It’s the new year and you’ve decided that you want to learn hip hop dance. Or you’ve seen my constant updates in FB and are wondering which classes I recommend you take because I seem to be taking classes everywhere in the Bay Area. Either way, I think you’re brilliant for taking up this endeavor. Learning something new is hard.
I’ve been taking hip hop dance since 2009. I did not grow up learning dance. The only dancing I did was clubbing regularly at Florentine Gardens in LA and if you were there in the early 90s you know that wasn’t really dancing. More like epileptic jumping.
So in the 4 years that I’ve taken hip hop dance in the Bay Area there are a few things you need to know.
1. The Bay Area is the best goddamn place to learn hip hop dance. Of course this is an opinion of a 40+ year old woman so you decide if you want to believe me. But I’ve taken classes in Los Angeles, New York, London, Austin and Boulder so I feel I have a somewhat educated opinion about this.
The Bay Area has classes for every level. From Oakland to the City to the South Bay, you have options. And when you go to the classes the egos are very levelheaded. Sure there will be some confident fierceness in the room, but it’s NOTHING compared to what you’ll endure in NY and LA. I took a class at NY Broadway Dance Center and realized very quickly everyone was practicing for a hip hop video and I didn’t get the memo.
2. Yes you’re going to suck the first time. And you will probably look even worse on your fifth try. And that’s ok. It took me a year to do a grapevine where it didn’t look I had a stick up my butt. But give it time, practice some more, and you will soon be able to nail just one of Beyonce’s moves.
3. If you don’t like a particular teacher’s style, go find someone else. DO NOT GIVE UP. Some teacher’s styles won’t make sense to you. Some other teacher’s styles will be like coming home. The teachers I’m recommending below are all wonderful. But they’re all very different and sometimes certain styles will not gel with you. Don’t let that stop you from learning. Find another teacher with a style you love. That’s the only way you’re going to stick with this.
4. No one is looking at you. This was the hardest for me to understand. I would always stay in the back because I thought people would judge how poorly I danced. But sweetie, no one is looking at you. Everyone is focused on themselves and the teacher. They ain’t looking at you. And if they are looking at you, it’s because you’re doing the moves right and they’re wanting to copy you. So good on you! But seriously, if you are a beginner and you want to learn dance, try to move up front. You get a better view of the teacher’s moves and thus you’re going to learn quicker. Most teacher switch lines so you’ll get an opportunity to be up front and hide in the back. But don’t stick to the back. Go up front. Own the front.
So where do I recommend you go for class?
Below is a list of all the classes I’ve taken in the Bay Area so far.
I’ve detailed the dates and times as I remember them but check the latest schedule for the latest dates and times. Things change. There’s alot of classes to keep up with so be sure to check cause from the time I made this post to the time you’re reading this, things probably have changed.
Important note about all these classes: the majority that I’ve detailed below are not “workout classes.” It’s not like a jazzercise class. These teachers choreograph a routine that you repeat over and over to a song with beats and counts. So don’t expect it to be like a step aerobics workout. You will learn a routine. You will run it over and over again. You will want to inhale a burrito afterwards.
The City: Shereen Prince – Allie Ludmer – David Shrag – Ed Garcia – Micaya – Gino Ramos – Alec Piliafas – Emerson Aquino – Leslie Panitchpakdi– Amber Divina – Jessica Rae – Rocko Luciano – Marqui Martinez –Allan Frias – D Montalvo – D’arcy Drollinger
So now you know where to go. SO GO. And if you see me there say hi. Maybe we can be dance buddies?
THE CITY – SF
1) Shereen Prince at ODC
If you are a beginner and have never done hip hop before I highly recommend you start with Shereen Prince at ODC. ODC is clean, beautiful, has nearby relatively cheap parking lot. Kind of sketchy neighborhood but nothing too horrible.
Beginning Hip Hop Fridays 6:15pm
This is for completely new hip hop dancers. Shereen is lovely. She’s approachable, she’s got good beginner choreography, and there are no egos in this class. It is not intimidating. It’s just fine. Class size is around 30-40.
She is more old school style. Not too femme. Not too butch.
No videos of her class routine online.
2) Allie Ludmer at Rae Studios
I tried out Allie’s Cardio Dance class for the first time on 6/7/2014 and it’s PERFECT for absolute beginners. I know you’re thinking “Cardio dance? Isn’t that just aerobics?” No. It is cardio for sure but she throws in enough simple choreography to make it dance-y. And if you’re absolute beginner you need simple choreography repeated many times. How else you going to learn a pas de bourrée that ends with a bootie pop unless you do it over and over again?
Allie has a really positive teaching style. She really wants students to learn the moves and have a good time. Very good absolute beginner class.
3)D’arcy Drollinger at City Dance at the Academy of Ballet (Added to my list on 1/12/2014)
I just took D’arcys class recently and I feel it’s important to add him. So much fun.
WERK! Jazz + Hip at City Dance at 7pm on Thursdays
Sunday Skool at Academy of Ballet at 11am on Sundays
Simple moves but that means you have to really push it for drama and intensity. Which translates it such a good time. Music is cute. Your heart rate will be pumping fast. He’s got a strong following of students so you get the vibe that they’ve been with him for a while. And after you take his class you totally understand why. He’s more jazz hip hop. But do go. He’s fun.
Example of D’arcy’s style:
4) David Shrag at Dance Mission
Beginning Hip Hop Tuesdays 6:30pm
Dance Mission is a gritty dance space, cracky neighborhood where people have gotten shot, but hey it’s the Mission!
Medium studio. Can be crowded.
He’s a really tall dude. He’s handsome (well… this is important information). Butch old school style. But totally fun and David is very nice and approachable. He’s a bit harder than Shereen but his style and his positivity is fantastic. That makes you wanna try harder.
Lots of dudes take his class. Yes he can grind it femme like a girl. He’s got a TA who is super hot (also a dude).
Example of David’s style:
1) Ed Garcia – Video Dance Star – Fitness SF
This technically isn’t a pure hip hop dance class. It’s more hip hop jazz funk. But oh my god it’s so much fun.
Wednesdays at 9:30am
Ed is hilarious. I always leave his class smiling. Great teacher and fabulous dancer. . The class is very inspiring and you will be surrounded by beautiful, gorgeous men. This is one of the few dance studios I’ve been in where the majority are men.
Beginning Hip Hop Saturdays Noon at ODC
Big studio. Over 75 students. She has 5-6 helpers so even if you’re in the back you’ll see the routine.
Beginning Hip Hop Thursdays 6pm at Dance Mission
Small studio. Can get crowded.
Micaya is a staple of the Bay Area Hip Hop dance scene because she’s so positive and lovely and gritty. She does both femme and butch style. Old school and more contemporary moves. Her TAs are all young twenty-somethings so they bring a lot of new choreography to her moves.
Very popular. Saturday classes at ODC are super packed. No egos. Micaya is over 50. But she sure as hell doesn’t look it and can dance a 20 year old under the table no problem. Dance Mission Thursday classes are also packed. No egos there as well but you will bump into people. And that’s ok. Cause everyone is a beginner.
I did a performance workshop with Micaya one year. Really fantastic experience. You meet wonderful dancers and you perform in front of a crowd several times.
Example of Micaya’s style
3. Gino Ramos – Hip Hop (Added 1/13/2014)
My dance friend Nick (who’s a very good dancer) recommended I take Gino’s class. And if you watch Gino’s videos you realize you need to take his class. Like NEED to.
Tuesdays 8:30pm at 24 Hour Fitness SF – You don’t need to be a member of this gym. You can buy a day pass just for Gino’s class.
Gino’s class is AH-MAH-ZING. You will be flipping your hair around. You will feel like a proper vixen. If you’re lucky to see Adela in his class (she’s the blonde up front in the video below wearing all black and a blue plaid shirt around her waist) watch her, follow her. So much to learn from this gorgeous dancer.
Note for people driving to this studio. 24 Hour Fitness has a parking garage attached to the gym. It’s on Post between Van Ness and Polk. Drive all the way up to the third floor. The entrance to 24 Hour Fitness is on the third floor. Parking is validated for $4 for 2 hours.
Example of Gino’s style
4. Alec Piliafas (Added 9/26/2014)
First time I saw Alec was when he took Amber’s beginning hip hop class. And I was LIKE DAMN. The dude can dance. Like when you see a dude on the dance floor and he’s like working it in a way you rarely see and you wish your boyfriend or husband would dance the same way if he practiced…..yeah. That’s Alec. He teaches every so often in the city. Sadly, no set consistent schedule but he does teach workshops every so often. So far they’ve been beginner level with pops of intermediate moves. But he keeps it simple. He’s positive, he’s really sweet, and you will learn alot from him. Follow his FB or Twitter. You won’t regret it.
NEW UPDATE: Alec is teaching a 6 class series starting on October 7, 2014. Details here.
Here’s an example of his Britney workshop.
If you think you’re a decent dancer in the club and watch America’s Best Dance Crew and think “hey I could do a little bit of that” then you should try Emerson at City Dance.
Beginning Hip Hop Sundays 5:30pm
Big studio. Lots of room. But can get crowded
City Dance has a parking lot right in front of their studio. It’s in cracky town. Take advantage of the free parking in front of the studio. If you do plan on walking here just don’t have your iPhone out. Be aware of what’s around you.
Emerson is the Executive Artistic Director and Co-Founder of the Funkanometry SF Dance Company. He’s Filipino. He’s a snappy dresser. And most important he’s a lovely teacher. He can do butch and femme. But honestly his femme is the best. I learned how to strut like a proper girl because of him. He likes spins. He likes fast moves. It is not easy the first time around. But stick with him and you’ll enjoy the hell out of his class.
Going to City Dance will feel like you are in high school with a ton of Asians who all have the best sneakers, best headphones, and best hair. But everyone is overall very nice and Emerson’s routines are so much fun.
Example of Emerson’s routine:
This girl. GOOD LORD. You gonna love this girl. Her style is very femme, incredibly sexy, smooth smooth smooth then fast. Love her to death.
Leslie NOW teaches a Femme Group Hip Hop class at MJ Dance Lab in the city on Wednesday nights. Check out the City Dance schedule for the latest location and schedule since it is new, the location sometimes moves around.
Beginning Hip Hop Fridays at 7pm at City Dance.
His routines are amazing, fast, and flowy. He’s one of my favorite teachers in the Bay Area.
When I first started taking his class in 2012 I was so awkward with his style. It’s very different from everyone else. It took a while for me to get it but now I understand it and it’s glorious. He’s passionate about his choreography, he’s a really patient teacher, and he’s just a lovely person overall.
Check out his website as he teaches all over the Bay Area.
Example of Amber’s style:
Beautiful and bright studio. It’s small but good lord do they pack in some awesomeness in this place. When you come out of the elevator you’ll see the RAE Model and Talent Agency sign and you’ll wonder if you went to the wrong place. But nope, that’s it.
Her Pop Jam class is fast, femme, and fabulous. Yes you should let your hair down and whip it.
They have loads of other fantastic classes at this location. I like it because it’s very close to pizza. Which you will want to eat after you’ve done a class at RAE.
Example of Jessica’s style
Rock started teaching an Absolute Beginner Hip Hop class on Saturdays at the MJ Lab. While it truly is a absolute beginner hip hop class, it’s still a little bit hard for absolute beginner. But do try.
If you find it’s too slow for you, don’t you worry. He teaches an advanced beginner hip hop class on Saturdays at City Dance too.
Video of a typical Rocko routine.
Took her class for the first time on 6/16/2014. I take a lot of classes with male teachers so it’s nice to take classes with female teachers. Cause I’ve noticed female teachers have a vibe that I really enjoy. And Marqui definitely has a cool vibe. Her moves are not for beginners, but she spends the time to teach you the nuances of each move and that’s nice. Really friendly, really cool. Take her class. You’ll like her alot.
I know Allan calls his Dance Mission class Beginner. But it ain’t beginner. I’ve been dancing hip hop for 4+ years and finally on 9/6/2014 I completed a whole class without stopping. His style is not easy. But when you get it, HONEY YOU GONNA LOOOOOOOOVE IT!!!
Hip Hop Beginner/Intermediate Mondays 6:30pm – 1 hour 30 minutes
Saturdays at 12:30pm
Medium studio. Packed. You will bump into people. He might make you drop to the floor on your knees.
Allan is a big guy. But he can spin and drop it like he’s a 95 pound ballet dancer. He’s competed in So You Think You Can Dance.
His TA’s are great dancers. The classes are CROWDED. But that’s because he’s amazing. If you stick with his class you will get it. And you will be a better dancer because of it.
Example of an Allan routine:
2) D Montalvo – Lines Dance Center
My favorite teacher in the Bay Area is D Montalvo at Lines Dance Center.
Sundays at 11:30am and Tuesdays at 7:30pm – 90 minutes
Lines Dance Center is in a real cracky area. You must pay attention when you walk in this area. Don’t talk on your iPhone. Be aware. People get mugged here all the time.
D calls his class Advanced Beginner and that is accurate. It is NOT easy. It took me around 15+ classes to get his routines down.
He’s really sweet and lovely. He is a professional dancer and performs regularly thus his routines are very different from everyone else in the Bay Area. You will start off with a 30 minute warm up that will hurt. THEN you start the choreography. You will want to eat a huge burrito after his class.
75 percent of the class are women. Professional dancers take his class “just for fun.” So you WILL feel stupid because everyone else dances 40+ hours a week. But when you nail one move perfectly for just a second, you feel great 🙂
Example of a typical D routine:
I have combed through the Peninsula and honestly there aren’t that many dance studios that are as fun as the City. Hopefully this will change but I just haven’t found them. I feel that the Peninsula is more focused on competition teams and thus old ladies like me aren’t really allowed:( But here are the ones I’d recommend.
1. Lee Pazmino – Uforia Studios (Updated 1/13/2014)
Finally Uforia Studios updated their schedule and they’ve listed Lee Pazmino’s schedule. He’s a new addition to their studio and THANK GOD. Cause Palo Alto needs more hip hop dance classes
Wednesdays 9:45am and Fridays at 6:30pm (and sometimes 9:45am on Fridays)
I took his Friday Night Hip Hop Club class and I was so red faced and tired afterwards. The routine you learn is short and easy. What he focuses on is running the routine so many times your heart will feel like it’s gonna burst. Watch the schedule at Uforia and look out for his class.
I don’t like Zumba. It’s just something I don’t understand. But I know Matt Adams teaches Zumba and when he teaches it, I love it. So that’s a good alternative if you want to do something non hip hop.
Also Uforia is gorgeous studio. It’s in a remodeled church. Which always makes me smile that all the wholesome thoughts that were in the church have now converted to somewhat dirtier thoughts. Both inspiring, just different foundation.
2. Molly Bell and Mandy Bell at Groovitude Dance
Why would anyone purposely wake up for a 8:15am Saturday class? When it’s taught by Mandy or Molly, YOU GO. The style is more jazz hip hop. So it’s definitely very different from the classes in the city. The crowd is older ladies (like me) from the Peninsula. I rarely see anyone under 20 in this class. Probably because it’s so damn early. But what’s great about this class is you go and knock out some moves, then spend the rest of the day eating. So….what’s the problem?
Example of Molly’s style:
3. House of Mayhem Dance Studio
I’ve only taken classes with Frankie Pagmanua and one of their special workshop classes.
So HOM is a bit frustrating. When I first started trying to go there, they weren’t open even though their schedule said they would be open. Ok. So they have issues with updating their website. But overall if you do take a class there you will enjoy it. It’s more intermediate than beginner but everyone is young and talented and you can learn a lot from them.
Here’s one of the special workshops I took with Carlo Atienza at House of Mayhem.
I’ve only taken one class here and it was with Amber (who also teaches in SF at City Dance).
You know how I feel about Amber (I love him). The studio has several rooms and the teachers are brilliant.
2) Monday Night Workshop
Every Monday night this group brings in a new fantastic choreographer to teach a class at 9pm.
I have not gone to their 9pm class because typically at that time I’m in bed combing through Reddit under an electric blanket. But I did go to one of their rare daytime workshops and it was amazing. They bring in fantastic people. It ain’t easy. IT IS NOT FOR BEGINNERS. I can barely keep up. But the routines they go through are so fantastic it’s worth trying. You can watch video of all the different dancers they’ve invited here. Here’s video of the class I took with them.
3) VIP San Jose
From what I understand about this group is they are a dance collective that hosts workshops. They do focus a lot on competitions. Which if you’re a beginner….that really isn’t for you. But what you should focus on are their workshops.
VIPSJ hosts Swanshop Dance Workshops. Technically I have not attended one of their Swanshops but I did attend a benefit workshop of theirs and I have a feeling it would be very similar to their Swanshops.
NOT EASY FOR BEGINNERS. Let me clarify that again. This is not a beginner class. You will feel really lost if you haven’t gotten comfortable in Emerson or D’s classes. But if you’re feeling adventurous you should definitely try it.
EVERYONE is young. I’m pretty positive everyone in the room was under 30. Maybe even under 21.
There was a moment where I looked at all my fellow dancers and thought to myself “hmmmm I could be mommy to literally everyone in this room.”
In The Groove Dance Studio
I’ve taken Cardio Hip Hop and some master classes here. It’s pretty goddamn good.
I took a class with Daniel Kang and Leslie Panitchpakdi when they were at Rae Studios. Now they started their own studio in Oakland. Daniel’s style is intricate and smooth. Leslie’s style is filled with drama and strong femme hits. I love both of their styles.
Not a pure beginner class.
Here’s Leslie’s style:
Here’s Daniel’s style. Couldn’t find one at In The Groove so here’s an old one from Rae.