Tips for Hip-Hop Teachers | Building Community in Class

Photo by Briana Gardener

by Samara Atkins

Tip 1
Dance educators understand the importance of harmony in the classroom. Remarkable ideas come alive when everyone feels inspired to create together.

When you are teaching, you are the host of a classroom for a block of time. Accomplishing your goals will hinge on the class’ collective energy and vibe. You are responsible for how the class flows—and it’s all in the way you set it up.

To start class, welcome students with a warm, tailored greeting and a quick activity. I like to have my students introduce themselves to one person they haven’t met yet. If everyone already knows each other, then I’ll pair them up to discuss a prompt, such as their favorite color. This way, students keep building connections and creating community, as every week they find out more about one another.

Tip 2
Music will also help you control the mood and flow of your classes, so have your playlist ready. For example, I like to start warm-ups with a fast-tempo or upbeat hip-hop song, do isolations and rhythmic sequences to a slightly slower song, and then stretch out to a groovy R&B track.

When you’re teaching choreography, make sure to let students know how they’re doing and give positive feedback such as “Looking good!” or “That’s right!” throughout class. The more passionate and energized you are about what you’re teaching, the more your students will be too.

Everything from your welcome greeting to the activities you facilitate, the feedback you share, the energy you exude, and the connections you create among your dancers will keep class flowing and your students coming back.


Oakland, California, native Samara Atkins studied journalism and dance at Howard University and co-founded Mix’d Ingrdnts, an all-female dance company. She teaches hip-hop at Destiny Arts Center, Shawl-Anderson Dance Center, and In the Groove Studios.