Master Classes – SO worth it!

039My kids had an amazing opportunity today! We had to drive an hour and a half each way in order for them to experience it, but it was SOOO worth it!

The Eau Claire School of Dance, where Grace and I used to dance when we lived in WI, hosted Robert Taylor, Jr. from the show, So You Think You Can Dance. When I first heard about it, I was so excited! I HAD to bring my kids.

Grace’s dance experiences have been all over the place from a style standpoint. The one style she misses most (and hasn’t done much of in about 4 years), has been hip hop. I think she is secretly a little jealous of her brother who is in his 2nd year of hip hop at Lake Area Dance Center (LADC). Even though she has reestablished her love for tap, hip hop is still a favorite. How appropriate that today’s classes were in that style!

022Michael took Robert’s level 1 class. It was for ages 5-8, though, there were several teenage girls in there as well. I thought they were there to help out, but no, they were taking each level, just because. After watching the level 1 and level 2 classes, I think that was a smart move. There was definitely a noticeable difference between levels 1 and 2! He taught them a little about isolating parts of their boday (for example their head). He taught them about waving (think of a snake-like movement going across their body). They practiced waving from one arm, across to the other, and getting the feet involved too. They also practice finding their own “groove”, as Michael is doing in the photo above. Then they learned a routine. Michael was so nervous he was going to screw up, but he did great! I was so proud watching him!

In between sessions, Robert was hanging out in the lobby. We got to chat with him a bit. Such a nice guy! We were talking about how his style of hip hop was different than what Michael does in his class at home, and how cool it was for him to be able to try something new. Robert encouraged Michael to keep taking classes. He told him it’s good to have as many different teachers as you can in hip hop, and about how there are so many different styles to explore. He went on to name about 10 different styles, including, waving, break dancing, popping, locking, and tutting. I didn’t know what that one was. When I asked, he was very cool about it, and went on to show me. I recognized it, but didn’t realize it had a name!

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Next up, was level 2 with the 9-12 year old age group (and up). This class was definitely more intense than the first. Grace clearly enjoyed herself as they learned their routine. After they had learned the entire thing, Robert split them into  3 groups. Roughly, it was the youngest girls, the older girls, and the boys. He had each group do the entire number once with him, once on their own, and then asked for 4 volunteers to perform it for every one else one more time. Grace volunteered. She also did a great job! After seeing the faces on some of the dancers when he said they’d be doing it on their own, he said to them, “Don’t worry if you screw up, just keep on dancin’! Have fun with it!”

There’s something incredibly joyous about watching your kids dance… it’s like seeing their souls being exposed. No matter how much they drive you crazy at times, watching them dance washes that away. One of the really cool things Robert did, was to talk to all the dancers after level 2 (he might have at the end of the session Michael took too, but I wasn’t in there for that one). He said (not quite a direct quote, but close) “Dance is a universal language. No matter what style you are dancing: ballet, contemporary, hip hop, street jazz… it’s all the same language. The moves might be different, but the emotions are all there… Some people might not get it, people at school… it’s OK, just keep on dancing. Don’t lose that passion…” I wish I had recorded his speech to them. It was amazing! I’m pretty sure even I was at the edge of my seat listening to him. How inspirational he was for those kids!

130In case it isn’t yet obvious, I was quite impressed with Robert Taylor Jr!! He taught the kids in a way that drew them in. They all worked hard to learn what he was teaching them, and he worked hard to connect with each one. He made a point to talk with each child, and to high five every single one. Both of my kids came out of their classes beaming! He also invited the parents to all come in during the level 2 class. I got some great photos, but that was not what made it so cool. What made it cool, was getting to hear how he taught, hear him laugh, hear his inspirational speech he gave…

This is the first time I have gotten to witness Master Classes. I know that Grace has gotten to experience them at Masquerade Nationals the past couple of years with judges and choreographers. She has also experienced master classes at LADC as Miss Maria has brought in guest choreographers to teach the dancers. I don’t know if they are all like what my kids got to experience today, but if they are – WOW!!! Take them, send your kids to them, and be thrilled that they are learning some cool new things from teachers other than the ones they are used to. What a great experience for everyone!

Thank you to Eau Claire School of Dance for inviting such a great guy to the studio to teach a day of Master Classes. Thank you to Miss Maria for excusing Grace from her regular classes so she could have this unique experience. And especially, thank you to Robert Taylor Jr (@D8Robert), for flying all the way out from New York City to teach the boys and girls some really fun hip hop routines!

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