Angie Bunch, who is widely considered a hip-hop pioneer, formed Culture Shock in 1993, gathering a group of hip-hop street dancers to develop and perform an intricate choreography combining the best of the raw, urban forms of dance then burgeoning onto the scene. Adding break dancing to this mix in the late 1990s, Culture Shock has become a hip-hop powerhouse under Bunch’s direction. The world-renowned company, whose headquarters remain in San Diego, has outposts in Los Angeles; Oakland; Las Vegas; Chicago; Atlanta; Washington, D.C.; and in Ottawa and Toronto, Canada.

The Culture Shock concept—to bring the urban dance form into the professional dance arena and then let that influence go back the other way—has now inspired several generations of hip-hop dancers. Bunch touts the addition of break dancing as a key moment in the history of Culture Shock. “That was the big blossoming for Culture Shock,” she says. “To pull the two genres together: the original and the ‘commercial.’”

David Henry

Bunch began her 20-plus-year professional dance career primarily in jazz and musical theater. She then became a Nike-sponsored dance athlete, a job that took her all over the world to present dance and fitness programs. In addition to her work at Culture Shock, Bunch teaches hip-hop dance at San Diego Mesa College and at the Culture Shock Dance Center, which she co-owns. She has created numerous fitness videos and is featured in the book Fearless Women: Midlife Portraits, written by Nancy Alspaugh and Marilyn Kentz.

Culture Shock persists on breaking new ground under Bunch’s tutelage, turning aside common notions of both who should perform hip-hop as well as how it should be performed. She’s debunking the idea that hip-hop is a young person’s game with Afta Shock, a new performance group for older hip-hop dancers in San Diego. And Graffiti Life marks Culture Shock San Diego’s second full-length, original dance theatrical.

Bunch’s plans for Culture Shock have not slowed down. She wants to add a full educational division to the company, to keep up with the high demand for workshops, assemblies, after-school programs and lectures. But as a mostly volunteer organization with limited resources, that goal has been difficult to achieve. And Bunch’s creative refashioning of the Culture Shock concept continues as well. “We are always looking for a true artistic endeavor that challenges us,” she says. “We’re not just hip-hop heads or dance enthusiasts.” According to Bunch, there aren’t any limits to what the company can do. “I see a television show for the troupe,” she says. “I want a Broadway show. It’s been my dream for a long, long time.”