It’s 2018 and you’re sitting in front of your computer saying to yourself “This is the year I’m going to learn hip hop dance.” Welcome. You’re gonna love it. I’ve been taking hip hop classes for over 10+ years and I’m still doing it. If you’re 16, 21, 32, 45, 68, or even 75 and you’re interested in taking hip hop class my response to you is DO IT. It doesn’t matter how young or old you are. There is a hip hop class for you and luckily you live in the Bay Area which has a huge selection of teachers and studios to learn from. I’ve been to probably 85 percent of the hip hop classes offered from San Jose to Oakland so I have a very strong opinion of what’s out there. But hey if you find that I have not detailed a teacher you ADORE comment below and tell me. I am only one lady and though I try to take as many classes as possible I have a job and I can’t drive to the North Bay at 5pm on a Tuesday. I’m human.
Who is this list for?
This list is for everyone: from your beginner newbie who has never done a grapevine to the serious dancer who has danced behind Hamilton Evans in his Instagram feed. I’ve tried to break things down by level according to my opinion. So yes, this is hugely subjective and completely my opinion. I mean look at the URL. This is my personal blog not SF Weekly’s analysis of the dance classes you can take. You will very likely disagree with my opinion which is FINE. This list is one woman’s opinion and hopefully you’ll learn about a teacher or a studio you never heard of. I don’t get paid to do this. I’m just a fan of all these teachers and studios.
What class do you recommend?
People ask me this question alot and my response usually is “What style of dance do you like?” Are you more into strong, powerful, explosive moments? Are you barely learning how to do a body roll? Or are you into intricate, fast, almost robotic like movements? Depending on what you’re into, there’s a class that caters to that. If you’re into dancing in heels I would recommend Shonna Chiles, Alli Fritz, and Dogpatch Dance. If you’re into Kinjaz style movements I would totally point you to One One Studios and The Company. There are so many styles here in the Bay Area which is great, but it can be overwhelming. So I’ve tried to detail the style in my descriptions. However, the best way to tell if it’s a class you’ll like is to watch the videos. If you like what you see, chances are you’re going to enjoy the class more.
Ok Elaine. You’ve told me a lot. But seriously, which class do you recommend?
If you’ve never taken a class with these teachers, read my review, and more importantly watch the video if I’ve provided a link. That’s the best way to figure out if you’re going to like the style the teacher is teaching. If you go to the class and find it’s not your thing, don’t worry. There’s ALOT of other classes that will likely fit your fancy.
But if you really want to follow exactly the teachers I took during my beginner years they are in this order: Shereen Prince, David Schrag, Micaya, Amber Divina, and Emerson Aquino.
ONE IMPORTANT DETAIL TO NOTE: I am writing this in January 2018. Schedules changes. People move. So if you like someone below, check their schedule, see if they’re still around. The problem with good teachers is they get so good they move to LA or NY and next thing you know they’re on So You Think You Can Dance. I try to update as the year progresses but hey… I’m busy taking class.
It looks like all the students are crazy good and I know I suck. What class can I take where I won’t be embarrassed.
First thing you should know about class. NO ONE IS LOOKING AT YOU. Well if you’re super hot and the crop top you’ve decided to wear today is showing your 6-pack abs, yeah we’re looking at you. And damn you look good. Bravo. You clearly have been working hard… But going back to your worry about being embarrassed, do not worry. We are all taking class, we are all focused on ourselves, we’re all a bunch of narcissists staring at our image in the mirror and we’re so not looking at you. So take class, make mistakes, that’s what class is for. If you suck, you suck. Most of the time you won’t know anyone in class so who cares? I’ve taken class for 10+ years and I know I’ve sucked. In that whole time, no one has ever shamed me when it comes to dance. No one has ever given me a dirty look for failing to do a hair flip incorrectly. No one has laughed at me in a hurtful manner for twerking badly. You know what does happen in class? People scream YASSSSSS when they see you’re feeling the music. People walk up to you after class and tell you that you really inspired them with how joyfully you moved. People ask you out to boba and conversation about that ludicrous Rihanna choreography.
So put on those sweatpants, tie your sneakers, and get to class. The hip hop dance community is pretty awesome and if you spend a decent amount of time with these people you’re going to meet some great people and learn some pretty amazing things.
If you see me, please say hi. I’ve made this list for you so it would be lovely to hear if it’s something that’s actually helped you.
If you’re wondering what that animated gif up above is from, it’s from the summer 2017 Leslie Panitchpakdi PW City Dance Summer Showcase. My PW team was the best. I’m not being conceited about that. We worked our asses off for that show and I love everyone on that team and everything we did.
I don’t want anyone to see me dance but I want to learn OR I want to learn from amazing hip hop dancers but I don’t have budget to go to LA to dance at Snowglobe Perspective: Steezy
I get it. It’s scary. You don’t want to make a fool of yourself even though I’m telling you no one is looking at you. No problem. I gotchoo.
Or perhaps you’re a very good dancer but the budget to get down to LA and take class at Movement Lifestyle, EDGE, Millenium, IDA, Snowglobe Perspective, Play, and Kinjaz Dojo is just too rich for your blood. I get it. Plus the Uber costs are gonna be HIGH cause it takes forever to get around in LA.
I have tried many online dance videos. I’ve done Matt Steffanina’s Youtube classes. I’ve bought individual classes from TMilly. I’ve even downloaded dance videos, flipped the video and tried to learn the moves step by step (it aint easy). So I have a very educated opinion about this and my thought are STEEZY HAS CREATED THE BEST ONLINE DANCE TUTORIAL AVAILABLE. Try their free tutorial and you will understand why. They have basic beginner to the most advanced hip hop classes. They have teachers you will totally recognize like Bam Martin, Scott Forsyth, Sorah Yang, Beau Fournier, Boogie Frantick, Gina Hong, Larkin Poyton, and more more more.
My favorite Steezy teacher is without a doubt Jeffrey Glorious Queen That He is Caluag. You can take classes on your computer. They now have a mobile app so you can watch on your phone. You can learn anytime, anywhere on your own terms. What I particularly love about their service is you can flip views from front to back whenever you want. So it really is like being in the class with the teacher. Plus you can hit rewind as many times as you want so you can learn how to do that turn or hair flip.
So if you’re too scared to come out, stay in and try out Steezy.
The City – SF
Carol Johnstone’s Popstar Booty Camp
Shereen Prince (NOTE: Shereen was my first hip hop dance teacher so if you wanna start like me, start with Shereen)
Peninsula – South Bay
Bay Area K-Pop – Melissa and Marlon – Beginner-Intermediate
The Company – Westlake School for the Performing Arts – Intermediate – Advanced
DanceVibes SF – Jaimee Dunning – Beginner
The Get Down – Beginner – Intermediate
Groov3 – Beginner
Groovitude – Beginner/Intermediate
JJ Ghera – Beginner
Montage Dance Productions – Beginner/Intermediate
On One Studios – Beginner-Advanced
Purdance – Beginner-Advanced
Rhythm & Motion – San Mateo – Iddy Richardson – Beginner
Studio V – Beginner-Advanced
Uforia Studios – Beginner-Intermediate
Flying Studios – Beginner through Advanced
Full Out Studios – Beginner through Advanced
In The Groove Studios – Beginner through Advanced
New Style Motherlode – Beginner through Advanced
re.DEFINE Dance Studio Beginner through Advanced
Is this the year where you’ve decided that you need to learn how to dance like Beyoncé? Do you watch Britney’s dance videos and dream of throwing your hair around with effortless grace? Well this is the place for you. Carol books regular workshops where your basic beginner can learn the Single Ladies routine from beginning to end. She hires amazing teachers like Ijay Espinoza who will teach you the steps to hairography greatness. And when you’re feeling ready to show off our money maker you’re invited to perform it in front of a live audience at a club or in a flash mob out in SF. Absolute beginners are very much welcome in this class and once you take the class you will without a doubt meet students who have been with the Booty Camp for years. The community in this group is strong and you will make new friends who love to practice flipping their hair for hours.
Yes PopStar Booty Camp does teach a plethora of classes for beginners. However, Carol also brings in some of the BEST choreographerse for master workshops.
Location: Different studios all over the Bay Area.
I’ve been to many classes all over the world and this is without a doubt the most inclusive dance class I’ve ever taken. Straight, gay, round, thin, tall, short, black, white, brown, yellow, red….whatever and whomever you are, you are welcomed and celebrated in D’Arcy’s class. Worried that your Lululemon cut out leggings are too risqué? Girl please. There is a guy next to you wearing super tight gold bootie shorts and a completely see through mesh tank top. The colors are bright and the music is pumping in D’Arcy’s class. You will recreate the famous Showgirls hip thrust in the warm up and you will love it. If D’Arcy looks familiar it’s because she’s a very famous and popular drag queen star in SF. Yeah. This class is a must for newbies and your seasoned dancer. The moves are easy and it’s up to you if you just want to be in the back swinging your bootie conservatively back and forth or step up front and let your inner freak out. You will be applauded. You will be celebrated.
Location: Academy of Ballet
2121 Market Street
Bring your own water bottle because they don’t sell water at the Academy of Ballet
In most (if not all) of D’Arcy’s warmups you will be doing the hip thrusts from Showgirls.
At ODC they have this Rhythm and Motion series that they run regularly throughout the year. There’s an absolute beginner one and a regular one and I’ve been to both. I’ve been to several of these and I’ve enjoyed the ones that Dudley teaches. What I like about these classes are the moves are expansive, dramatic, and extremely joyful. And honestly I think a lot of that is based on the creativity of the teacher. With Dudley all you get is complete elation. There are a lot of beginners in the class and they are so welcome. You will learn turns, dramatic moves across the floor, and moves that will make you feel extremely powerful. You will silly. You will feel weird. All of this is ok and absolutely encouraged. Dudley is such a joyful teacher and dancer you can’t help yourself try to match his energy. By the end of the class you’ll be soaked in the most glorious sweaty glow ever.
You can read about his class updates on his FB.
He regularly teaches at ODC and Lines so be sure to check out the schedule for those two different locations.
Technically I have not taken Esteban’s class in real life. But I plan to correct that in 2018. I have heard from my dance friends that he’s brilliant and I’ve done extensive Instagram stalking to know: this is a man who knows how to dance. From what I can tell Esteban teaches ALL OVER the Bay Area which is nice. He teaches heels at Rae in SF. He teaches hip hop at Uforia in the Peninsula. It also looks like he teaches Zumba and hip hop at several other locations in the South Bay and Peninsula. From what I’m seeing in the videos I can see why his classes are packed. High energy and strong feminine moves. With or without heels the intensity is strong and I’m excited to learn from this guy this year.
You can read about his class updates and videos from his class on his FB.
I’ve only taken Lee’s class in the Peninsula so I don’t have personal experience of what it’s like to take his class in SF. But from the SF videos I’ve seen combined with my experience taking his Mountain View class, I’m pretty sure his SF classes are great. If anything, they have more room. Lee’s style is butch old school. You can see it in the way he dresses and how he carries himself. Yes he can still be femme and he can definitely teach you how to move your hips ever so hot, but he’s more B-boy than vogue. His choreography is simple and has alot of hard punches. And you rarely ever stop which means your heart rate is easily going to be above 160 for over 45 minutes.
Lee invites DJ’s to play during his classes which adds a nice intensity to each session. But it also means the music never pauses. You’re dancing from one song right into another and your heart is going to be boom boom booming the whole damn time.
I’ve taken class with Roberto for a while so I know he’s a brilliant dancer. Sometimes I don’t think he has bones because he’s able to move with such flexibility that seems impossible. He’s a great dancer and now he’s sharing his knowledge with the Bay Area. Roberto teaches a Global Cardio Tour class which is perfect for absolute beginners. He’ll take you through simple moves for sure to get your cardio up but he’ll throw in some more intricate moves for those that want more of a challenge. He’s high energy, incredibly positive, and very talented. You’ll have such a good time with Roberto.
When I was much much younger I used to go clubbing a lot. In LA all I did was go clubbing on Friday and Saturday nights. Then you get older and getting all dolled up to stand in a line at 10pm sounds like hell on earth. So when I decided in my mid-30s that it would be great to dance again but not at a super late hour I stumbled upon Shereen’s beginning hip hop class at ODC. Now you would think that my clubbing days would make me a great dancer. You would be mistaken. I SUUUUUUUUCKED. I could barely do a grapevine. For some reason turns were impossible and I looked extremely stiff and uncoordinated. But when you’re in Shereen’s class you don’t care. She’s so nice and welcoming you just want to try your hardest to nail the move as well as she hits it. Lots of beginners take this class and it’s obvious why. Shereen’s teaches you the basics of hip hop dance. From counting (you think it’s not important but oh my god it’s so critically important) to ticking, to body rolls you will learn the fundamentals of hip hop dance through Shereen. I don’t take her class very often these days but I credit alot of my understanding of dance because of what Shereen taught me. I still do her ticking warmup. I still count the choreo as I work through s routine.
351 Shotwell Street, San Francisco, CA 94110
There used to be a parking lot, but since the studio is in the Mission…well you know what happens with empty lots in the mission. LET’S BUILD STUFF ON IT. So only street parking.
If you search for videos of Shereen’s classes online you’re not going to find a lot. People just don’t record that much in her class. I know in the first two years of learning hip hop dance there was NO WAY I was going to record myself. No one needs to see my truly sad body rolls. I literally looked like I was trying to upchuck something very disgusting in my body. So if you’re feeling shy about being in front of the camera, chances are very good no one is recording in this class.
I have a major crush on this woman for a variety of reasons. 1) She’s extremely talented. Yes she’s a great teacher, no doubt about it. If you’re a beginner who’s never danced before to someone who’s done this for a while, she welcomes you with open arms and this fantastic smile that you keep coming back for more. 2) She’s a fantastic dancer. She’s one of the few teachers I’ve seen who actually takes classes from other people. So to see her work the choreography of other teachers, so good. 3) She’s extremely entertaining. Dancing is not her only strength. She’s part of the dynamic duo that hosts the hilarious and painfully enjoyable Date/Able podcast. You get to hear loads of cringeworthy stories about dating in this city and she and her co-host are fantastic. So what I recommend is listen to the podcast on your way to Yue’s class, take her class, then listen to another Date/Able podcast on your way home. You’ll enjoy the time you’ve spent with her IRL and virtually.
1561 California Street
David was one of the teachers I started with when I first learned hip hop dance. Thank god that happened because his class is so welcoming and so much fun. The first thing you’ll notice about his class is there are guys in there. If you go to dance classes in general you’ll notice maybe there’s 1-2 guys IF YOU’RE LUCKY. In David’s class there are a bit more. This is really nice because … well seeing a row of men doing body rolls is really nice. For sure, women do fantastic body rolls, but it’s nice to see other side. Anyways, David’s class is perfect for the absolute beginner to your seasoned dancer. His style is very old school, very bouncy, very let’s-party-like-it’s-1999-but-not-in-the-cheesy-oh-my-god-dad-stop-dancing vibe. What I find really amazing about David is he is a true superman dancer. By day he’s a principal of a school, by night he’s super hip hop dancer. I wonder if his students and teachers know how great a dancer he is….lucky for you you can find out by going to his class.
Location: Dance Mission Theatre
3316 24th Street (corner Mission)
So you’ve woken up today and decided you really need to master the cat walk. You’ve decided it is critically important that you learn how to throw your hands back and forth with perfect artistry. You can not live another day till you learn how to do a death drop. Well sweetie, Jocquese Whitfield is here to guide you through your vogue journey. He teaches a regular Vogue & Tone class and trust me, your arms are going to be DEAD TIRED after he’s done with you. But you will love him, you will love his choreography, you will love everything this man throws at you.
Everyone who decides to learn hip hop eventually makes their way to Micaya’s class. And it’s no surprise why. She’s fantastic. Her classes can be over 50 people to less than 10 and you will feel welcomed and guided through choreography that will undoubtedly leave you looking like you had a bucket of water thrown over your entire body. You will sweat. You will drop it. You will whip it. You will smack it. After taking many beginning hip hop classes with Micaya I joined her workshop series. I would highly recommend you do a workshop if not with Micaya but with anyone. Workshops push your boundaries and really push you to the next level of dance. And plus you gain like 20+ new friends overnight who all love dance, sweating, and eating monster burritos.
Shonna Chiles – Confidance Fitness
Growing up, I was in awe of cheerleaders. The outfits, the hair, but most of all the perfect symmetry and power of their choreography. You can make light of cheerleading and how it’s all surface & fluff but if you spend one day trying to train like a cheerleader you will die of exhaustion. Not only do these ladies train hard, they do it all while looking perfect and not showing a stitch of sweat. So when I heard there was a Golden State Warrior cheerleader teaching choreography specifically to Beyonce I was like TAKE MY GODDAMN MONEY.
Shonna is a powerful and gorgeous dancer who adores Beyoncé and thankfully she shares that joy and love with us every week in her Don’t Worry Be Yoncé SF class. No, you do not need to be a seasoned dancer. You can be an absolute beginner who barely wiggles her hips. Take Shonna’s class, you will not only be dropping your hips real low, but also whipping your hair around like you’re one of Bey’s backup dancers. Shonna has added more classes to her Confidance Fitness calendar including Flash Dance Fridays and Chair Affair (yes that means dancing, writhing, grinding all over and around a chair). She’s added a team of people who also teach and from the looks of it, it’s all good. It’s ALLLL GOOOOD.
Be sure to sign up for the class in advance online. That way your spot is definitely reserved.
When you take your first Allan Frias class you’re going to notice one significant thing about his class: everyone is good. He has dedicated dancers who go to his class every week so if you feel like everyone is better than you, it’s because the students in his class have been taking his class for 8+ months and know his groove very well. Do not be intimidated by this. What this means is you are in a class that is BELOVED by many in the Bay Area and when you take his class you’ll understand why. Allan is a big man with huge expressive movements that involve whipping your hair everywhere, hard hits with your hands and hips, and every sexy move you can imagine. Like Emerson Aquino, this man has taught me how to dance like a fierce sensual woman. Yes I learned this from a man. THANK GOD THAT HAPPENED. Because frankly I did not know how to drop my hips in a sexy way until I met this man. In the new year, do not be surprised if Allan’s classes are jam packed. For sure during warm ups, your face could be super close to someone’s butt. That’s normal. Everyone wants to learn from Allan. He has the best choreography in town and the dirtiest jokes to match. You will be sweaty and dying of laughter by the end of his class.
At the beginning of the year, Allan’s class will PACKED. That’s totally normal. It can be overwhelming but power through it because his class is so worth it. But if you can’t handle it, give it a few months and the crowds will die down. Also, warm up your neck before the choreography starts. Trust me, you will be whipping your head around alot in Allan’s class.
I first met Alli in dance class and I was speechless at how she moves with such power and sensuality. But what really moves you is her face. Lots of dancers forget their face and remain stone faced throughout a whole song. Alli doesn’t do that. Oh hells no. Alli expresses a whole range of looks from flirtatious kitty kat to super strong queen all within one eight count. When I heard she was teaching class I was like YASSSSSS. Please teach me the Alli way to flip my hair because I have been missing that in my life. Her class is challenging, I’m not gonna lie about that. If you’re an absolute beginner you might be a touch frustrated. But by all means go because you will be welcome with open arms and if anything you will be pushed to be the most fabulous self you’ve ever been. Warm up every part of your body because you gonna flip, roll, and swirl every part of your body.
Alli teaches regularly at Full Out Studios (Oakland).
Rae Studios is a smaller boutique dance studio so be sure to sign up in advance online to secure your spot.
I have clocked alot of hours training with this man and for that I’m forever grateful. I have danced in his class, I have danced in his flash mobs, if he needs a dancer for something I will likely be running because anything that Amber creates is fantastic. I first started taking Amber’s class after doing hip hop for three years. I thought I was good. Then I took Amber’s class. Nope. I sucked. Like I REALLY SUCKED. But that was ok because Amber was there with his generous spirit and his super groovy choreography. His class was the turning point for me. I really started to understand textures and style and realize that was something I really wanted to embody in me. I remember one day Amber taught a class to Beyonce’s Love on Top. I loved that song. I loved the choreography Amber created for it. But when I looked at myself dancing to it, oh HONEY the cringe was significant. I decided from that day forward I was going to really understand Amber’s style and I did and I do every time I take his class. It is fast, it has hard hits, it has powerful stops, it’s everything. Amber teaches absolute beginners to advanced and I’m sure regardless of which class you take, you gonna have a good time.
Amber regularly teaches at City Dance (Mondays 8pm-9:30pm) and in studios all over the Bay Area.
Check out his class updates in his FB.
I’ve taken class with D for many years now and I keep coming back. I’m completely addicted to his style. But just know, his style 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. Typically he starts 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 (and since his class is in The Mission you can get that huge burrito).
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 🙂
D has been on hiatus for a year and is just starting his hop hop class again at Dance Mission. I AM BEYOND EXCITED ABOUT THIS. And once you take his class you’ll understand why.
Follow his IG for class updates and overall inspiration.
D will be teaching hip hop regularly at Dance Mission.
Owner and heels dancer extraordinaire Kafi Payne has created this brilliant dance studio in SF (they also have a location in Oakland). They have everything: hip hop, heels, rollerdance, flamenco, dancehall, bollywood, and more. The floor is huge so you will have loads of room to express your fierceness across the floor. When you first drive to Dogpatch Dance you will be confused because you don’t see it from the street. What you will see is ample street parking in what looks like an industrial area. The studio is part of the Storage San Francisco building on the second floor. So if you see a huge warehouse that says Storage San Francisco you’re in the right place. To get to the studio you have to go through the huge metal gate. Go up to the gate and you’ll see a post-it that will tell you how to get in. Yes it all seems ominous and weird but it’s all ok. Trust me, once you go inside your worries will all disappear. All you’ll be focused on his hairography and how to do a death drop elegantly.
They host workshops all the time with some of the most amazing choreographers in the world. So follow them in their social media accounts because that’s the only way you’re going to be notified of this critically important information.
Emerson was one of my first teachers when I first started learning hip hop. I would watch his choreography and wish I could just nail an eight count of his with as much ease and fierceness as he expressed. His style is sharp, completely fierce, and one key element I love seeing in dance: joy. The moves are happy. When you do his choreo, you are happy. You just can’t be upset when you’re doing Emerson choreography.
I will always remain grateful to Emerson because he was the one who taught me how to dance like a fierce elegant woman. Yes I learned this from a man. Without him I’d still be Mrs. Frumpy Frump Frump who can’t move her goddamn hips.
When you first see Feliciano dance the first thing you notice is how confident and extremely hot he moves. He infuses his choreography with such power and sexuality, yeah…it’s fantastic. You want to learn from this man. He’s trained in Paris (in the same studio as Yanis Marshall) and he teaches here in SF so us mere mortals can benefit from his experience. Great teacher. Breaks steps down carefully and he repeats. You will come away from his class sore but inspired.
Follow Feliciano’s FB as that’s where he updates any new updates or changes to his teaching schedule. The man is busy and is always working on new projects.
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.
I’m kind of amazed by Jessica’s energy. Not only does she teach fantastic hair whipping classes, but she’s the owner and CEO of Rae Agency and Rae Studios. So not only is she an amazing dancer + teacher but she’s running a business getting dancers jobs in the industry. She is ALWAYS busy. I do not know how she does it all while also looking flawless every damn time.
Jessica’s classes will leave you red-faced and exhausted. She does a good warmup, your heart rate will be up up up the whole time during class, and you’ll leave feeling tired but joyful.
Be sure to sign up for classes online in advance. Rae Studios is a small boutique studio and can get packed pretty quickly.
I’ve been Instagram stalking Kathleen for a while and this is the year I’m actually going to take in 2018. Every dance friend who’s taken her class can’t stop saying how wonderful her class is but for some reason she’s always teaching on a night where I’m already booked with another class. This is the year DAMNIT I’m going to learn from her. Her choreo is very intricate and powerful. High energy femme with strong explosive movements.
She teaches at both City Dance (MJ Studio) in SF and Full Out Studios in Oakland on a regular basis.
I have to thank my friend Madisyn for guiding me towards Kyle because I never thought I’d really be into his style. I was all about hip hop hip hop hip hop hip hop. And Madisyn kept talking about how Kyle teaches this amazing contemporary class and I was like um…I’ve never taken ballet. I’ve never taken a contemporary or modern class in my life. This is not in my vocabulary. Why are you telling me I need this in my life? Never again am I going to question Madisyn. I LOVE Kyle’s class.
Kyle started teaching a hip hop class in 2017 and from the first time I learned his choreography I knew right away, this is not like a regular hip hop class. Yes you will learn great moves, you will learn counts, you will hit marks. But Kyle’s class feels like this poetic journey you’re taking with a group of dancers and you’re all trying to tell a story. Yes you will be challenged by doing all sorts of crazy moves but most of the time Kyle is trying to teach you how to listen. Listen to him, listen to the song, listen to the environment. Take it all in. Ok, now we dance. Oh you’re filled with joy now? Yeah that’s what it’s like in his class every damn time.
Because of Kyle I’m now taking modern and contemporary classes. And boy oh boy do I suck but it’s ok. Give me time.
The first time I took class with Leslie was back in 2013 and honestly I was not prepared for the awesomeness that hits you when you’re in her class. When you meet her in her civilian pose, she’s warm and inviting and she has this gorgeous smile that makes you gravitate towards her. But damn when she turns on the dance MODE, she transforms into this powerful, gritty, somewhat intimidating beast and IT’S FANTASTIC. I’m not kidding when she’s in normal human mode everything is fine and sweet and calm and when the switch is triggered for dance goddess, DAMN. It is on.
So her class is hard. It just is. Her moves are very intricate and specific, but they’re full of drama and hair whips which I adore. It was difficult in 2013 and with each year I take class with her it gets easier…a little bit. Her class challenges me alot and that’s why I love her.
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.
Marqui regularly teaches at City Dance.
I don’t even know where to start with this man. It’s scary how talented this guy is. Rocko Luciano not only is a great teacher and dancer, but MY GOD he’s such a great visual artist and he’s always just so camera ready. You’ll learn all of this when you spend more time with this guy.
His class style is unique in that one day it can be super butch and then the next the femmiest of the femme femme. And that is Rocko’s strength. He can do it all. He’s got this unique avant garde style that I have not seen in class before. His choreography can be dark, goofy, beautiful, ugly, everything. I would recommend his class for the student who’s been taking dance for a while or feel like they can pick up choreography quickly. You will notice most of his students are his regulars. He is one of those “once you go Rocko you never go back” sort of teachers. Students are dedicated to him and they go to his regular classes, they audition for his dance company INQ, they trek over to Oakland to learn at his studio. He’s just someone you wanna be around and learn from.
Location: Full Out Studios 1225A 7th Street, Oakland, CA 94607
City Dance – Main Location 10 Chase Court, San Francisco, CA 94103
Full Out Studios only has street parking. City Dance has one of those things you NEVER see in the city, a free parking lot right in front of the studio.
I’ve been watching Poe back in the day when his classes only had two people. Now he commands a PW with over 40+ dedicated students who keep coming back for more. When you watch Poe you’re very much aware that you’re watching an artist work through his craft. He thinks about dance very differently from other teachers and it shows. His style could be compared to that of The Company but he adds his own Poe vulnerability and strength to his choreo so when you watch it, all you can think is that’s Poe choreo. Is it for beginners? Honestly I don’t think so but I do know beginners who have taken his class and push themselves to keep going because they love his style. His moves are intricate and fast. Poe is a very patient teacher and you find yourself desperately wanting to work hard so you can nail the move just as well as he does.
Here’s an example of Poe’s style. This is from his latest Winter City Dance Performance Workshop which easily had one of the biggest numbers of dancers who trained with him for ten weeks.
Poe teaches regularly at City Dance – Main Location (SF)
His updates about classes can be found at his FB.
Peninsula – South Bay
Bay Area K-Pop – Melissa and Marlon
Beginner – Intermediate
So yeah this isn’t exactly hip hop but frankly K-Pop choreo feels very similar to hip hop. Intricate, fast, fierce is how I would describe K-Pop and that’s exactly what Melissa and Marlon offer. They’ve been teaching for a while and now they’re indie so that means they’re free to teach all sorts of K-Pop awesomeness. If you’re not familiar with K-Pop that’s ok. I frankly don’t know anything about K-Pop other than the artists are young, beautiful and extremely talented in singing and dance. Most K-Pop videos have very elaborate and difficult dance routines and people around the word do K-Pop dance covers. That’s what is taught in this class. If you’ve ever tried to learn dance from a video you know IT’S EXTREMELY DIFFICULT. Well Marlon and Melissa have solved one part of the problem. They watch the videos, they learn the routine, then they teach it to you. It’s. So. Much. Fun.
Folllow Melissa’s FB for class updates. Class is at Aria Studios in Milpitas.
The Company – Westlake School for the Performing Arts
Intermediate – Advanced
My very good friend Louise recently took a Company workshop with me and she described it as a spiritual experience. Girl. I FRIGGIN AGREE. The Company is one of the best dance teams in the Bay Area and they host regular classes and workshops in their Daly City studio.
These classes are NOT for beginners. I’m sorry if they disagree but it just isn’t. You need to know some moves to survive in this class. They’re extremely welcoming, but just know…you are not just learning a grapevine. You are learning from dancers who are competitors and/or are working dancers. It is hard. But it is SOOOO GOOD.
All the dancers who teach are brilliant but my favorites are Aggie Loyola, Alfred Remulla, Jolo Cabrera, Melissa Batesting, Russell Banzon, and Janelle Gleason. And whenever Company Founder Pat Cruz comes into town to teach oh Jesus Christ you need to go. If he looks familiar it’s probably because he’s a Kinjaz.
They only take cash as payment for their classes. So go to an ATM and get some money. Get extra money because once you see their merch you gonna wanna buy all the shirts in every color. I believe I have at least 4 shirts. When I see that Good Clean Feels wording I can’t help myself. I WANT IT.
DanceVibes – Jaimee Dunning
If you haven’t noticed already I’m a bit obsessed with dance. If I’m not in class I’m at home looking at IG streams of people dancing or stalking dancers Youtube pages. Through my mania, somehow DanceVibes got put in front of me and I’m so glad it happened. DanceVibes is owned and taught by Jaimee Dunning, a gorgeous, talented woman who has the most fluid hip movements I’ve ever seen. She teaches a class in San Bruno that is squarely targeted towards beginners but no no my seasoned dancers, don’t think that this class is so easy for you. I’ve been dancing for 10 years and her warm up moves were killing me. Her style is a mix of hip hop, contemporary, and a touch of bollywood. It’s glorious and you could tell from the room of students she is quite beloved. The vibe is wonderful. There were newbies, people who’ve taken her class for years, and all were just syncing really well with Jaimee’s style.
Watch the typical choreo that is taught in a DanceVibe class.
This was the video that made me want to take her class.
The Get Down
Beginner – Intermediate
Don’t get me wrong, I love the city. The city is great. But sometimes a girl just wants easy parking, a plethora of Korean BBQ restaurants, boba cafes everywhere, and great dance choreography. All of that is in the South Bay. The Get Down (note this dance studio came before the Netflix show) is a lovely studio that teaches hip hop hop, waacking, house, and bachata. Parking was easy to find on Saturdays. The studio is very cute. One studio only, the floors are smooth and slick, and the bass is deep.
The Get Down Studio only has street parking. They teach class every day of the week.
The dance community is filled with lovely and generous people. I truly and honestly believe that. 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. I had never met Gazelle until her birthday. From that class, I learned about Groov3 with Susan Snyder and Kerry Ferrari. Fantastic teachers. Very good for beginners. They run through a routine slowly and you repeat the moves over and over again to a live DJ. How awesome is that? Susan and Kerry are the Groov3 gurus in the Bay Area and they teach several times each week in San Jose.
Groov3 is growing and thanks to Rhoville E. Isaac you can get your Groov3 fix in Milpitas and San Jose. Follow her FB for class updates. She’s extremely energetic and you will definitely be covered in sweat after her class. Don’t worry if it’s your first time: Rho will take you through the steps slowly and by the end of it you will be layering your own style to the moves.
Oh and if you go a Groov3 class don’t be alarmed by the enormous amounts of photos they take. This group of dancers LOVES to photograph each other, video record each other, and pretty much cheer each other on as one drops it to the floor. I have never experienced such an inclusive and welcoming group of dance students in my life like this.
Follow Susan and Kerry’s FB accounts for latest San Jose class updates, learn from them, they’re all sorts of awesome.
Follow Rhoville’s FB for her class updates. Also follow her IG for even more updates and class videos.
Beginner – Intermediate
Why would anyone purposely wake up for an 8:15am class? When it’s taught by Mandy Bell or Lisa Navarro, 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?
The big challenge about this class is they easily teach around 16 eight counts in a single class. That’s alot of counts. But it’s alot of fun and they are really welcoming. Not an intimidating experience at all.
They also teach tap and contemporary. Haven’t done those but from what people tell me, it’s lovely. But for me, I can vouch for their cardio-pop and hip hop classes. Totally awesome. If you follow Lisa’s FB, you can get details of what songs they’ll be teaching during the week.
Also if you see a schedule update that Molly Bell will be teaching, YOU FRIGGING GO. Molly is this amazing dancer, singer, businesswoman extraordinaire who drives way far away to teach class for us in the Peninsula. This is a treat and you need to take advantage of it. Her style is more pop broadway and it’s not easy but oh my god I guarantee you will have the best time of of your life. Who cares if you can’t do the turn and pop perfectly, you will get there eventually and on the way you’re going to learn some of the most dramatic and glorious moves. Her choreo is filled with power and joy and I always leave completely tired and red faced happy. You can learn more about Molly’s classes and watch her class videos here.
They don’t take credit cards for drop ins. You need to bring cash.
I tried J’s beginning level hip hop class and it is absolutely positively perfect for beginners. Don’t know how to do a grapevine? This is for you. Don’t know how to wave your hands in a cool manner? This is for you. J clearly knows how to dance. It’s OBVIOUS and when you check out his background on his website he totally has the resume of your typical friggin cool LA dancer. And you’re lucky he’s here teaching you in the Peninsula.
Warm up is no joke but that’s important and you just need to suck it up and do it. He drills the moves a lot and that’s exactly what you need when you’re a beginner. Then when he can see the class gets it he pushes you forward to do really fun choreography.
This is a true beginner class so you’re gonna learn the fundamentals and drills.
Montage Dance Productions
Montage director Lauren Hoskins has been part of the dance community for a while and I’m always amazed how hard she works and how talented she is. She hosts the Montage Urban Competition and Showcase. She’s a brilliant photographer, a gorgeous dancer, and has created a studio home that houses some of the best teachers in the area. My favorites are Jaylen, Stephen, LQ, and Dani.
Follow the Montage Dance Productions FB for updates.
On One Studios
I heard about On One Studios when they started out as Monday Night Workshop. If you’ve done a bit of hip hop dance you know about MNW: Monday nights in this studio they bring in some of the best hip hop choreographers to teach to a packed crowd of hungry dancers. It’s amazing. Well now they’ve blossomed into their own studio. And it’s SUPER GONZO OMG AH-MAH-ZING. They officially had their grand opening on 9/9/17 and it’s everything that I’ve expected from them. It’s high quality, it’s tough choreography, the vibe of the place is extremely open, the floors are slick and bouncy, and the bass is deep.
They teach all levels but just know, their intermediate/advanced levels are serious. The choreographers that come in push their students and because of that you come away with some knowledge that you don’t get in many studios. You move faster, your hits are stronger, your textures are more pronounced. I love this place and I think you will too.
Their schedule changes weekly, choreographers sometimes switch days they regularly teach but they do teach regularly.
I’m totally obsessed with Brandon Huynh and Kevin Nguyen. Not easy. Very intricate and difficult. But when you watch them do their choreo you’re like OH MY GOD I NEED TO LEARN HOW TO DO THAT. So I highly recommend both of them if you’re in the mood to challenge yourself and have your mind melted.
On One Studios Schedule: Their schedule changes weekly, choreographers sometimes switch days they regularly teach but they do teach regularly.
Location: On One Studios, 442 N. Capitol Avenue, San Jose, CA 95133. There is LOADS of free parking because it’s in strip mall. Park near Target if you want to be near the studio.
Ok, so Purdance has ALOT going on. They have kids programs, adult programs, master workshops. They’ve got K-Pop, hip hop, jazz, locking, contemporary and Groov3. Syndicate Dance, one of the most AWESOMEST dance teams in the Bay Area, trains and teaches classes there. They have ALOT.
Rhythm and Motion – San Mateo – Iddy Richardson
So if you’ve gone to ODC you know about the Rhythm and Motion dance classes. If not, let me explain. They are described on their website like this:
All Rhythm & Motion classes incorporate a dynamic mix of movement and music styles. The choreography is firmly rooted in dance fundamentals, and is inspired by popular music from around the world, including Latin, hip hop, African, alternative, and R&B.
This is extremely accurate. True it’s not all hip hop but the moves that they use are all in hip hop. Grapevines, body rolls, hip swirls. They’re all there. If you are a beginner this is an EXCELLENT way to learn about choreography because they teach the same routine over and over again. So if you didn’t learn it the first time, don’t worry come again and you’ll learn it again. By the third time you’ll be a pro. For newbies it may seem daunting but trust me, it’s going to be ok. The moves are not super complicated and everyone in the class has either been in your position or are just as clueless as you. The Rhythm and Motion classes in the city are established and because of that ALOT of people seem to know what they’re doing. Lucky you the San Mateo version just started in January 2018 so everyone is a newbie. They’ve got Iddy Richardson teaching the class and she’s brilliant. Teaches the steps slowly with much joy and energy. The steps seem easy but trust me, by the end you will be absolutely soaked in sweat. For the more advanced dancer, this is probably going to feel more fitness dance to you but that doesn’t mean it’s a waste of your time. The moves are simple and because of that you are given more room to be more expansive, drop your moves lower than before, express more emotion cause you have more time.
Street parking only but dude it’s not the city. Parking is easy. There are ALOT of kids that go to this school so just be aware. The little ones are running all over place and don’t notice when a car is coming right at them.
Do you know about Academy of Villains? If not, hold on and watch them please. They are one of the best innovative and visually stunning theatrical dance companies I’ve ever seen. Founders Christopher “Pharside” Jennings and Krystal “Phoenix” Meraz have put together this working company that competes and performs throughout the United States. And you lucky duck, you can learn from AOV company members at Studio V. It’s literally like taking a class with a company member of the SF Ballet. It’s so cool. Here’s what it’s like taking a class with company member Frank Pagmanua Jr. So good. The style and the level varies with each teacher, sometimes it can be super technical and hard other times it can be chill and easy. Either way you’re going to have a good time.
Yes it’s in a suburban part of town that seems really dark. Yes you’re in the right neighborhood. Yes you can park in the lot (corner of Spring Street and Warrington Ave) after 5pm even though the signs say don’t park there. I haven’t gotten a ticket yet cause everyone keeps telling me it’s ok. But if you still feel weird about it there is loads of parking on the street.
Uforia is a unique studio because they teach not only hip hop dance but they also have a regular strength training and spinning class. I only focus on their dance classes which I think are PERFECT for your absolute beginner.
I’ve taken class with Olivia, Jazon, and Devi. They are indeed as Uforia calls them, rockstars. One thing you need to understand about Uforia hip hop dance classes: there are very little breaks. So when they say you’re going to dance for 60 minutes, you’re going to be dancing for 60 minutes. You will be dying but happy with all the hair whipping and bootie dropping moves.
Esteban Deleon teaches at Uforia in Palo Alto so if you don’t want to trek up to the city, you don’t have to!
In 2017, Uforia added Walker Fisher to their staff. AND THE SUN SHINED BRIGHTLY!!!!
I’ve been a fan of Walker for a while…this was before he started teaching regularly. He’s a fucking unbelievable dancer. Whether it’s hip hop or contemporary, his choices of how he moves his body and how he expresses emotion makes me sit in the corner with absolute glee. So when he started teaching regularly at Uforia I was like OH HELLS YEAH. Now if you’ve seen Walker perform you may be thinking to yourself “Good lord there is no way I can move like him.” But what you need to understand is he teaches at Uforia which is geared towards all levels….but with a heavy slant towards the beginner. So on a weekly basis you have Walker guiding you through the most intense choreo all with basic moves. Anyone can do the moves. It’s totally up to you to Walker it up and be more explosive with a head whip or just pace yourself so you don’t die within the first 15 minutes of class. His classes are reserved days in advance so don’t wait or else you’ll be waitlisted or SOL. Watch his Facebook for class updates and overall aswesomeness. He also teaches in Marin.
Uforia has two studios: one in Palo Alto and another in SF. So when you sign up for classes be sure you’re picking the right studio. AND definitely sign up for classes early. The Palo Alto space specifically is a smaller space and they do sell out. It totally makes sense to sign up a week in advance.
There is loads of street parking. It’s Palo Alto, not SF. Also, follow the Uforia FB for updates.
It’s hard for me to get to Oakland from the Peninsula. You got the distance plus the bridge then traffic. But I was informed that Momo Lebeau teaches at Flying Studio (as well as In The Groove Studios) and that alone makes me think I need to commute more to Oakland. I have not been to this studio but judging by what it looks like and the style they teach there, I feel like I need to get to this studio sometime this year.
If you follow their FB and IG, you’ll see posts for upcoming special workshops like this one with the fabulous Allan Frias.
Full Out Studios
In summer of 2016 a new sparkling ray of light opened up in Oakland and that place was Full Out Studios. Founders Emerson Aquino, Rocko Luciano, and Anthony Esposo opened this fantastic studio that teaches jazz funk, urban choreogrphy, contemporary, hip hop, popping, waacking, lyrical and more. My favorites who teach there: Alli Fritz, and Kathleen Tung & Chris Alcanices.They also bring in the most fantastic teachers for one time workshops.
In The Groove Studios
If I lived in the East Bay, this is the studio that would be my second home. This place has some of the best dancers I’ve been lucky to learn from: Leslie Panitchpakdi, Chelsea Martin, Daniel Kang. They teach loads of hip hop but also dancehall, K-Pop, urban choreography, twerking, and more. They also bring in some of the most ridiculously good teachers for one time workshops.
New Style Motherlode
So when three people comment and email you asking “Why isn’t New Style Motherlode on your list?” you pay attention. To be clear, I have not taken a class at this studio (It takes around 2 hours for me to get to Oakland from my home so hey…it’s hard to get there…cut me some slack) but judging by how passionate people are about this place, I have to get there this year. Corey Action is NSM Director and judging by my FB stalking and IG stalking work his classes look EXACTLY the style I love. Lo Barbosa’s class looks ah-mah-zing. And whaaaaaa? They had Aisha Francis teach a workshop there???!!! Oh my god, I have been missing out.
So thanks internet people for pointing me to critically important information.
Class information and signups can be done through their website.
re.DEFINE Dance Studio
Years ago I lived in Hayward. The only thing that excited me about that town were these amazing Philly cheesesteaks down the street that I would visit regularly. re.DEFINE wasn’t around when I lived there and dear God I wish it was because it would have been so much better for my soul and my waistline. Owner and Bay Area dance community veteran Michael “Mappy” Mappala has created this amazing studio that houses some of the best dance classes in the area. When you look at their schedule there’s a definite slant towards kids but don’t worry. When it says Teen/Adult you should go. Will you be dancing next to a 13 year old who pops and locks with perfection? Very likely but hey I was doing that too in my late 30s and it’s totally fine.
I have been only to their Community Classes on Tuesday nights and can only speak to that but I have a feeling all their classes were like that. Everyone is extremely welcoming. High fives and hugs all around and when they start the choreo…oh my lord the windows and the mirrors will fog up with sweat. They bring in some amazing choreographers to teach and you will just die with joy.
Parking is plentiful and free. And FYI Pupuseria Las Cabañas is in the same strip mall as re.DEFINE. Get your pupusas to go, take class, sweat a storm, go home joyful and ready to eat some of the best pupusas you’ve ever had in the East Bay.
Watch a typical re.DEFINE class.
Check out re.DEFINE’s website for info and schedule.