Valerie Kirn-Duensing 3/2/09
A dance studio typically evokes images of pink leotards, satin ribbon toe shoes and minions of little girls lined up with their hair pulled back into tight little buns. At Soul Step Urban Dance Studio you need to stop, rewind and erase those images. It aint like nuthin weve seen here in Northern Michigan.
Soul Step is the brainchild of Traverse City native Emily Fine who cut her teeth dancing with the Dance Center and Dance Arts Academy throughout her childhood and teenage years. After graduating from Traverse City Central High School, she headed west in 2002, to San Francisco to further her studies in dance.
I first fell in love with hip-hop class here in Traverse City, said Fine. When I got to San Francisco, that interest just grew to the point where it became my focus.
Soul Step Urban Dance Studio opened in September when Fine and husband, Jason, moved back to the area. Class offerings are beginning hip hop, street jazz, freestyle funk, dance foundations and urban elements. No ballet. No tap. No little girls in pink tutus.
In fact, the studio is actually adult-centered, with a mature, open-minded, unintimidating atmosphere. Fine wanted to create a space where people could try new things without being self-conscious or have fear of judgments. She also wanted it to be inexpensive and thus established a drop-in dance policy. The cost is just $10 per class. Stop in when you can or when you feel like it. Multiple class cards can be purchased for quantities of eight to 44 classes with increasing incremental price breaks.
Younger students (those aged 8 to 14) will get their chance to try urban dance moves starting in March when Fine will offer a Saturday afternoon hip hop class.
I certainly dont want to exclude young dancers, its just that they already have so many options here in Traverse City, said Fine. My focus for now is on adults. I want to inspire positive change and promote creativity. Dance is so therapeutic. My clients can come in and forget about their problems for an hour or two.
For those with little or no dance training, Fine recommends her Foundations class. While focusing on and breaking down basic aspects of dance such as core strength, balance, flexibility, and body isolations, participants will get to know their bodies and find a new understanding of dance and movement.
First time dancers will also feel right at home with Beginning Hip-Hop. This class is all about having fun and getting your groove on, while learning the fundamentals of hip-hop dance. From old school popping and locking to music video style moves, the diverse range of movement allows you to explore and in time, incorporate you own style. Plus, it is a good workout.
Intermediate to Advanced Hip-Hop classes simply build upon basics and fundamentals established in the beginning class. Although Fine encourages anyone to drop in and at least give it a try, especially if you have some previous dance experience.
The real fun begins with her Freestyle Funk class. Set to a funky-fresh soundtrack, students will be dancing as soon as they walk in the door. This is a high-energy class that focuses less on technique and more on exploration of individual styles and freely feeling the music.
Street Jazz is contemporary jazz mixed with isolations and syncopations of hip-hop. It is designed for all levels of dancers ranging from first timers to advanced.
Urban Elements is one of the newest dance forms out there. It is an exploration of the diverse language of hip hop, including club and house style dancing. Expect anything from Michael Jacksons moonwalk, to b-boy top rocks.
Hip-hop is so misunderstood, said Fine. Mainstream media just trashes it. I want to represent it in a positive light.
Hip-hop first surfaced in the 1970s in New York City as a style of music, dance, dress and even behavior. The phrase hip-hop was actually first used in scatting sequences, which are moments of improvisation when the MC or DJ speaks rhythmically over the top of the musical beat.
At the same time a similar phenomenon was happening on the west coast, except its version had a decidedly funky beat to it and introduced the main stay dance moves of pop and lock. Over time, the dance forms of the west and east coasts were linked by common interests in music and now the term hip-hop incorporates influences from the 70s from both areas and there is less distinction between the two.
According to Fine, hip-hop is an amazingly creative, energizing and empowering form of dance. It allows for much more improvisation and personal interpretation than any other form of dance she knows of. Because it is so high energy, it is also a very effective cardio workout.
For now, Fine works part time at Oryana Natural Foods Market by day and teaches dance by night. She has big dreams of using dance to inspire positive change in peoples lives.
I was definitely inspired by my first dance teacher to have my own studio, said Fine. I feel lucky that one of my dreams has already come true.
You can check out Soul Step at
www.soulstepdancestudio.com or call the studio at (231) 421-5656. Soul Step is located at 1249 Woodmere in Traverse City.