Jake Tribus, a freshman majoring in dance, is the co-founder of the nonprofit Artists Giving Hope.
One day, a fellow dancer and friend, Christian Ricucci, called him with an idea for a nonprofit in mind. Initially, Tribus was reluctant and unsure what impact the idea could have, but as Ricucci continued to share her concepts, Tribus immediately recognized its potential within Artists Giving Hope’s mission statement.
As stated on the nonprofit’s website, “Artists Giving Hope is a non-profit organization encouraging artists to come together to inspire people to act with compassion and kindness, regardless of race, gender, sexuality or beliefs.”
A few months before the phone call, Tribus said he faced criticism in different workshops, dance conventions and master classes. He found this detrimental to the progress of the dancers.
“No one wants to dance in a room where they don’t feel comfortable or they feel like they’re being judged,” Tribus said. “Seeing that over the course of the past few months before Christina called me about the idea — that’s what motivated me to jump on the bandwagon.”
Together they started the organization, even while living on opposite ends of the United States. Tribus lived in North Carolina and Ricucci lived in California. They relied on FaceTime and phone calls to work on the project together.
“It took a lot of brainstorming and planning it out before we actually got started,” Ricucci said. “It took a lot of preparation deciding what we wanted to do and what our message wanted to be and once we figured that out, we started adding more to it.”
They initiated the project with 20 dancers. The group comprised close friends Tribus and Ricucci met at competitions and conventions. Their first performance and fundraising event for the nonprofit — a dance benefit concert for Dancers Fighting Cancer — was in Birmingham, Ala. The show went up in 2014 and raised money for cancer research.
For their debut performance as an organization, they got the help of Emmy-winning choreographer Travis Wall and first season winner of So You Think You Can Dance Nick Lazzarini. The dancers met in North Hollywood to learn the choreography in March 2014.
“Ever since that performance we’ve definitely progressed in terms of how far we’ve reached in terms of people and other organizations,” Tribus said.
Within three years, 18 other dancers they met through conventions and separate connections joined the cause. They mainly promoted their project at dance conventions such as the New York City Dance Alliance.
The dancers in Artists Giving Hope help put on fundraising performances for other organizations, like PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center, Love is Louder, Discount Dance, the Make A Wish Foundation and others.
“I thought it was just going to be us two, and we were just going to go around spreading our message,” Ricucci said. “But I didn’t think we would end up with 30 people on board with the same idea as us.”
Now, the nonprofit organization has grown in members, outreach and support.
Tribus and Ricucci both know the feeling of being on stage and doing what they love. Tribus spent several years in the CC & Co. Dance Complex in his hometown in North Carolina, and since leaving, he enjoys seeing how the younger dancers have progressed under his tutelage and the techniques that they’ve learned on their own.
“It has been really inspiring for me seeing their progression and their growth as well,” Tribus said. “Taking what I’ve learned here at Kaufman and bringing it to them, sharing that knowledge I’ve gained and seeing how they use that knowledge and bring it into their own artistry is really inspiring for me.”
Artists Giving Hope allows him to share that feeling of being on stage and the knowledge he has learned at Kaufman.
On stage, Tribus embodies anything he wants. He can perform as himself, portraying a new part of himself to the audience, or he can be someone else entirely.
He grants this freedom of exploration to other dancers through workshops with Artists Giving Hope.
Each performance is a reminder that the gifts and talents they were given are meant to be shared. Artists Giving Hope promotes the availability of art to all and the influence it can have on everyone.
Tribus is also looking to get the organization to work with Kaufman. He wants to utilize the facilities of the school to organize and put on workshops in the evening when classes are done. These workshops would be available to anyone, regardless of skill level or experience.
“Most of us [company members] are in college,” Tribus said. “I feel like, why not embrace that and bring Artists Giving Hope to a college setting and use what we have here in the Kaufman building to our advantage.”
Tribus’ and Ricucci’s connection to the dance world allowed the organization to become something they never expected it to be.
Tribus knows there are other young dancers out there with the same drive, and there is so much he wants to let them know. Artists Giving Hope gives him this opportunity. He hopes to collaborate with younger dancers through workshops and support them in their journey ahead.
“I want dancers of the next generation to know that taking risk will always pay off,” Tribus said. “Always be 100 percent yourself. Don’t do something because someone else is doing it. Don’t do something because you think it’ll make you look cool. Whatever is meant to be, will be.”