Nicole Burgio is an INCREDIBLE professional circus artist and teacher. She takes the concept of balance to another level. In the worlds of acrobatics, physical theater and circus, Nicole has decades of teaching and performance experience, both locally and abroad. She has worked with local companies like Almanac Dance Circus Theatre as a core ensemble member and acrobatic consultant, and she has performed as a solo artist in numerous international circus and arts festivals.
One of Nicole’s truly exciting projects is ‘Proyecto Colmena’, an intensive program which tours professional circus schools teaching amateur/semi-pro artists how to create meaningful ensemble work. This community-based ensemble building approach is dear to her heart. She loves guiding artists of all disciplines and experience levels through a process to create original or unique group movement.
As a handstand coach, Nicole has over 10 years experience teaching all levels of movers. She says that she's never worked with someone who couldn’t get upside down with her. As a participant, YOU CAN DO THIS!
In this workshop Nicole will focus on:
- Technique of handstand alignment
- Progressions towards strong and consistent handstands
-Developing strong personal practice habits. You will leave this workshop with lots of tools you can use on your own!
I talked to Nicole about her own journey with handstands and what a participant might expect from her workshop. Check out the interview with her below!
How did you get into your handstand practice?
I have been doing gymnastics and acrobatics for around 33 years now. I kind of found the circus later in life, around 24 or 25 years old. The Ringling Brothers Circus came to Philadelphia, and I used to go all the time with my mom. I took my boyfriend at the time to show him what it was all about, and I just fell in love. I started to study aerials: trapeze and silk. I then began to gravitate towards handstands because…you don’t need much - just a little bit of room and yourself. And, they’re addicting. Each time, you might be able to stay up for a little longer. You get to play the game of it a little longer. It becomes naturally addictive if you have that type of curiosity.
What are some of your personal handstand goals?
Professional Hand Balancers spend anywhere from 4-5 hours a day on their hands. I consider myself a physical theatre artist, so I like to have a bigger array of things I specialize in - I’m more of a generalist. Not to say that being a generalist is not without mastery, but it's a different type of mastery. You have a good handle on many things vs. one thing you’re very good at. For me, my handstand goals are gaining better balance on one hand. For example, I’m working on a position called Figa: it's a little bit asymmetrical, it's on one arm - it's very beautiful. It’s quite difficult. I am also diving a little more into dynamic contortion style positions that involve your feet touching your head, or lowering onto your chest while your feet are over your head. Crazy stuff like that. That all sounds so big and wild, but really what I love are the fundamentals. I think a classic handstand is beautiful - and it's actually one of the most difficult handstands out there. Just classic two hands straight up and down, boom- don’t move- that's tough! Fundamentals feel strong, and reliable. And I feel beautiful when I’m in them.
What do you think a handstand practice would bring to supplement other styles of dance?
Whether you’re on your hands or your feet, having a handstand practice WILL help with balance. It also helps your understanding proprioceptively of where you are in space. If you’re an advanced dancer or performer, you will have a much better understanding of how you are sharing the space with others - whether you’re turning, upside down, bending backwards, folding forward - all of this will feel more in control, because you’re doing the same thing just on your hands! For dancers it also brings more diversity. It teaches you how to enter weight into your hands. This opens up more vocabulary for you to traverse the floor. Dancers want to do the most they can do with their bodies to express. The more vocabulary you have, the more options you have to move your body. This gives you greater ability to tell your story how you want to tell it.
What would you say to someone who is a complete beginner looking to get into handstand practice?
Over my 33 years of experience and over the last 10 years of me coaching professionally, I have never met a client I couldn't work with, and I have never met a client who couldn’t get upside down. Even during this quarantine where I'm teaching virtually, I have always been able to work through things with my client. I know about one million and one progressions that will help people who are very nervous. I also have a masters degree in counseling and psychology. I like to use that linearly with my approach to teaching. Fear is a big factor. We need to walk with our fear; we have to carry it with us- we have to go upside down with it! There's no reason to say “Oh you won't be afraid,” or “just don’t worry about that.” I take the approach that says “Great, you’re afraid. And now we’re gonna do it.” I’ve taught all ages, all sizes, and all different types of folks. We’ve all been upside down together.
To participate in this workshop all you need is a small space in the middle of the room and a clear wall. Let's get upside down together!
Sunday, March 7th @ 2:30pm
Register through our homepage
Bonus afro cuban workshop with leilani this weekend!
Last week's workshop with Leilani was so fun! We are bringing it back this weekend for an extra round. Leilani will review and expand upon some of the concepts covered in last week's workshop. No worries if you didn't make it last week though! You are welcome to hop in this week. All levels welcome!
This workshop with Leilani will focus on the rhythm of the clave! I caught up with Leilani to find out more about this rhythm that is the foundation of Rumba and appears in a lot of popular music today. Learn a little more about La Clave from Leilani!
What is the clave?
“Clave can refer to a rhythm or it could refer to the instrument- 2 wooden sticks. There are many different types of clave. The standard is the 1-2-1-2-3, in America they refer to it as the salsa clave. We call it clave de son. You hear it in Rumba. The Rumba is folkloric social dance from Cuba and the soul of it is clave.”
Where did it come from?
“It’s commonly associated with Cuba, however there is some research that thinks it may have originated in West Africa even though the rhythm is associated with Cuba. West Africans were robbed of their homeland. Primarily, Cubans today are the descendants of West Africans mixed with Spaniards- so it is hard to know whether it started in Cuba or started in West Africa and came to Cuba through the slave trade. It is pretty commonly recognized that the wooden sticks started in Cuba because of Africans who were enslaved and became Cubans. Their descendants who were working in the shipyards in Havana developed the wooden sticks. Cuba is where the clave is thought to have originated but really it is an African feel.”
Can you talk about the development of the dance in relation to this rhythm?
“Rumba came from community street parties. The foundation of Rumba is the clave. There’s not really a lot of documentation as to how the dance started- but when you hear the music and you see the dancing it just kind of makes sense. Your body moves to the rhythm of la clave. The torso moves, the hips move, the feet move. The feet remind me a lot of the zapateo from flamenco which you see in the south of Spain which comes from the Gypsies. You also see it in the countryside above Cuba. What is so African is the hips and the torso. The torso does almost a figure 8- its one of the more difficult things to learn in the Rumba. The hips move with the feet, side to side like a pendulum. When you see the dancing you see la clave. The dance is born from that rhythm. Even though it developed in Cuba - its very African, close to the ground, your heart is to the ground, your knees are very flexed, in order to be close to the earth- that’s where you get that energy from. The dance becomes the clave.”
Nyla Murray is teaching a NEW hip hop class at #UMA!
Nyla’s Commercial Choreography class will utilize foundational hip hop moves and concepts in original choreography by Nyla. This class is geared toward intermediate to advanced level dancers looking to develop performance and character skills, apply their hip hop foundations, get in touch with their bodies and just generally vibe to great music.
Online and in-studio
You can get a taste of her choreography and see her in action in the following videos:
Choreography by Nyla^
Choreography by Justin @justmadeofficial^
UMA People is a series of profiles of UMA 'regulars,' though there's nothing regular about them! UMA People shares stories about how people in our community found dance, found UMA, and what it all means to them.
Shainaz lives in Ottawa. She's an optometrist by profession with a deep love for hip hop and started taking dance classes about 2 years ago. After all the studios around her shut down due to COVID, Shainaz found UMA through a google search. She's never even been to Philadelphia.
We caught up with her to learn a little more about her and her hometown and hear about what her experience with us has been like so far. She shares some great tips n tricks for getting the most out of a zoom dance class. Check it out!
How did you find UMA?
S: I've never even been to Philadelphia! I just looked online and came across your website. I remember thinking it seemed very inclusive and welcoming. There was an Intro Month Special which gave me the chance to try out the platform and see what it's like doing a zoom dance class
It was also great because I got to try out different styles- things that I never would have been exposed to otherwise. Like House, Latin Dance and Movement Flow for example. All the instructors have been amazing. I never thought I would be motivated to try a Latin style dance, but Laurel's instruction is so easy to embrace. Ron was so welcoming, he gave me one-on- one instruction and it made me feel like I was actually in the room with everyone, getting the same instruction and the same motivation. And Vince has also been amazing. After his house classes he'll send the music that he's used- it gives me motivation to practice on my own time.
Do you have any tips for making the most of virtual classes?
S: I think I have changed my space several times just to get the most out of it. Having a dedicated space is so key and thats not easy for everyone because they probably have to move furniture around. I would also recommend putting up a mirror. I put up a mirror when I dance and I find that is super helpful. Personally thats how I learn best- I'm able to compare myself to how Laurel or Vince looks.
Do you ever use the members library of pre recorded videos?
S: I have! Especially if there is some choreography that I'm having some trouble with, I've gone back to retrace the steps and see what I'm missing. I do really enjoy the synchronicity of the live stream classes though. That for me is so cool- someone in their living room or dining room miles and miles away is doing the same routine as I am and that shared connection really engages me.
What keeps you coming back to classes?
S: I'm so glad to be a part of the community and have a space during a difficult time like this when we don't have the social connections we're used to and we can't always interact in the ways we want to. Having an outlet like this and especially UMA's dance community has been a life saver for my mental health as well as physical. We're cooped up in our homes and moving our bodies is so key to our mental health. I'm really grateful to UMA for providing these classes and making it so simple. It's been a fun few months which is a lot to say during a pandemic.
Pre- pandemic Shainaz participated in theatre arts, doing stage managing and directing lighting for productions. So cool! Check her out in action!
And here is an absolutely stunning photo of Major's Hill Park in Ottawa, where Shainaz has been taking walks with her partner to get out during the pandemic
Thanks so much for sharing Shainaz! Hope you can visit UMA and Philly in the near future!
HEY YOU! Yeah--- you! We got you with another workshop from the one and only Virgil 'Lil O' Gadson! This time he'll be focusing on rhythm.
Sunday January 10th @ 2:30pm
90minutes | All Levels
Virgil has appeared on TV shows like "Americas Got Talent", MTV‘s “Americas Best Dance Crew”, and placed as a finalist on Fox’s Emmy nominated reality show “So You Think You Can Dance” Season 12. Commercials for Disney, Target, Samsung, Chase Bank, Rush Card and Timberland brand. Virgil was nominated for a Fred Astaire Award for his Broadway debut as a principal dancer/actor in the Tony nominated show "After Midnight" along side Dule Hill, Fantasia Barrino, Patti LaBelle, Tony Braxton, Babyface, K.D. Lang, and Vanessa Williams. In Philadelphia he attended Freedom Theater and became an alumnus of University of the Arts in 2008. At UArts he was able to integrate a broad spectrum of dance genres into his canon such as Modern, Jazz, Ballet and Tap; although Hip-Hop continues to be his specialty. Virgil is involved in outreach to dance communities locally and internationally, encouraging the importance of the history of dance as a tradition and sharing his knowledge and passion for dance with the world.
We'll have to be quite a bit more spread out than this ^ but that doesn't mean we can't be just as hype!!!
Tyler has been practicing locking since he discovered Dru's class with us about 2 years ago. The funk has definitely been unleashed in him!
In an episode of "Monday's with Mr. Vince" (a mini series started for our kids program) Vince talks to Tyler about his locking journey and his other pursuits that make him a Polymath. Check it out:
Make sure to keep an eye out for upcoming workshops with dru!
Urban Movement Arts is excited to announce a Popping Masterclass with Emily Pietruszka! Emily is a professional dancer, certified trainer, nutrition coach, and teacher. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in dance from the University of Colorado, Boulder. Emily has been dancing professionally since 2015, and is currently dancing for Philadelphia based street dance theater company, Rennie Harris Puremovement. While residing in Brooklyn, she had the privilege of working with such names as James "Cricket" Colter and Soo Missy Boogaloo. Pietruszka has shown her own work in Philadelphia at the "Illadelph" street dance festival, as well as "The Come Together Festival" hosted by Koresh Dance. Emily has taught and lectured in various contexts including Front Range Community College (Denver, CO), Mark Morris Dance Group (Brooklyn, NY), New Visions for Public Schools (Queens, NY), The Juilliard School (New York, NY), and The Ailey School (New York, NY) to name a few. As a personal trainer, she specializes in pre/postnatal strengthening and recovery, nutrition coaching, and functional movement training. Our MoveMakers kids are now lucky enough to call her their teacher! Emily is an engaging teacher who encourages her students to try new things, work hard and reach their full potential.
I talked to Emily about her popping journey - what it’s like to come into the street dance scene through a university setting and what it's like being a woman in a very male- dominated world. Check it out below!
What was your first interaction with popping? What made you really want to dive in?
I was introduced to the street dance scene through academia which isn't really the traditional way that people get introduced to it- but it is a way a lot of people do. One of the classes I took was a foundational popping class. My teacher Larry Love grew up in the bronx when the bronx was burning. He experienced how popping seeped into the east coast. I valued that I got a really good foundational education in popping.
One day I had just posted a random video of myself [popping] on FaceBook and Rennie Harris saw it and was like ‘I’ll see you tomorrow morning bring nothing but yourself- I'm teaching you.’ So for a few months I would go to the studio at UC Boulder and Rennie would sit in a chair and be like ‘go,’ and I was like.. crapping my pants the whole time!
What was it like coming into the street dance scene so late? Did you ever experience pushback from people who had grown up in the scene?
I feel the most pushback from myself. Imposter syndrome is a very real thing that I have a very real relationship with. I take my role as a guest in the culture very seriously. That comes with the added responsibility of giving credit where credit is due, teaching movement lineage, developing a library of resources that myself and my students can go and pull from other artists besides myself who have grown up in this culture and have largely contributed to these movement languages. The guilt that I feel from my imposter syndrome doesn't do me or my students or anyone that I'm collaborating with any good.
I remember being at Dance Place before a show in DC and we were having a cypher in the house and Boog Harris was there. I was expressing how I didn't want to step on any toes and act like I was part of the culture- I was scared about it. And I remember all he said was ‘ you're not in it until you're in it.’ That spoke to me so much and I've carried that with me wherever I have gone. It just goes to show that if you're serious about it, people will see it. You can't fake the passion that you have.
Can you talk more about what it is like being a woman in the popping scene?
The popping scene is DEFINITELY male dominated. I think popping provides an opportunity for you to understand and develop the way you want to have a relationship with your ego and your dance persona and how you want to express. Popping gives me a lot of choices. There are women who embrace their femininity in popping and there are women that don’t and there’s a whole spectrum in between. I’m lucky enough to be training with men right now who make me feel very safe and comfortable expressing however I want to express. And I understand that that is very rare not just in the popping community but in the street dance community in general. I am blessed in that way. I think that women in the popping community and the street dance community have the responsibility to keep pulling each other up onto their boats and saying ‘hey we got to do this together- we have to keep pushing this forward together’ it can very easily become a place of severe competition. I think that is what is expected of us and we definitely have the power to change that narrative.
I was introduced to popping and first trained in popping by males. When I went to New York and gravitated to a bunch of women who are very talented poppers and if it hadn't been for the camaraderie I found with them I think my popping journey would have looked very different. I didn't fully understand how to translate popping into a mode of self expression until I saw another female doing it in front of me. I enjoyed popping but I had felt more like I was performing it rather than living it. I remember training with Sue and one day I was in the middle of dancing and I started crying because it was the first time I actually felt like that was my dance. I definitely think the way I was able to find that was through training with a bunch of women.
What are your goals for this workshop?
I want to facilitate an environment of fun. I want us to have fun! I want to create an environment that feels safe for self expression for learning for first time movers and experienced movers alike. I also want to provide insight into the history and foundation of this cultural movement language and I want to offer ideas and movement concepts that can lay a foundational basis for people to build upon. My goal is for everyone to walk away with something that allows them to feel like ‘Yes! Here’s the first step to an accessible journey in popping.’
Sign up for the workshop on December 20th @ 2:30pm through the link on our homepage!
UMA People is a series of profiles of UMA 'regulars,' though there's nothing regular about them! In UMA People shares stories about how people in our community found dance, found UMA, and what it all means to them.
We recently caught up with UMA student Minseo Baek who, due to the pandemic, is temporarily based back in Korea. Minseo was glad that our classes were streaming, but the time difference made it impossible for her to take class live. Instead, with her membership, she is accessing our online library of class recordings, so she can keep up with her dancing while the other side of the globe. Minseo has been taking classes at UMA regularly since March of 2018, and we miss her -- much as we miss so many UMA people we can't see in person -- so we took a moment to catch up and hear her UMA story
How did you first come to UMA?
I was felt like I was stuck at that time and I needed some change. Then I ran into Haruki Murakami’s book called What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. It sounded appealing but I wanted something more fun (no offense to runners.) so I googled various places and UMA seemed like a real thing. It still took some time to finally make up my mind, but I dropped by one day (it was a Friday breaking dance class) and it was so strange and fun! That’s how I first came to UMA.
What keeps you coming?
Definitely the people, the classes, and the vibe. I’m quite shy when it comes to dancing, so the hurdle was higher for me, but there was something that kept me coming - until I had a back pain (for reasons other than dancing) and had to take time off.
How are things for you back in Korea right now?
Things are good, though people are taking extra caution these days due to a recent surge in Covid-19 cases.
Want to take dance class on your own time? Any time? Sign up for a membership! A membership gives you access our streaming classes, our in person classes, and our library of recorded classes! We have so many styles to choose from: Locking, House, Breaking, Hip Hop, Waacking, Salsa, and more. Or, if you're new to dance, we have great beginner classes like Hip Hop 4 Two Left Feet. As the pandemic continues, and you live near Philly, you can still dance online, at home, or outdoors in a fun, safe, party atmosphere.
By Kemuel Benyehudah
November 30, 2020
If there's anything everyone in Philly can agree on, it's that Philly just does things different. In this new post, Kem gives a brief history of Philly House Dance culture and speaks with Urban Movement Arts (UMA), an organization teaching House Dance history and keeping the culture alive through dance education. Read below to find out how House provided a safe space for black, brown, and LGBTQ people, and how Philly's House style transcends vocabulary.
The article includes insights from our various instructors, including Ricky "Glytch" Evans, Vince Johnson, Ron wood, and Laurel Card.
UMA instructors India, Ron, and Tyger B, track down Mr. Vince for a rooftop cypher. Powerhouse moves on the roof: waacking, house, krump, and some old school party moves. (Was everyone murdering Lanternflies between takes? You know it.) These dances all originated as social dances. It feels good to dance them socially. We got to find ways to dance together, even with masks on, in whatever outdoor places we can scout. In these COVID times, we're glad to have video help from videographer Aidan Un, so we share with you the smiles behind the mask.