Where to learn hip hop dancing in the Bay Area – 2019

So. You want to learn hip hop dancing. Cool. You’ve come to the right place. I personally have taken a ton of hip hop classes in the Bay Area and very likely have come across a class you will adore. Interested in learning femme fierce choreo with tons of hair whipping? I got choo. Wanna dance with power and aggression? I know exactly who you should try. Want to learn some flowy grooves that takes you back to 90s R&B? There’s a teacher who totally does that.

I am a mid-40 year old woman who started dancing approximately 10 years ago. I didn’t learn how to dance as a young kid and the only dancing I did in college was clubbing to Depeche Mode and New Order.. So if you’re thinking “Hey I’m too old to learn how to dance” TRUST ME. You’re in good company. Yes the age range tends to be in the early 20s-early 30s range but I see dancers in their 40s, 50s, 60s, and 70s going through 15 eight counts like a pro. Come out to class. You’ll see. Oh honey you’ll see.

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 goes to LA and lands a coveted spot for an IG video. 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 Marqui Martinez, Shonna Chiles, Alli Fritz, and JJ Ghera. If you’re into Kinjaz style movements I would totally point you to One One Studios or 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.

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, and Emerson Aquino.

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.
Let me say this again.

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 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. No one has pulled me aside and said my body roll sucked balls. 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.

ONE IMPORTANT DETAIL TO NOTE: I am writing this in January 2019. 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 a Youtube sensation and they don’t answer your DMs. I try to update as the year progresses but hey… I’m only one person and I’m busy taking class.

For the student who is deathly afraid of taking class in public, go ONLINE.

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 downloaded Tevyn’s Cole’s dance videos on IG, flipped the video and tried to learn the moves step by step (it ain’t easy). So I have a very educated opinion about this and my thought on this subject is STEEZY HAS CREATED THE BEST ONLINE DANCE TUTORIAL AVAILABLE. Try their free trial 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, your phone, your iPad. 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 IRL, stay in and try out Steezy.

And if you’re wondering if I get paid to recommend Steezy: I don’t. I pay the annual membership just like everyone else.

The City

Absolute Beginner – Beginner

Carol Johnstone’s Popstar Booty Camp

D’Arcy Drollinger

David Schrag

Esteban DeLeon

Shereen Prince

Micaya

Olivia Cheng

Rhythm & Motion Dance Workout

Walker Fisher

Beginner – Intermediate

Confidance Fitness – Shonna Chiles

Emerson Aquino

Jessica Rae

JJ Ghera

Jocquese Whitfield

Marqui Martinez

Intermediate – Advanced

Allan Frias

Chris Alcanices

D Montalvo

Dennis Infante

Feliciano Ortiz

Kyle Limin

Leslie Panitchpakdi

Rocko Luciano

Shinobi Jaxx – JenAy

Sila Poe

Peninsula – South Bay

The Company

DanceVibes – Jaimee Dunning

The Get Down

Groov3

Groovitude

Montage Dance Productions

On One Studios

Purdance

Uforia

Oakland

Full Out Studios

In The Groove Studios

re.DEFINE Dance Studio

SF – Absolute Beginner

Carol Johnstone’s Popstar Booty Camp
Have you watched the latest Beyonce performance and thought to yourself “God I wish I could do that.” Well stop wishing, you can learn the exact steps of Beyonce’s routines along with moves from Ciara and more in this class. Carol is the curator of the classes and she takes a poll of what people would like to learn. Once it’s decided she books a 4-6 week class workshop where you learn from the fantastic Ijay Espinoza who takes you step by step through every hair whip and body roll.

It’s been a few years since I’ve taken a Popstar Booty Camp class but from the activity I see from their FB feed, the popularity and devotion has grown. Classes sell out quick when it’s super popular so be sure to like their FB page and be notified when classes are posted.

I asked a bunch of PSBC devotees what they think of the classes and here’s what they say:

Amelie W:

I took my first PSBC class over three years ago and have been hooked since day one because they are just that much fun! In any class, you’ll find people who have never taken a dance class to those who are experienced and skilled dancers. I have met people and made friends from all walks of life in these classes because they really are made for everyone – we unite through dance and our favorite choreographers and artists. The cherry on top is that we end each series in full costume in a performance showcase for our friends, family and community. Every six or seven weeks, you can be a star. It’s pretty hot!

Katie:

When I moved to SF in 2017, finding Pop Star Booty Camp was a dream come true. I so missed the performance aspect of dancing in college, and like to master dances that people recognize from the video. At PSBC, you have plenty of time to learn the dances over 7 weeks, practice at home or with your new friends, and the performance night is on the lowest pressure, friendliest stage. I have seen the back wall flower, beginner dancer, blossom and STEAL THE SHOW during the final performance. Everyone just wants to see you LIVE your LIFE, even if you forget a move and have an accidental solo. Learning a whole song of choreo is not just physically demanding, its such a great mental challenge too. This class is good for beginners and past performers, people that want to be in a music video, do a flash mob, or challenge themselves to not just go workout, but really put themselves out there in a supportive environment.

Follow their IG for updates.

 

D’Arcy Drollinger – Sexitude
I’ve been to many a dance class in the Bay Area but D’Arcy’s Sexitude class is the ONLY one where the feeling of warmth, acceptance, and fierceness hits you smack in the face right when you walk through the doors. This is a class that celebrates everyone: small, big, gay, straight, black, white, whatever. You are friggin welcome to 90 minutes of extremely inappropriate and empowering choreography. You will start off with hip thrusts and D’Arcy will come down to the floor and scream at you as if you were Nomi Malone from Showgirls …. and you will love it. D’Arcy’s class has devoted regulars. Gorgeous loyalists who are topless or are wearing gold bootie shorts so you will have alot of people to follow if you can’t figure out how to do a hip roll. The level is mostly beginner but that doesn’t mean seasoned dancers shouldn’t attend. The moves allow for so much interpretation and you can just go OFF. This is where you need to be on Sunday.

David Schrag
I remember in the first few years where I went to hip hop dance class I would get so frustrated because I felt like the class was just moving too fast and everyone around me seemed to be getting it quickly and were all having a good time except for me. I couldn’t get it thus I couldn’t have a good time. That changed when I took David Schrag’s class. He teaches beginner hip hop and the steps are truly beginner. Even though the moves could be considered basic, they feel good and are super natural which means you’re gonna pick up the moves faster. Which means you’re going to have a good time throughout. I know it’s frustrating when you watch Youtube and you wanna copy your favorite hip hop dancers trickiest moves. However, you need to learn the basics of hip hop dance and David will teach you that without you even realizing it. From a simple box step to a body roll, David will teach you how to do all of that without you looking rigid or like a scared deer. His style is more old school hip hop and you will have such a good time.

Esteban DeLeon
The first thing you notice when you see Esteban DeLeon is his smile: it’s huge, beaming, and glorious. It’s a smile that welcomes you to his world that is full of life and joy. Then he starts his choreography and you realize oh my god I’m going to die but who cares, I am loving every minute of it. I have taken Esteban’s class at Uforia in Palo Alto and in his DeLeon Dance & Fitness program in the South Bay and both are great. He also teaches choreography at Rae Studios in SF.  Uforia is more fitness-y cause they really want to push your cardio levels but Esteban puts in a lot of choreography that’s typically taught in a regular class. There are alot of hair whips, arm whips, and struts that will leave you breathless. Choreo level is around beginner but don’t let that fool you. The moves are simple but he moves fast and Esteban probably has taught 4 classes before you enter the room so don’t complain you’re tired. Just do your best and life your life.

Shereen Prince
I will forever be grateful to Shereen as she was my very first hip hop dance teacher and through LITERAL HOURS of class taught me how to do a grapevine without it looking stupid. This is truly an absolute beginner – beginner class at ODC and one of the best. Her style is fun and bouncy old school that both men and women will find comfortable. With her sweet and welcoming personality you will learn the essential techniques of hip hop dance like counts and isolation. Seriously counting is the biggest thing you need to understand about dance. That’s how it will all work and she will make you count the steps as you do them cause that’s WHAT YOU NEED. You’ll also learn ticking and to this day I still am doing that arm ticking routine that she will undoubtedly teach you. Her class gets packed with beginners so you’ll be in good company. Arrive with a smile and an open attitude and you will learn quick.

Micaya
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.

Olivia Cheng
See that animated video at the top of my page? That’s Olivia’s class. I first took Olivia’s class at Uforia in Palo Alto and I was like I’M HOME. I’M FUCKING HOME. Her style is feminine power with all the things I adore: bootie drops, body rolls, hair whips, hip rolls. GAH. I just can’t get enough of her class. Sadly Olivia now has moved her class to the Uforia Mission location but she’s so good, I’m willing to drive 30 miles and hunt for parking just to take her class. She’s great and I’m pretty sure her classes are going to sell out quickly so if you see a slot in the Uforia listing, book it. She’s worth it.

Olivia teaches in SF at Uforia.

Rhythm & Motion Dance Workout
When you’re first starting dance you seem to always be just keeping up, trying to keep the choreography in your mind that it’s really hard to get lost in the music and just enjoy. Somehow Rhythm & Motion found a way to bridge that gap.

The Rhythm and Motion Dance workout is a mix of many styles from hip hop to jazz to salsa and more. It’s not super hard, it’s not super easy. It’s somewhere in the middle and that’s perfect. I haven’t gone in a while so I turn to my dance twin Julia who says this about the Rhythm & Motion Dance Program:

The Rhythm & Motion dance program is a TREASURE for anyone who loves to dance, period. With several classes taught every day of the week – by insanely talented pro dancers and artists – each class is a welcoming, joyful dance party for all levels. Classes are a combo of pre-choreographed routines to the likes of Rihanna, Prince, Aretha + world music, hip hop, 90s techno and more. It’s a big explosive cardio-tastic workout where the teachers take great care in making sure you build your dance technique, take care of your body and have a great time (where you kind of forget you’re exercising). Lots of flavors to choose from too – “Fusion” is a 60 minutes, “Extended” is 75, “Essentials” breaks down routines twice in one class, and “Modern” is a mix of contemporary dance styles. There’s even a pay-what-you-can option on Wednesdays at noon.

The program is hosted at different locations in the city and all over the Bay Area. One of my favorite instructors is Dudley Flores who teaches at LINES. So full of life and joy you barely realize how completely soaked in sweat you will be.

Walker Fisher
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.

Walker teaches at Uforia in SF and in Palo Alto.

Beginner – Intermediate

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 HOUR 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 retired 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 and she’s added a team of people who also teach and from the looks of it, it’s all good. It’s ALLLL GOOOOD. Giulia (a current student of Confidance Fitness) says this about Shonna and the crew:

What do you get when you mix hip hop with heels and heart? You get Shonna Chiles and her Confidance Fitness crew. Add to that a judgment-free and empowering environment where beginners mix with seasoned Warriors dance team members and you’ve got a truly elevated and fun experience. I’m a beginner who has been taking all her classes for 2 yrs and now have the confidence to perform solos in front of a cheering crowd!

Emerson Aquino
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. He teaches regularly both in SF and Oakland.

Jessica Rae – Rae Studios
Beautiful and bright studio. It’s small but good lord do they pack in some awesomeness in this place. And from what I’ve recently seen they expanded so it might not be as small as when I first started taking classes in her studio years ago.

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.

JJ Ghera
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. He teaches in SF at Rae Studios. He also teaches at Uforia in both their SF locations and the Peninsula. Check out his current teaching schedule from his website.

If you’re taking his choreo class he focuses on style and getting the move in your body so you’ll be running the moves alot. This is important. Then when he turns the music on he just lets you live your life. When you take his Uforia class, the moves are “slightly” easier but not really. The focus is to get your cardio up and alot of times that involves bootie drops, hair whips, and thigh slaps. It’s glorious. Go learn from this fantastic man.

Jocquese Whitfield
Want to learn how to vogue? Jocquese is THE person you need to learn from. He knows the history, he knows the moves, he knows it all. So just go because it’s glorious. Jocquese will teach you the essentials of the catwalk, duckwalk, spins, dips, and hands and you will come out DEAD tired because you will be using muscles you rarely have ever used.

 
 
 

Marqui Martinez
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. You will whip your hair around. You will bounce your bootie on the floor. You will be the fierce queen you always wanted to be thanks to Marqui.

 
 

Intermediate – Advanced

Allan Frias
Oh what can be said about Allan that hasn’t been said before. To put it simply: he’s the mother fucking best. Once you go to his class you will know why in the first 5 minutes. He is beautiful, he is such a great dancer, he is such a great teacher, he is foul mouthed, he is the inspiration for so many amazing dance moves and I adore him. Allan teaches from a space in his soul that is full of love, confidence, and oh my god it’s so gloriously dirty. Yes it is hard if you’re not used to. If you’re a beginner you will flail around trying to keep up because Allan pushes his dancers through a lot of eight counts. But you keep going because you so desperately want to do that hair flip, that booty drop, that smack in the air. His choreography feels so FUCKING GOOD. Be aware in the first of the year his class is gonna be packed and you’re going to have hair whipped in your face. But just power through, enjoy the moment, and live your life. He’s worth it.

Chris Alcanices
I have taken Chris several times so I know his style is fun and bouncy. His style feels very old school 90s hip hop with more of a masculine swagger, which is nice for me since usually I venture towards the femme. His moves are fast and joyful and I always come out of his class feeling so happy. My amazing dancer friend Amy has been in way more classes and workshops with Chris and she has a much more educated opinion about him. Here’s what she said:

Chris was my very 1st dance teacher whom I began taking in 2016. From the years I’ve spent learning, training, and performing with him, I’ve learned to connect body movements and to personify character into songs as a dancer, honing the interpretational feeling of music. Chris’ style is what I love the most about his classes. His style versatile; its reminiscent of some late 90s and early 2000s hip hop and R&B dance styles, undertones of Bay Area hyphy vibes, and keeps energetically evolving like trendy dance crazes.

Chris teaches regularly in SF at City Dance and in the Peninsula at Montage. Follow his IG for updates.

D Montalvo
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 and I can only say good things about him. He is a professional dancer and honestly he teaches a style that professionals learn but instead of 3 minutes of choreo, it’s like 15 seconds. But it’s the most intense 15 seconds of your life. 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 power through. Because you will nail that hair whip and he will be cheering you on.

He teaches hip hop at Dance Mission and if you really want to test your abilities, take his contemporary class at Lines.

Dennis Infante

I personally have not been in Dennis’ class (dude I tried but the number of teachers in the Bay Area is growing exponentially) but no problem. I turn to my dance twin Julia for advice on Dennis. (FYI Julia is a fantastic dancer and I trust her opinion COMPLETELY). She says this:

Old School Hip Hop at City Dance is both a fun/funky trip down memory lane AND excellent practice for finding your groove and learning the style that defines hip hop’s “golden age” (80s/90s). Dennis Infante has been drawing crowds for this class for a few years now – accessible for all levels, and feels like you just walked right into your friend’s house party. Class starts with a breakdown of essentials – from how to bounce with the beat, to practicing signature moves (and party dances! like “The Skate”, “The Humpty Dance”, and “The Roger Rabbit”) – and concludes with a short choreo set to the likes of EPMD, Black Sheep, and A Tribe Called Quest. Sometimes there’s freestyle, cyphers and partner practice too – all incredibly friendly and WILL leave you with a perma-smile the entire class. Dennis takes great care in preserving this style – often demonstrating how locking, b-boying, popping and even Lindy Hop informs it, and how it all carries into the hip hop dance forms we know now.

Dennis teaches in the South Bay at Purdance and in SF at City Dance.

Feliciano Ortiz
When you first see Feliciano dance the first thing you notice is how confident and extremely sensual he moves. He infuses his choreography with such power and sexuality, yeah … it’s fantastic. You WANT to learn from this man. His style is a tough one in the beginning but don’t let that dissuade you from trying his class. Feliciano REALLY wants you to get the choreography and with his guidance he’ll get you there. You may not be able to throw your body into the beautiful shapes that he creates, but give it time. It will happen.

Feliciano teaches in SF (which is insane because the man commutes from Los Angeles…so don’t go complaining how it took you 20 minutes to get to class in your Uber. You don’t know what a real commute is).

Kyle Limin
I have to thank my extremely badass dancer 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.

Kyle teaches in SF at City Dance and at Lines.

Leslie Panitchpakdi
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.

Leslie teaches in SF at City Dance and at Lines. She is also the co-founder of In the Groove Studios in Oakland where she also teaches.

Rocko Luciano
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 femme-iest 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.

Rocko teaches in SF at City Dance and in the studio he co-founded Full Out Studios in Oakland.

Shinobi Jaxx – JenAy

I personally have not taken a class with Shinobi but my dance friend Paul is a regular student in her class and I trust him on all things dance and anything related to making my face not look like a 40+ year old haggard beast.
He says this about Shinobi:

If you’re nervous about taking House Basics with Jenay don’t be. She’s an excellent teacher who will guide you through the fundamentals and history of house movement and culture. The class has a very supportive environment and encourages you to find your own groove and personality with house.

Shinobi teaches at ODC.

Sila Poe
I’ve been watching Poe back in the day when his classes only had two people. Now he commands a class with over 40+ dedicated students who keep coming back for more. He’s got regulars who train with him. They go watch dance competitions with him. They all trek down to SoCal to take dance workshops together. His dance community is STRONG.

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.

Sitong Peng has taken his class way more than me. Here’s what he says:

Do you want to learn how to become better at dance? Go to Poe’s class. Don’t believe me? You’ll understand when he breaks down music and plays with it. You’ll understand when he stops class to explain fundamentals of a move. You’ll understand when you feel the safe, communal environment he’s built with his students. You’ll get better if you regularly take any dance class, but in Poe’s class there is so much to learn beyond a basic 8 count of steps. I’ve been dancing for almost two years and advice I’ve gotten from talking to Poe is still true, relevant, useful for my dance journey. He loves teaching, is insanely friendly, and is always accessible (aka down for ramen) – which makes all the difference for his students’ growth.

Lately Poe has invited some FRIGGIN AMAZING dancers to co-teach his class or take over his spot completely. If you see that in his updates don’t skip that class. Poe knows some killer dancers and he only brings the best to takeover his class.

Poe teaches in SF at City Dance.

Peninsula – South Bay

The Company
My very good friend Louise 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.

The Company teaches at the Westlake School for the Performing Arts in Daly City. Follow their IG for class updates.

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.

Jaimee teaches in San Bruno.

The Get Down

It’s been a while since I’ve been to this studio so I turn to the amazing Abhilasha who has taken way more classes than I at this studio. Here’s what she told me:

Anyone looking to learn the basics of locking, popping, and old school Hip Hop should def check out The Get Down. You don’t just learn dance but get to be part of the beautiful community they have created. They also have open sessions on Wednesdays where you can go jam with other words.

The Get Down is in San Jose.

Groov3
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. 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.

Susan and Kerry teach in different studios in the South Bay. Follow their FB for the latest class updates.

Rhoville teaches in several places in the Peninsula and South Bay Area. Follow her FB or IG for class updates.

Groovitude
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.

Mandy and Lisa teach regularly in Palo Alto.

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, LQ, and Chris.

Montage Dance is in Santa Clara.

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.

Interested in the K-Pop dance craze. Oh honey, On One Studios has got you covered. Melissa, Marlon, Eric, and Tad are the instructors that teach the On One K-Pop program and it’s exactly what you hope it to be. The choreo can range from extremely bubbly cute to gothic dark. The love for this program is strong.

On One Studios is in San Jose. They are closest to Target.

Purdance
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.

Purdance is located in San Jose

Uforia Studios
In a quiet neighborhood in Palo Alto in a converted church, you will find the most fun dance workout ever. Uforia has several great teachers but my favorites by far are Olivia, Walker, Esteban, and JJ. It is in an intimate studio so what that means is it can get crowded and sometimes classes sell out because every spot is taken. And that’s a good thing because if they let everybody in you wouldn’t be able to whip your hair around.

Uforia is in Palo Alto but they now have studios in the city at Nob Hill and the Mission.

Oakland

Full Out Studios
In the 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 choreography, contemporary, hip hop, popping, waacking, lyrical and more.

They have alot of really great teachers but my favorites are Emerson, Rocko, and Alli Fritz.

 
 

Regarding Alli….
When I first saw Alli dance in class I was like DAMMMMMN. The woman oozes feminine power and if you take her class GUARANTEED you’re going to be whipping your hair, licking your lips, and stroking those thighs with fantastic lines. Alli has been dancing since she was a young one and her vibe is very LA which makes sense since she went to school there and was on a dance team. Her choreography is fun. It is glorious. It is super sexy and is all about female power and strength. Her classes are super crowded and when you go you realize why. She is super supportive of all her students. It doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner or a seasoned dancer: you BELONG in her class and you are applauded for giving it your all. So go to her class and put everything on the dance floor. Your soul will be filled to the goddamn brim.

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, Daniel Kang, Robert Yu, Momo LeBeau, Kyle Limin, and Chelsea Martin. 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 insanely good dancers to teach pop-up workshops.

Regarding Chelsea….
I haven’t been in her class in a while but she’s got loyal regulars. Here’s what they say:

Amy Marie

Chelsea has an amazing vibe in class. She is great at breaking down choreography to counts or to lyrics. She also chooses a fun and sassy combination of songs that always have me eager for the next class. She works well with all levels and makes sure we are all hyped up to perform in front of each other as well as in front of the camera!

Kelly

After a 20+ year hiatus from dance classes and with 2 small kids at home, finding a new dance studio was intimidating. Thankfully, I stumbled upon Chelsea’s ladies hip hop class at In the Groove Studios and was quickly hooked! Chelsea’s class is so fun, the choreography is sassy and energetic. She breaks down each step and is able to modify to meet different levels/abilities.

In the Groove Studios is in Oakland

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 strong 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.

re.DEFINE is in Hayward. Follow their IG for videos of their classes and updates on classes.

1 Comment Where to learn hip hop dancing in the Bay Area – 2019

  1. Elliott

    OMG this post is epic. Deep gratitude for writing it. I love the lead in….you know what beginners are thinking. I just started this journey and was super encouraged by this post.

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