What do marketing and dancing have in common?
That’s what soon-to-be Bryan School of Business and Economics graduate David Nguyen will tell you.
“One of my professors once told me that marketing is all about storytelling. And I feel like my story is pretty unique – how I grew up, my background, and how my dancing molded me into the person that I am today.”
The Greensboro native feels his whole life has revolved around dancing. His mother is a first-generation Asian American. As a single mother, she raised Nguyen and his two siblings.
“She was always passionate about dancing. That’s a big part of our culture.”
In middle school, Nguyen was introduced to popping, a form of street dance based on the technique of quickly contracting and relaxing muscles to cause a jerk in the dancer’s body, known as a pop. And his interest was piqued.
“I started searching for videos of popping on Youtube and trying it for myself – just dancing in my bedroom. Little did I know, I was falling in love with the art itself.”
When Nguyen got to college, he had the opportunity to take his dancing to the next level as a choreographer and teacher. He chose to attend UNCG because it gave him a “sense of belonging and a sense of family.” And having a solid network, along with the social media and branding skills he would learn as a marketing major, would be vital to his career trajectory and success.
“I chose to major in marketing because it really gave me the ability to brand myself and my small business as a choreographer and an artist. I’ve been able to implement the lessons I’ve learned in my classes to grow my network, my classes, and my engagement, and make myself a better content creator to give myself a stronger presence online.”
But possibly the most important thing UNCG gave Nguyen was the space to do what he loves to do – dance.
“During my freshman year, the Kaplan Center had just opened, and I had access to these four nice, new studios that I had never had before in my career. I had to practice in my bedroom or basement. Now, nothing was in the way of me pushing myself as a creator and artist.”
When he wasn’t in classes, Nguyen would spend his free time practicing in the studios or choreographing dances for cultural showcases for the Filipino Student Association and Vietnamese Student Association. Soon, his fellow members joined him. Then, members from other student organizations heard about the classes and would join as well. Ten students quickly became 20 students, and 20 students quickly became 30 students.
During these free classes at the Kaplan Center, Nguyen would choreograph routines for the students to learn, and then they would perform together at the end of the session.
“These classes became a staple on campus where students were coming together in this collaborative space, sharing this energy, and creating this community. People would cheer for one another and just have fun and connect. It was great meeting people from different majors, backgrounds, and ethnicities. It was a special time in my college career that made me into the person that I am today.”
Now, Nguyen has been training in his artistry on weekends in cities across the country, including New York, Los Angeles, and Atlanta, while also teaching in the local southeastern region in D.C., Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina.
How does he juggle being a teacher, traveler, and choreographer?
“Preparation and prioritization. Leaving from Atlanta or New York at 3 a.m. just to have classes the next day, plus thinking about assignments on top of it all, has been challenging, don’t get me wrong. But what has kept me grounded are the people that I meet around campus – making them proud and making myself proud.”
This includes his professors, who have been supportive of his endeavors from the start.
“The professors at UNCG truly do care about you. They know we have dreams outside of class, and not only do they acknowledge that, but they help you reach those goals and are accommodating. That’s been so helpful in the pursuit of my dream.”
After graduating, Nguyen is moving to Los Angeles to continue his choreography, dancing, video, and photography, armed with the skills he’s learned from his marketing classes in social media, branding, leadership, and networking.
“My goal is to be an international choreographer and teacher where I can educate people, hear their stories, understand what they’ve been through, and see what has made them the dancers they are today, and use marketing as a tool to help tell their story.”
Follow Nguyen’s dancing and choreography career and find his classes on Instagram.
Story by Alexandra McQueen, University Communications
Photography by Martin W. Kane, University Communications
Videography by Grant Evan Gilliard, University Communications