Check out an interview with hip hop dance instructor Ms. Rachel!
How many years have you been dancing?
I have been dancing for 19 years. I began dancing at the age of 3 at Clarissa’s School of Performing Arts. I practiced styles such as ballet, tap, jazz, acro, and commercial hip hop. I competed in many dance competitions until I was 12 years old. I then studied at an after school hip hop program called REACH! USA and Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, where I was able to further study hip hop, modern, and ballet. Once I was 16, I decided to stop pursuing ballet and contemporary styles and fully focus on authentic Hip Hop dance and culture. With the guidance of Moncell Durden, and The Hood Lockers I have been introduced to dance theater, and have been able to perform and train in styles such as Breakin, Hip Hop, House, Locking, and Popping.
What is one achievement in dance that you are proud of or an experience that had a major impact on your specialties?
A moment that I am proud of was when I got accepted to Jacob’s Pillow Social Dance Program; Jazz to Hip Hop in 2015. I was able to study under Moncell Durden, Camille A. Brown, Francine Ott, and Adesola Osakalumi. An experience that had a major impact on me was in 2018 being invited to perform at Jacobs Pillow in 2018 with the dance company Hood Nation, under the guidance of The Hood Lockers.
What is your philosophy in hip hop dance?
My philosophy in hip hop that it is unlike any other dance style to exist. Not only are there social dances that connect a broad range of communities, it stems from a much greater picture. Hip Hop culture is expressed through many platforms such as fashion, speech, music, media, visual art and more. It is deeply rooted in history and culture due to the Black and Hispanic communities who created Hip Hop as we know it. Through their struggles they have birthed a world phenomenon that we see traces of in our everyday lives. Hip Hop is very inclusive and always evolving. I believe we must always appreciate, respect, and value where Hip Hop comes from, and teach the importance of making the best of any situation. Turning the struggles into success!
What are your goals for your students?
My goals for my students are to (1) Build confidence in themselves, in and outside of dance, (2) Learn the importance of self-discipline, doing things even when we do not want to, so we can better ourselves, (3) Individual expression and ability to be comfortable and strong with in themselves Ability to work well with others, as leaders and teammates, (4) Connecting mental ability and physical ability, to find movement within themselves they were not able to do before and, (5) Ability to understand rhythm, and execute it in minute ways Build close, individual teacher/student connections.
What can a child learn from a dance education that will impact the rest of their lives?
Speaking from experience, dance has built my confidence as a person. I am comfortable publicly speaking, planning and organizing for groups of people, and I have also gained smart time management. Even if a child does not want to be a dancer when they grow up, the benefits are endless. Students learn discipline, body mechanics, spatial awareness, in addition to social benefits. Feeling comfortable in front of people, publicly expressing themselves, and the experience of working with peers while having teachers to aspire to. Dance is a never-ending journey of learning, growing, and self-improvement.
What is a non-dance related fact you can share about yourself?
I enjoy many things outside of dance. I grew up in a country area, so growing up I was fortunate to explore many activities such as (bike riding, horse back riding, swimming, kayaking, camping, lacrosse, soccer, basketball, softball, bowling, roller skating, and much more.)
My suggestion for my students is to try as many things as you can! You may end up loving something you never imagined. If you find something you enjoy doing; even if you are not great at it … do not let that stop you from doing it.
Thank you, Ms. Rachel for the experience, technique and knowledge you bring to our MoveMakers kids!