Dance: A Connection with Music
My dance journey began with an interest in breaking while in high school, but I didn’t get to learn much about it back then. Fast forward to college, and some friends and I ended up taking a hip-hop dance class for a semester—which I enjoyed a lot!
While in college, I developed a strong interest in music as a way to deal with depression. Listening to music helped me to relax and take my mind off of negative feelings, so I continued to listen. Eventually I took an interest in popping because I didn’t understand the musicality aspect of dance. This led me to explore this area on my own as a hobby over the years which helped me to bridge music and dance together.
After finishing college I found that the work related to my degree didn’t interest me. What continued to interest me was music, and, for the past year or so, I primarily focused on teaching myself to produce music. As a result of the pandemic and this aspiration, I developed a sedentary lifestyle and ended up out of shape. This helped me realize I needed to get moving again, which spurred my search for, specifically, breaking classes—thus leading to my discovery of UMA.
My first class was Movement Flow with Ron, and I remember my shins cramping up because I couldn’t move through a squat position comfortably—let alone many other positions. Ron’s classes guided me through exercises where I could build up the strength to hold and move through those positions, many of which I never thought I could do.
Jerry’s classes allowed me to pursue my high school breaking goals, and the cyphers in class are great since we get to freestyle and apply the moves we learned in class. Ricky’s classes always get me moving with the music in a variety of ways, which I value a lot as connecting with music and having fun are both very important to me. Emily’s classes have been great for learning popping fundamentals, as well as experimenting with fun concepts—such as puppeting. Tyger’s classes helped me to see things I don’t see, such as… myself in the mirror, but also aspects of dance like the depth of your steps or how you accentuate a specific movement.
Dancing has allowed me to push myself physically, mentally, and emotionally, and has given me and many others a space where we can connect with music and express ourselves. Thanks to all of the staff at UMA who help make this experience possible!
Thanks for sharing Andy!
Check out Andy getting down in Ron Wood's House Dance Ground Moves and Lofting class- Thursdays from 6-7pm!
Journal entry by Amy!
The UMA Journal is a new collection of entries from some of our community members! They share about their class experience at UMA, dance journeys in general, life thoughts, passions, musings- whatever! We love getting to know more about our community!
Check out this first entry by UMA regular Amy! Amy is a Laurel- class regular. Learn more about how she got into dance and where it has taken her!
Dance: My COVID Silver Lining
My one-year dancing anniversary just passed. It's hard to describe in words how the decision to move my body through dance has changed me. Dancing makes my heart happy.
I used to catch glimpses of classes during the many years I hung out at UMA while the kids I cared for danced their afternoons away in the Movemakers program. I'd peruse the UMA adult classes schedule and imagine myself joining one of the Salsa or Bachata classes. "Yeah, right," I'd think. "I'm going to mess up all the steps and make a complete fool of myself."
When COVID hit, along with everything else, it changed my exercise routine. I was impressed with how fast fitness studios transitioned to online classes. UMA was one of the first to begin the foray into online learning and I got to see their process through the Movemakers program, where the kids I took care of began to dance at home on Zoom.
For me, UMA's online classes presented a unique opportunity: I could now take a dance class without actually stepping foot inside the studio. I remember the morning that I took a deep breath before clicking the "Sign Up Now" button for Laurel's Latin House livestream class. That class was challenging. And fun! Most importantly, I felt safe to move my body within the comfort of my own home. After that, I thought, "what the hell" and signed up for Reggaeton as well as the Solo Salsa classes. My weekly schedule was beginning to fill up with dancing.
All through the winter I danced online. In the spring, after getting vaccinated, I took my first in-studio dance class. I don't know if I would have ever have made it there without the help of online instruction.
I'm so glad to be where I am and to have found this space Thank you, UMA, for the opportunity to take live streamed classes and build up the skills and courage I needed to get into the studio! And a special thanks to Laurel for her amazing instruction and endless positivity. I'm looking forward to seeing the progress that another year brings.
Thanks so much to Amy for sharing!
with Rylee Prodigy
Creative Composition is a class that will give students the tools to create their own phrase work and choreography. Movement generation and development will be explored through concepts, prompts, freestyle, and choreography.
Join Rylee weekly on Wednesdays from 7:00-8:00pm
you can register through our schedule page!
Floor work workshop!
Join guest instructor Isaac Lerner for a 2-day floor work intensive workshop!
December 6th & 7th 2021
12-3pm each day
Isaac Martin Lerner is a New York City based dancer, choreographer, and teacher. After moving to New York, he found an abundance of freelance work mainly with David Parker’s Bang Group and Cameron Mckinney’s Kizuna Dance as well as smaller project based companies. He lives in the contemporary floor work realm studying under teachers such as Cameron Mckinney, Luke Jessop, Victor Rotier, and Jos Baker. Mr. Lerner also is pleased to pass on his knowledge as a teacher at Gibney Dance Center, The Kuzina workshops and his own master class series called “Dots and Lines”. He’s a critically acclaimed opera choreographer working closely with collaborators Jacob Climber (costume/set designer) and Chas Rader-Scheiber (Stage Director). He is looking foreword to his time at Urban Movement Arts!
I sat down with Isaac to learn more about him, floor work, and what we can expect from his workshop! Check it out below!
Isaac Lerner comes to UMA! Isaac has danced since asking his parents for ballet lessons at the age 4. He reflects- “I don't know where I got the idea [for ballet lessons] and no one seems to..” But he's stuck with it, moving from the world of classical ballet to more contemporary dance forms and now, since 2018, to floor work technique. He currently dances with Kizuna Dance, teaches and choreographs. He is based out of New York City.
Isaac’s passion for floor work is clear when you hear him speak about it. Isaac describes the floor almost as one would describe a partner- he comments: “I think that the relationship with the ground is the one thing that has really kept me moving through the last couple years- the idea that the earth is pushing into you and that it can propel you into- it can literally propel you into swing dance, or it can propel you into classical modern dance- it can propel you into anything as long as you continually remind yourself of that thing. And I think- I HOPE- my workshop is really a time to explore that, not just in a floor work setting but also in whatever setting you want.” Isaac understands floorwork as, yes, a movement form that utilizes the lowest levels we can, but also as a technique for approaching all forms of movement. No matter what style of dance you may be exploring (I suppose with the exception of aerial forms) you are working with the ground. Having a base understanding of the ways you can push, pull, and release into the floor can have influence on how we approach any other style of dance.
Isaac’s workshop will be a 2 day intensive, each day 3 hours long. This will allow participants to really get an in depth introduction to floor work technique. I asked Isaac for a breakdown of what we can expect from his workshop. He said to expect a lot of breathing to start: “I always start with a lot of breathing and just finding a way to engage the other half of the brain- not just the mechanical but also the imagination part of the brain.” Isaac’s class then eases participants into the concept of moving into and out of the ground through a “long juicy warm up sequence.” At this point, the class progresses to a more technical/ mechanical focus. Isaac will break down concepts such as: various ways to get to the floor, how you slide on the floor, how to maneuver yourself once you’re down there, and ways to get up from the floor. And to conclude the workshop, Isaac notes: “I start to combine all those mechanical things to find more of a flow and eventually it all culminates in a large phrase that hopefully allows everyone to let go of everything we’ve talked about and just dance.”
We are so excited to welcome Isaac to UMA! We can’t wait to see how participants bring what they learn with Isaac to movement forms they study at UMA- whatever style it may be!
uMaMi was an interactive, multi-discipline show at UMA in July 2021. The show brought together 6 dancers and 4 musicians to a studio transformed by ornaments, lights and color to put on a show that celebrated sensuality and sexuality in various forms. The featured dancers were: Dylan Smythe, Amalia Gabriel Colon-Nava, Major Curl, Fagl Roq, Queen of Hearts, and Rylee Prodigy.
You can check out a TBT article about the event below!
“Is it here?”
“I think we have to keep going?”
“I think we passed it.”
“No, wait, here it is!”
I had never actually gone into the Urban Movement Arts (UMA) studio. All of the work I had done as a marketing intern up until this point was done out of the comfort of my apartment. But here I was walking up and down Chestnut street to try and find where we were going.
I asked my friend Lami, a Philly street artist, if he’d come with me to uMaMi, an event at UMA celebrating sensuality and sexuality. On our way there, he went over his talking points with me, “this is what I do,” “isn’t this a lovely space,” and “where’d you get those shoes?”
I broke the news to him, this wasn’t that type of event. Most of the talking was going to be done by the performers, what they were going to talk about, that’s what we were about to find out.
Once we finally found the place, I excitedly grabbed his hand and pulled him up the long flight of stairs, signing us in and taking us into the second door on our right.
I opened the grey door and was immediately welcomed by the sound of smooth jazz. All I saw was red: red walls, red ribbon swinging from the ceiling, and to the left of the door was a long grey sheet covered in red painted bodies. The room felt eerie but I was excited.
We looked around for a bit and every so often I’d gently tap Lami’s shoulder to tell him about the artists that were performing as I had interviewed them as part of my internship. Did he know that the art director for the show calls herself a trash artist? Did he know that the band had never once practiced before, this was all improv?
I didn’t really know what to expect of this night. I knew the event was going to be about sensuality and sexuality, but I wasn’t sure what it would all mean for me, what would I feel like and how would I leave that night?
Soon the music died down and a spotlight appeared, I wondered what might be next. Then, someone who I immediately recognized as Dylan Smythe, came to the mic stand and gave us a taste of what was yet to come.
“Umami is a compound word in the Japanese language with no direct translation, but meaning something like ‘essence of deliciousness,” he started. “I think of Umami as the most embodiment flavor profile - a plated personification of the human body in all of its variations of depth, complexity, emotions and textures.” Chills.
Once he was done, the band started playing eerie techno music straight out of a sci-fi movie and I saw hands come to the side of a cardboard cutout of a cherry. That must be Major Curl!
One by one the performers started coming out, every time they did I would nudge Lami to let him know who they were. It was weird, I had seen their pictures while assisting with promotion. for the show and I had talked to them on the phone, but seeing them in person, seeing them in their element made each conversation more meaningful.
The band’s music made the event more erotic, the bass’s smooth, swift sound guided the rest of the instruments as the songs kept changing for each performance.
Two performers really stood out to me, just in the way that they made me feel. FAGL ROQ’s solo performance invoked how sex, while it can make you feel close to someone, can also make you feel even more alone. Knowing this beforehand made the performance even more emotional for me, I couldn’t hold in how I felt as a gentle tear rolled down my cheek.
But this was no time for crying. Seconds later, the drums kicked up and afro-inspired beats turned a sad moment into nostalgia. Growing up in a Colombian household, this was my usual Saturday morning alarm.
I felt my body unintentionally move to the rhythm along with the dancers, specifically Amalia. She moved her body in such a mesmerizing way that was familiar, she was carefree and so was everyone around her. They listened to the music and their body did the rest.
Then there was the Queen of Hearts who was the star of my show. During our interview, I was mesmerized by how she talked about herself and her body. She had the confidence I wish I had, and to see that in real life, I couldn’t miss it.
She moved so effortlessly and sexy, everything from the way she took her clothes off to how she moved her body was so unique to her. Not only was I jealous of her twerking skills, but I saw how sure of herself she was on stage, nothing fazed her, and the only thing that mattered was her own opinion of herself.
After the show had ended I felt free. This had been an experience I had never felt before, I left knowing that I could be just as confident as any one of them. That how I view myself and my body is more important than what anyone could ever say to me.
I felt like a different person after I left. Not that I had noticeably changed, but after that day, in many aspects of my life, I have become a more confident person. When you’re in a space where everyone is free to be who they are, it makes you want to do the same.
If I could give one piece of advice from what I learned at uMaMi, it’s that the only person you ever need to please in this world is yourself, everyone else can simply marvel at your beauty.
By Bibiana Correa
Laurel Card offers private partner lessons at Urban Movement Arts and is our go-to wedding dance prep instructor. Couples come to her with their wildest wedding dance dreams and she helps them make those dreams reality. Matt and Kierstin approached Laurel to choreograph a bachata dance to their chosen song and worked with her leading up to their wedding. They share their very heartwarming experience taking private lessons with Laurel below. Check it out!
Where do we even start?! I guess I’ll start at the very beginning. We were referred to Laurel by a mutual friend of mine. My wife, Kierstin and I were planning our wedding and about 7 weeks out we were stressing with all the details and money. So, something I always wanted to do was have a choreographed dance for our first dance. We have been to so many weddings where guests lose interest in the couple while the first dance plays because they are just rocking back and forth. So, to break up our stress levels and add a little fun to the planning process I reached out to a friend from high school who is a very talented dancer and asked her if she knew anyone in Philly who could teach couples how to dance. Kierstin and I like to dance at any wedding we go to, but we are FAR from talented dancers!
So in comes Laurel and Urban Movement Arts. From the very start Laurel was so receptive, helpful, and invigorated by the idea of helping two people who had no prior dance experience, but wanted to do something special for their wedding. The first thing we did was send her our wedding song, which had a reggae feel to it, and she correlated that beat into a choreographed bachata dance. From the start Laurel broke down the simplest of steps to help us feel comfortable, and even by the first night of dance lessons we had a pretty good feel on the box step. As the weeks went on she would break our dance into sections to make sure we wouldn’t be overwhelmed (which at some points we felt like we were) But she was always so encouraging and would rehearse each section with us down to the very step. Kierstin and I would then take what we learned that week and practice in our home. Sometimes we would tape our progress and send it to Laurel to see what she thought. She would respond with words of encouragement and advice even when we weren’t in the studio learning. Each week, with Laurel and Jaime’s help we began to transform from two people just marching counting out steps to a couple that moved with some passion and skill.
Learning how to dance from Laurel was a ton of fun for Kierstin and I and we looked forward to it each week. Even after long days of working we always made time to practice our dance each night because we wanted to come prepared for the next class. On the 7th week of dance class we said our final goodbyes to Laurel and Jaime and felt fully prepared to blow our guests away with our new moves. But honestly the best thing about working with Laurel was she was always so encouraging and knew that we would do a great dance when it came to our big day. On the morning of our wedding she reached out to us to let us know how proud she was, and how well we would do. It was that relationship we made with Laurel during our time in the studio with her and that type of positive energy that helped us surprise our guests with a beautiful bachata dance the night of our wedding.
But our story with Laurel doesn’t stop there, we had so much fun with her learning how to dance that we fully plan on joining her Latin dance classes this fall. Learning to dance was not only fun for Kierstin and I but it also brought us closer together. Its something we really enjoyed learning to do together, and something (with Laurel’s help) plan on continuing to do for many years to come.
Matt and Kierstin Kramer
Thanks to Matt and Kierstin for sharing their story!