It’s 2015 and you’ve decided that all those viewings of So You Think You Can Dance and Yanis Marshall’s amazing Youtube videos have inspired you to learn hip hop dance. Fantastic. Brilliant. I think that’s one of the best ideas you’ve ever had. If you’ve never danced before, no probelem. If I can learn how to do this, so can you. I’m a 41 year old woman living in the Bay Area who decided 5 years ago to learn how to hip hop dance and I do not regret this decision at all.
Oh. For sure you’re going to be embarrassed.
You’re going to be intimidated.
You’re going to feel completely and totally moronic.
Because that means you can only improve from this day forward.
If you’ve read my 2014 post most of this will sound familiar. But I’ve added several new teachers in this list that are not on the 2014 post. Either way, let me repeat for the new folks who Googled “learn how to hip hop dance San Francisco” cause I know you people, I was you.
4 Things You Need to Know about Taking Dance Classes
1. The Bay Area is the best goddamn place to learn hip hop dance. Of course this is an opinion of an older woman who does not go clubbing and prefers to embrace her Netflix subscription with wild abandon … so you decide if you want to believe me. 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 Citysa 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. There are a plethora of amazing dancers in this city and you have your pick of femme, butch, fierce, smooth, tough, and joyful styles to choose from. I’ve tried out alot of dance classes, trust me. There’s a style of movement that you’re going to love, just go find it.
4. No one is looking at you.
This was the hardest for me to understand. The only person everyone is looking at is the teacher. Not you. If they are looking at you chances are good it’s because YOU ARE NAILING IT and they are trying to copy you.
I know. It’s intimidating to be in a class where everyone seems to know the moves. Chances are good they learned the choreography the day before. Or they’re one of those blessed young folk who can just pick up a routine in seconds. I am not one of those people. It takes time for me to learn a teacher’s style and moves. And the only way you’re going to learn is to get up in the FRONT (yes the front) and practice. Don’t worry about the other students. They’re trying to nail the moves and they are NOT LOOKING AT YOU.
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 or plan to.
Important note about all these classes: the majority that I’ve detailed below are not “workout classes.” Choreography is taught and sometimes this can be overwhelming if a teacher decides to teach 16 eight counts…but don’t worry. You’ll get it. Just take absolute beginning classes then move up when you feel comfortable or when you want a challenge.
I’ve categorized the teachers in the levels that I think they really teach. They may say they’re beginner in their class description….I respectfully disagree. So just know the levels I’ve set them are my opinion. You may think differently, that’s cool. Go write your own damn blog and tell people that. We need more writers talking about dance.
The City – SF
BEGINNER – INTERMEDIATE
Gino Ramos UPDATE: Gino stopped teaching on 11/17 🙁
INTERMEDIATE – ADVANCED
Funks First Sundays + Funkanometry SF Weekly Advanced Company Class
Groov3 – Beginner
Dani Galvez, Iljay Espinoza and more at Montage Dance Productions – Beginner/Intermediate
Monday Night Workshop – Intermediate/Advanced
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
I tried out Allie’s Cardio Dance class 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.
Bianca Stephanie Mendoza
This is a new class that my dancer friend Robert (or “Professional Looking Extra” as I now refer to him) pointed me to. Like it just started last week. And though I have not tried it out, it sounds AMAZING. It’s called: Beyonce with Bianca. Yes. A WEEKLY Beyonce class. When I checked on 1/20/2015, it’s at YuBalance on Saturdays at noon.
Carol Johnstone’s Beyonce and Britney Inspired Classes
I’ve never taken one of her workshops but I hope to change that this year. Because when I look at the videos of her classes I get very happy. You will learn the actual choreography from Beyonce and Britney music videos. Do you know hard it is to learn their choregraphy from Youtube videos? It’s really hard. You have to slow the video down, then you have to translate in your brain how to do the moves backwards because the videos are shot from the front. You’re lucky. Carol has amazing teachers who walk you step by step through these moves and sometimes she even gets Beyonce’s ACTUAL CHOREOGRAPHER to teach. So follow her Facebook, sign up for her workshops. From my analysis she sets up some really amazing dance experiences.
This class will very likely be filled with the cutest leggings and bootie shorts you’ve ever seen. D’arcy teaches the sexiest, cutest moves in an environment that is positive and joyful. He’s got a strong following of students so you get the vibe that most of the people in the room have been taking class with D’arcy 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.
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. She was MY FIRST hip hop dance teacher and I’m so grateful I started with her.
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.
ODC is clean, beautiful, has nearby relatively cheap parking lot. Kind of sketchy neighborhood but nothing too horrible.
Briana is a young and energetic teacher. You will be SWEATING HARD in this class. She’s wonderful.
David Schrag at Dance Mission
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.
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. 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.
I’ve taken Jocquese’s Vogue & Tone Technique and Vogue Choreography class on Thursday nights at ODC and oh HONEY you gonna LOOOOOOVE it. I’ve dabbled in Vogue like most of us have: Watching Madonna’s video and trying to strike a pose as fierce as her dancers. Well there’s so much more to it. And Jocquese will show you the way. Technique is an hour of very precise arm and hand movements as you glide across the floor. It’s not easy. And your arms will feel DEAD the next day. But you won’t care because all you want to do is nail the moves as well as Jocquese.
Micaya at ODC or Dance Mission
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. Really fantastic experience. You meet wonderful dancers and you perform in front of a crowd several times.
(Added 5/17/2015) When I heard there was a Don’t Worry, Be Yoncé Inspired Dance Class in San Francisco I was like WHERE CAN I THROW MY MONEY. When I realized the class is taught by a Golden State Warrior cheerleader I was like SERIOUSLY WHERE CAN I THROW MY MONEY. I’ve taken her class twice and it’s a fantastic experience. You’re taught some basic moves that are sexy and fierce plus Shonna throws in a little bit of feminist rhetoric that I particularly enjoy on Saturday mornings. For example: You always have your head up when you walk, would Beyoncé put her head down? No. Neither should you.
Here’s a typical Shonna class. Heels are welcomed but not required.
Last week’s flawless class! Huge thank you to everyone who came out to all three classes! Sign up for Naughty Girl this Saturday at 11am, 12pm, 1pm!
Posted by Don’t Worry, Be Yonce’ – A Beyonce’ Inspired Dance Class in San Francisco on Wednesday, April 29, 2015
BEGINNER – INTERMEDIATE
First time I saw Alec was when he took Amber’s beginning hip hop class. And I was LIKE DAMN. The boy 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 weekly with Tiltfit and through City Dance. Follow his FB and you’ll get updates and read all sort of hilarious inappropriate posts.
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!!!
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.
Amber Divina (or Ambz Divina as he’s called in his videos)
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.
I’ve taken Darian’s hip hop class several times and it’s great. Butchy femme is the ony way I can describe it. Small boutique studio that really is light and airy. Everyone there is super welcoming. You will sweat alot in Darian’s class, you will wiggle it alot. You will love it.
Emerson Aquino – City Dance
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.
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.
The first time I saw Feliciano dance was in Emerson’s beginning hip hop class. Good GOD is he good. He infuses his moves with such power and sexuality, yeah….it’s fantastic. You want to learn from this man. He recently returned from a very intense Paris dance fellowship where he trained in the same studio as Yanis…so us mere mortals here in the Bay Area benefit from his experience. Great teacher. Breaks steps down carefully and you repeat alot. You will come away from his class sore but inspired.
I haven’t taken a class with Ginelle officially but my dance friends Andrew and Alec highly recommend her. And I trust their opinion completely. From what I hear you practice a ton of isolations then move into choreo. So you will come away with sore arms but you will look GOOOOOOD.
UPDATE: As of 11/17/2015 Gino decided to stop teaching after 10 years of hairography. If you were lucky to learn from him, congratulations. You were very lucky. If you’re new to this and just found out he’s not teaching anymore…well just follow him in FB cause he promises to do one-off workshops. So at least we have that.
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.
Jessica Rae at RAE Studios
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 (Allie and Darian teach here). I like it because it’s very close to pizza. Which you will want to eat after you’ve done a class at RAE.
I haven’t officially taken her class but I’ve seen her dance in Allan Frias’ class and you want to move like her. She is amazing. She teaches at the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts and judging by the videos I’ve seen of her class, you will find yourself wanting to whip your hair around alot in her class.
Wanna dance in heels? Then you want to take Marqui’s class. Her style is sultry, sexy, and powerful. I’ve only taken her class wearing sneakers because my weak old body can’t handle heels. But it’s guaranteed good times and you will be amazed at what you can do in heels.
I’ve been taking Rocko’s class for several years now and I am always amazed at the artistry of his moves. True he will make you bounce and whip around like Beyonce but his choreography has such dark poetry to it, I JUST LOVE EMBODYING WHATEVER HE THROWS AT ME. He does teach an absolute beginner class and I would highly recommend you take that before you take his beginner or intermediate level. Meow meow. You will love him.
My favorite teacher in the Bay Area is D Montalvo at Lines Dance Center.
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. He will make you run through the choreography 10+ times at the end. 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 🙂
Funks First Sundays + Funkanometry SF Weekly Advanced Company Class
Every Sunday throughout the year this group brings in some AMAZING dancers from around the world to teach a 90 minute workshop. Classes are typically packed but it’s worth it. If you can’t make it in person, most of the time their sessions are professionally video recorded and you purchase a subscription through City Dance Live.
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. She also regularly teaches in Oakland at In the Groove.
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.
Lee Pazmino – Uforia Studios
I took Lee Pazmino’s 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.
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.
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?
Matt Adams – Dance Sweat Smile
I learned about Matt when he taught at Uforia Studios. Now he’s branched out and is doing his own thing. It’s more cardio dance, so not a lot of choreography. But you will leave red-faced, completely spent, and absolutely joyful after taking his class.
(Updated 9/12/2015) The dance community is filled with lovely people. And the way I found out about Groov3 was from a lovely lady (Gazelle S.) who allowed me to crash her dance birthday party with the amazing Sam Allen. From that class, I learned about Groov3 and today I took a class with Susan Snyder. Fantastic teacher. Very good for beginners. They run through a routine slowly and you repeat over and over again to a live DJ. How awesome is that? Susan and Kerry Ferrari are the Groov3 gurus in the Bay Area and they teach several times each week. Follow Susan and Kerry Ferrari’s FB accounts for latest updates, learn from them, they’re all sorts of awesome.
Wed night GROOV3’n!
Posted by Susan Snyder on Wednesday, September 9, 2015
Dani Galvez, Ijay Espinoza, and more at Montage Dance Productions
I took a class with Dani a year ago and I remember she was great. And judging by her dance videos, she’s still great. She also teaches contemporary that looks like it’s full of emotion and drama, this is good for dance. This studio also has other classes that look interesting but haven’t been down to San Jose just yet to check it out.
Update 2/18/2014 – This year I promised myself I would take classes at studios I don’t usually visit. It breaks up your routine, forces you to get into a groove you’re not familiar with. So…I went south to Montage Dance Productions.
Last night I took Dani’s beginning hip hop class and my memory of her class was exactly as I remembered. It was wonderful. Very good solid beginning class. Breaks down fundamentals really well. She’s super positive and the overall vibe of the place was really welcoming.
Here’s video from her 2/17/2014 class:
After Dani’s class I took Iljay Espinoza’s intermediate class. And good LORD he packs in a lot in one hour. Lots of warm ups and on the day I went tons of whacking. Across the floor work and then choreo. Fast choreo but explained in a way that makes a lot of sense. His style is very fluid and unfamiliar to me but I like it and I would highly recommend learning from this guy.
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.
OAKLAND Chelsea Martin I’ve only seen Chelsea dance in Allan Frias’ class and now I see she’s branching out and doing her own thing in the East Bay. She teaches Zumba but the class you might be more interested in is her Cardio Dance at Truve. Not sure how much choreo she throws into her Cardio Dance class but judging by her style, it looks like it’s a really good time. (Updated 5/15/2015) Finally went to Chelsea’s class and OH LORDY it’s fun but your heart will be bursting and you will be wrecked afterwards. I drove for 90 minutes in traffic to get to her class from the Peninsula. Was it worth it? Yes. Choreographically it’s easy but the intensity is HIGH HIGH HIGH and you will come away red faced and sore the next day.
In The Groove Dance Studio
I’ve taken Cardio Hip Hop and some master classes here. It’s pretty goddamn good.
Carido hip hop will devastate you. There’s alot more choreography in this particular cardio hip hop class which is great, but you will gasping for air by the end of it. So good.
I took a class with Daniel Kang and Leslie Panitchpakdi when they were at Rae Studios. Now they reguarly teach at In the Groove. Daniel’s style is intricate and smooth. Leslie’s style is filled with drama and strong femme hits. I love both of their styles.
In the Groove has increased their offerings of classes so do check them out. From what I hear from my dance friends, their KPOP class is ah-mah-zing.
Not a pure beginner class.
Here’s Daniel’s style. Couldn’t find one at In The Groove so here’s an old one from Rae.