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Carl Ben students from other lands express themselves with hip-hop

They stood out at school dances, showing off their hip moves. Now they finally have a place where they belong. Meet the Tiny Technique dance team, a group of 18 Fargo Carl Ben Eielson teens from countries such as Bosnia or Sudan. "When we weren't...

They stood out at school dances, showing off their hip moves. Now they finally have a place where they belong.

Meet the Tiny Technique dance team, a group of 18 Fargo Carl Ben Eielson teens from countries such as Bosnia or Sudan.

"When we weren't in this group, we used to fight a lot," sixth-grader Renato Beganovic said, wiping sweat off his face after practice on Thursday. "Now we don't."

"They're kind of like family to me," eighth-grader Sarah Ayong added.

Tonight is the school's talent show - a big performance and a big deal to these kids.

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"They'll finally be recognized for something - and not about something that's negative," said John Mason, aka Mimic, their choreographer and one of the five men in their 20s and early 30s who form a Fargo break-dancing crew called Ill Technique.

For the past month and a half, the group volunteered to work three times a week with the school's "toughest" at-risk kids.

"Our goal is to be in every school next year," Mason said. "To us, let's just find an outlet for these kids to have ... having something they can look forward to and belong to."

Sixth-grade teacher Alicia Collins organized the group out of her passion for at-risk kids.

"You don't see them a part of a sports team," she said. "But any time we have a school dance, they're on the dance floor."

The goal of the program goes beyond teaching them six-step, popping, breaking and pop-locking, though.

It comes with a catch.

Each of the students has to sign a contract vowing they'll be at class on time, finish homework and be respectful.

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Late to class? Sit out the next dance practice. And that's a tough deal for these students.

"I love to dance," eighth-grader Fatuma Habib said. "Before Ill Technique came, we had been tardy to class every day. Now it's one or two times a week."

For students known for being late to class, they now show up before school starts for dance practice.

"It's amazing the change," Collins said. "We'll see if it's long term. You can't change behavior overnight."

Still, she hopes the adult break-dancers can model not just the hip moves, but good behaviors.

"It's an escape," Mason said. "And I hope that's the same for these kids. Whether we're here or not, keep dancing."

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kelly Smith at (701) 241-5515

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