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Chris Brown's Backup Dancers Fell in Love, and Now They Travel the Country Teaching

Randi Kemper and Hefa Tuita. Photo by Lee Cherry, courtesy of 24 Seven Dance Convention

To celebrate Valentine's Day in the most dance-centric way possible, we sat down with five powerhouse dance-teaching couples to talk about their love stories. What do they admire about each other? What are their couple goals and their teaching philosophies, and how do they make their relationships work, especially when they work together? Get ready to swoon!


If you've ever taken a class from Randi Kemper and Hefa Tuita, you know that their number-one teaching priority is to have fun. Week after week they travel the convention circuit with 24 Seven Dance Convention, spreading the joy of hip hop with aspiring dancers. After growing up as competition dancers (Kemper trained in Colorado with Michelle Latimer Dance Academy, and Tuita trained in Utah at Center Stage Performing Arts Studio), they know that their students need a good and uplifting experience. They have each enjoyed professional commercial dancing careers, having worked with Beyoncé, Jennifer Lopez, Janet Jackson and others. For five years, they worked together as dance captains and backup dancers for Chris Brown.

Randi: We first met on an MTV Video Music Awards performance gig, where we performed with Usher. The job was super-fleeting, so we didn't get to know each other that well, but we were definitely impressed with each other. Nothing happened until six months later, when we both booked Chris Brown's tour. When you work a tour, everyone who is out there becomes family, and it was the perfect place for our relationship to grow.

Tuita and Kemper teach at the Dance AwardsPhoto by Nick Serian (courtesy of Break the Floor Productions)

Hefa: Randi is such a confident performer. I was drawn to her the moment I saw her dance on that Usher job. She is the kind of dancer who pulls your eye to her for all the right reasons. When you watch her, you know that she was born to do this, and you can't look away.

Randi: We hit a point in our lives where we knew that we wanted to transition out of backup dancing. We had done it for a long time and felt like we had fulfilled what we needed to. Around that time Break the Floor called and offered a chance for us to teach at a NUVO in Dallas. We were honestly terrified. We felt so young and inexperienced, but by the end of the weekend we were totally fulfilled. We realized that we had a lot to give to the rising generation, and it felt like this is what we were supposed to be doing right now.

Hefa: We find balance just by living minute by minute. It can be really challenging. We are sure to take advantage of the hours that we have off, and really spend them together. We like to go fishing with our dog, and we schedule vacation days when we can. Thankfully, though, we get to do this together. I would never want to do this by myself. We are so lucky to travel side by side.

Randi: Hefa knows how to connect to his students no matter what age they are. When it comes to the minis, he is really just a big little kid at heart. He is always making them laugh, and if they ever cry, he knows exactly how to turn it around and get them smiling again. When he works with the older students, he brings a warm energy into class that makes the kids want to have fun. There is nothing intimidating about him.

Hefa: Everything we choreograph to has to be super-fun. We look for music that can stand on its own when it comes to bringing an exciting energy into the room. If it comes on and we look at each other like "Ahhhh," then we know it's the right one. Lately we've been doing throwback songs, which are super-nostalgic for us. Current hip-hop music is a little scary, so we like to go back in time to bring our students some happy stuff.


Meet the four other couples including Kirven and Antonio Bouthit-Boyd, Simon Ball and Frances Perez-Ball, Allison DeBona and Rex Tilton and Allison Holker and Stephen "tWitch" Boss.

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New York–based jazz scholar and teacher Melanie George notices that many students' relationships to music can be reductive: They may think exclusively about lyrics or accents. But jazz, for example, is about swinging: an embodied comprehension of instrumentation that only comes with musical acuity. "Students are ready for this specificity, even if we aren't giving it to them," she says. When her students understand that there is a technique to listening, it becomes less about going forward, and more about going deeper into the sound and into their bodies.

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Morrissey (left). Photo courtesy of Interlochen Center for the Arts

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Dance Theatre of Harlem's Derek Brockington and Da'Von Doane in Claudia Schreier's Passage. Photo by Brian Callan, courtesy of DTH

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Physical therapist Meredith Butulis in action. Photo courtesy of Twin Cities Orthopedics

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