Just Dance!

Studio to include cheerleading dance, DJ turntable and hip hop classes among traditional offerings

From Savoy Star
By Erika Nelson, Savoy Star Editor
Editor’s note: This is the first story in a three-part series on the benefits of dance.

This fall, pom-poms, turntables and ballet slippers will come together at the Christine Rich Dance Studio in Savoy.

Lessons in cheerleading dance, hip hop and break dancing and DJ turntable have been added to the studio’s traditional offering of ballet, tap, modern dance and jazz classes as a way to open up the world of dance to a wider population.

“Sometimes dance is very exclusive,” studio Founder and Director Christine Rich said. “People get a sense that they have to be a ballerina to be a dancer, but I wanted to open dance up to a vast majority of the population.”

The classes are offered to students with all levels of ability – from high school or college students who want to try out for cheerleading or learn to break dance, to experienced dancers who want to expand on their abilities and knowledge of dance.

The instructors for each new class were each ‘discovered’ by Rich in very different contexts, but have extensive experience in their fields and bring an added diversity to the studio.

Hip Hop and Break Dance

Rich met hip hop teacher Alan Fleming at Strawberry Fields and said “intuition” brought Alan to the studio.

Fleming will teach Hip Hop I, open to ages 12 to 23; Hip Hop Youth, open to ages six through 11 and Break Dancing and Hip Hop for Guys and Girls, open to ages seven through 23.

Fleming said a mix of current day music videos and the influences of street dance created the hip hop seen in the music industry today. His classes will focus on the historical background behind the moves in hip hop, and students will learn styles like locking and popping.

Fleming said the art of break dancing, originally known as b-boying and b-girling, came out of New York in the late 70s to early 80s. In his break dance class Fleming will teach the foundation, top rock and foot work of break dancing.

Fleming has around five years of experience in break dance and has done hip hop for about a year, and said the two styles of dance are closely related.

“Breakdance has elements of street dance that influenced hip hop, so it’s not a far stretch,” Fleming said.

Along with being a member of the UC Hip Hop Congress at the University of Illinois, Fleming has studied break dance with Crazy Legs, Pop Master Fabel, Alien Ness and Miracles and Companie Kafig of France. He has performed at many university events and was a member of the 3 spot dance troupe.

And Fleming said any dancer would benefit from hip hop or break dance lessons.

“Hip hop and break dancing are full body dances that are both aerobic and help to build strength,” Fleming said. “They help with sharpness in your dancing because there are a lot of quick movements.”

Cheerleading dance

The studio’s cheerleading dance class will be led by LaKesha Bennett, a former Tampa Bay Buccaneer cheerdancer and dance team director for NFL Euro Cologne.

Bennett said cheerdance, or cheerleading dance, is a mix of cheerleading and dancing put together.

“You take the basic movements from cheer, add jazz and you have cheerleading dance,” Bennett said. “It’s fun, and a very active class that will help girls develop skills for trying out for high school or college dance teams.”

Bennett, who contacted Rich about the class, said cheerdance is beneficial for both experienced and unexperienced dancers.
“It’s always good for dancers to be well rounded, and cheerdance is another aspect of dance to become a better overall dancer,” Bennett said. “It’s good to have a variation in style.”

Cheerleading dance classes will be offered to children ages six-and-a-half through 11 and age 11 through 23.

D.J. Turntable Technique

While dance will note be taught in Adam Boskey’s class ‘D.J. Turntable Technique: Mixing and Scratching,’ the lessons will embody different components of the art world.

Boskey said the class will include basic lessons in how to use a turntable; instruction in music theory; mixing techniques; intermediate level scratching; crowd observation and interaction; how to work within multiple genres of music at the same time and how to go, for example, from jazz to house to hip hop, among other things.

“I’ll be teaching from a standpoint of people who don’t know much about it, but are very interesting in DeeJaying and need experience to point them in the right direction,” Boskey said.

And for newcomers with an interest to learn the art of DeeJaying, Boskey is one of the best in the business.

Boskey, also known as D.J. Bozak, is the winner of every Champaign-Urbana best D.J. award. He has spent nine years working at WEFT producing and hosting his won radio show. Boskey has also spent time on the battle circuit in hip hop competitions, and was recently selected to take part in Redbull’s prestigious music academy in Australia.

“I look at it as Red Bull’s way of giving back to the way they created their empire – which was in night clubs,” Boskey said of the academy. “each day they bring in two or three tutors – usually pioneers in music, and usually D.J.’s.”

Out of 4,000 applicants, Redbull narrows the academy down to 30 participants – only four of whom are from the United States this year.

Rich, who met Boskey at a Parkland art award show, said in the future there will be an opportunity to combine Boskey’s students with the traditional dance classes.

“It’s not uncommon in dance to have pianists or percussionists in a modern dance class,” Rich said. “I thought we would maybe down the road have Adam’s students come and play for another class. I’m thinking outside of the box; DeeJaying is an art form.”

Boskey’s D.J. Turntable Technique class is open to a maximum of eight participants, between the ages of 14 and 25.

Modern Dance

Along with the three new classes to be offered at the studio this fall, instructor Valerie Blomgren will be teaching modern dance. The class will focus on the fundamentals of ballet and developing strength in the lower abdomen; maturity in movement and movement quality; and transitions, as the “artistry (of modern dance) is in a full presentation of the movements.”

Blomgren, a recent dance graduate of the University of Illinois, sad modern dance helps to improve coordination of the whole body, as it integrates the upper and lower body.

“You are learning new types of movement patterns; modern dance is less structured than ballet, but still uses ballet moves,” Blomgren said.

Ballet, Tap, Jazz

While all forms of dance are beneficial fro man aerobic standpoint, ballet and tap classes have been linked to development in other areas as well.

Rich said ballet is good for young students, as very quiet and shy students connect more with ballet classes than other forms of dance.

Because ballet is both mentally and physically challenging, Rich said as students get older, there is a correlation between ballet and achievement in the classroom.

“Students in ballet can pick up the small details in the classroom that are going over the heads of other kids,” Rich said. “We have many students who are here six days a week and are in the top of their class.”

Alicia Lee will be teaching ballet at the studio. She has her BFA in Dance from Butler University and has been a ballet mistress for different ballet companies.

Children as young as age three can begin in tap classes at the studio. Rich said not only is tap fun, “because all you have to worry about is feet,” but there is also a positive correlation between tap dancers and math grades.

“A study was done in North Carolina where they took retired engineers and put them in tap class, and they all picked it up instantly,” Rich said. “Sometimes students who have average math grades take tap for a few years and get excellent math grades.”

Ages seven and up can enroll in jazz classes at the studio.

Rich described jazz as a style of dance that is heavily influenced by ballet, but borrows from modern dance.

“Some kids who don’t like ballet much do well in jazz because there’s more movement and the music is different,” Rich said. “It uses more contemporary music.”

An introductory dance movement class is offered to two-year-olds and focuses on basic movement, motor skills and classroom etiquette in the dance studio.

While most classes began Aug. 28, select classes have a mid-September start date. Rich said many students register for classes after they begin. For more information on the studio or a specific class, call 355-9265, or visit www.christinerichstudio.com.

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