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!