to show what’s been brewing within the California dance scene and creating more Asian representation on national television. Calvario asks six Kaba Modern leaders to represent Kaba Modern and calls up Jabbawockeez to also audition. Both groups end up making the show and finished 3rd and 1st respectively.

Calvario is now a member of Kinjaz, an LA-based dance crew founded by Mike Song (Kaba Modern alumni) and Anthony Lee. Calvario continues to focus on the education side for Kinjaz and shares the different industries the brand has expanded to, including food, music, and fashion.

Calvario is also a Doctor in Occupational Therapy. His path to Occupational Therapy wasn’t linear and we learn that taking the time to find your passion is what truly matters. After a medical mission to the Philippines, assisting with cataract surgeries, tumor resections, delivering babies, he saw that his passion was in the recovery and therapeutic process. After finding OT as his calling, he received his doctorate from USC and works for Long Beach Unified School District.

Calvario's dedication to dance education led him to join Culture Shock LA, a non-profit 501(c)(3) hip hop dance organization dedicated to Dance Education, Community Empowerment, Professional Entertainment, and the preservation of Hip Hop culture. He is now the president of Culture Shock International.

Calvario’s story reminds us that following your purpose and passion can lead to opportunities we never imagined. From his desire to include Hip Hop dancing into Filipino cultural nights at UCI, has led to the incredible dance movement we have today.  Thank you, Arnel, for your love, kindness, and inspiration and for embodying the Smash Life Mentality.

We’ve partnered with Arnel Calvario to raise money for 2 amazing foundations supporting our Autistic Family with the #WeCAAAN movement.

If you would like to follow Arnel on Instagram, you can find him @arnelcalvario

Kinjaz Instagram: @kinjaz

Culture Shock LA: @cultureshockla