Joseph Perez

Correction: This profile should have said that Perez was the first in his family to graduate from high school. In addition, the piece should have reported that he is the director of the Rise Project. His friends Shadoe and Shining Soul teach breakdancing and teach beat-making, respectively.

Painting, breakdancing, and graffiti

Last April, Joseph "Sentrock" Perez performed a live art piece at the 4th Urban Gallery Exhibition at ASU Downtown called "Sound in Color." Dressed in tennis shoes, pants, and a white T-shirt smeared with streaks of black paint, the diminutive breakdancer and painter took his entire body to the canvas.

To the tune of upbeat hip-hop song "All In" by The Grouch & Eligh, he slathered his hands and feet with black and red paint, then danced across the large square of white paper taped to the floor, taking turns with his fellow b-boys, Shadoe and Drew. Their handstands, backspins, and twisting limbs created a colorful collage of hands, feet, and knees.

So many layers, Perez says. Like life.

"Sound in Color" merged two of Perez's passions: painting and breakdancing. "Visual art has always been a part of my life, since I was little kid," he says. "But people didn't notice breaking as an art form, and I wanted people to know breaking's an art to me. And I realized I could put it down on canvas, put paint on my hands and feet, and trace a movement, because once you do a move, it's gone forever."

He got into breakdancing during his senior year of high school, when he and his friends, inspired by the breaking documentary The Freshest Kid, formed a breakdancing crew called For the Love (they just had their five-year anniversary). "I appreciate the fact that [breaking] is very grass roots," Perez says. "Me and my friends taught each other. You don't have to take a class to learn. You just listen to the music and be yourself."

A Phoenix native, Perez studied art at Arizona State University, but left to focus on his job as a "community arts liaison for ASU Downtown and CenPho arts." He's considering going back but is consumed with projects.

He organized a socially conscious hip-hop art event on March 26 called "Civil Disobedience" at ASU Downtown. An exhibit of his paintings called "Rythmattik Reactions" opened April 4 at Hair Pollution on McDowell Road. He's curating an art show for ASU Downtown of "all youth performances and art," set for June 17. He's scheduled to perform and do art at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art in October.

And he devotes time to the Rise Project, a collaboration between ASU Downtown and the city of Phoenix that aims to get teens involved in art through after-school programs. Perez teaches a course on DJing, breaking, and rhyming at the downtown campus.

"I want to show that hip-hop is relevant," Perez says. "And I want kids to feel comfortable coming to a college campus. I was the first person in my family to go to high school, so it's important to me to let kids in the community know they have options for the future."

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Niki D'Andrea has covered subjects including drug culture, women's basketball, pirate radio stations, Scottsdale staycations, and fine wine. She has worked at both New Times and Phoenix Magazine, and is now a freelancer.
Contact: Niki D'Andrea