Pablo Malco, born in Brooklyn and raised just outside of Houston, always felt like something of "a misfit" in his youth. His parents are from the West Indies/Trinidad and even when he moved to southern California at the age of 16, he struggled to find a community with the diversity he craved.
"I wanted to find more people like me," Malco said.
When he came to South Florida in the early '90s to visit his mother, it clicked. The region's rich Caribbean roots -- music, language, dance -- were immediately appealing, as were the simple things, like "not having to drive an hour" to find jerk and other familiar dishes.
"I was like 'Oh my God, this is what I was talking about'," said Malco, who lives in Broward County.
Malco has lived in South Florida since 1995. Before that, he worked as a commercial dancer in southern California, working on music videos and other high-profile gigs, like dancing in promotion of Paula Abdul's tour. His resume is dominated by creative roles that include dancer, choreographer, teacher, producer, and actor. He also runs a nonprofit organization, The Pablo Malco Foundation, to promote the "education and development of dance, music, and the arts."
The Pablo Malco Foundation -- which has received grant support from the Knight Foundation among others -- targets kids that are under-privileged or at-risk. Malco, who understands firsthand what it's like to be child who has to go to bed hungry, said he wants to give those kids "a way to let it out." He views dance and other forms of creative expression as a means of stress release for children coping with issues that are bigger than themselves.
"I can't tell you the first time I realized there was dance...I didn't know that was available to kids 'til I was 17," Malco said. "I want these kids to know it's available to them."
The Hip Hop Symphony, produced by the Pablo Malco Foundation, is one tool he can use to introduce young people to dance and the concept that they too can fulfill their "vision." The performance merges hip hop dance with classical, rock, and choral music. Malco and company also use hip hop music that the young audience "doesn't hear on the radio."
"Hip hop is often presented in a negative light," Malco said. "This is a more positive light."
As part of his efforts to introduce underserved children to the arts, Malco has created a fundraising page on Power2Give.org to provide 200 youth with dinner and tickets to the Hip Hop Symphony. The Knight Foundation is providing a dollar-for-dollar match of those funds. Meanwhile, a Kickstarter fund is seeking donations to pay for local production of sets and original music.
The next production of the Hip Hop Symphony is April 6 in Parker Playhouse located at 707 NE 8th Street in Fort Lauderdale. Tickets are available online.
Watch video of the Hip Hop Symphony below.