Culture Shock’s Wide Reach

Off of Interstate 5 in the heart of San Diego sits a nondescript three-story building. A dance studio is on the second floor. Set foot inside and you’re hit with vibrantly colored, graffiti-style murals covering the floor, walls, and even benches. Milling around are people of every race, age, and background, coming out of class flushed and glowing. What brings them together? A love of hip-hop dance.

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Tapping in Gilbert’s Footsteps

For one day, Retter’s Academy of Dance in Agoura Hills, California, became a film set, complete with bright lights, film equipment, and a silver curtain backdrop. Three young studio dancers tapped away, guided from behind the camera by Becca Retter, who had taught them the routine only days earlier. The day’s filming will end up on a DVD that dance instructors will use to become better teachers, an idea conceived and developed by tap master Al Gilbert.

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Monster Opportunity

Studio owners may be at a loss as to how to guide their professionally minded students into a dance career—especially one in hip-hop. The answer may well lie in Monsters of Hip-Hop, the first all-hip-hop touring convention. It not only features some of the biggest names in the dance industry but also provides key information and opportunities for aspiring dancers to break into show business.

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Tapping From the Heart

Back in the golden age of tap dancing, the tap masters used to challenge each other through improvisation. Along with choreography, improvisation was integral to the art form, a vehicle through which it grew and progressed. Flash forward to the early 21st century, and tap is still alive and well—but improvisation as a key element of training has fallen away. In the typical American dance studio, tap classes consist of learning choreography for the recital, learning choreography for the competition—but learning improvisation skills as a fundamental part of tap dancing is nowhere to be found.

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