Dance Teachers Trending

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.

The Conversation
Dance Teachers Trending
Photo courtesy of Hightower

The beloved "So You Think You Can Dance" alum and former Emmy-nominated "Dancing with the Stars" pro Chelsie Hightower discovered her passion for ballroom at a young age. She showed a natural ability for the Latin style, but she mastered the necessary versatility by studying jazz, ballet and other forms of dance. "Every style of dance builds on each other," she says, "and the more music you're exposed to, the more your rhythm and coordination is built."

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Harlequin Floors
Burklyn Ballet, Courtesy Harlequin

Whether you're putting on a pair of pointe shoes, buckling your ballroom stilettos or lacing up your favorite high tops, the floor you're on can make or break your dancing. But with issues like sticking or slipping and a variety of frictions suitable to different dance steps and styles, it can be confusing to know which floor will work best for you.

No matter what your needs are, Harlequin Floors has your back, or rather, your feet. With 11 different marley vinyl floors available in a range of colors, Harlequin has options for every setting and dance style. We rounded up six of their most popular and versatile floors:

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Insure Fitness
AdobeStock, Courtesy Insure Fitness Group

As a teacher at a studio, you've more than likely developed long-lasting relationships with some of your students and parents. The idea that you could be sued by one of them might seem impossible to imagine, but Insure Fitness Group's Gianna Michalsen warns against relaxing into that mindset. "People say, 'Why do I need insurance? I've been working with these people for 10 years—we're friends,'" she says. "But no one ever takes into account how bad an injury can be. Despite how good your relationship is, people will sue you because of the toll an injury takes on their life."

You'll benefit most from an insurance policy that caters to the specifics of teaching dance at one or several studios. Here's what to look for:

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Owners
Getty Images

If you're not prepared, studio picture day can be a real headache. But, if done right, it can provide you with gorgeous photos that will make your students and parents happy, while simultaneously providing you with marketing content you will be able to use for years to come.

Here are five tips that will help you pull off the day without a hitch.

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Success with Just for Kix
Bill Johnson, Courtesy Just for Kix

Running a dance studio is a feat in itself. But adding a competition team into the mix brings a whole new set of challenges. Not only are you focusing on giving your dancers the best training possible, but you're navigating the fast-paced competition and convention circuit. Winning is one goal, but you also want to create an environment that's fun, educational and inspiring for young artists. We asked Cindy Clough, executive director of Just For Kix and a studio owner with over 40 years of experience, for her advice on building a healthy dance team culture:

Keep reading... Show less
Just for fun
Via YouTube

In its 14 years of existence, YouTube has been home to a world of competition dance videos that we have all consumed with heedless pleasure. Every battement, pirouette and trendy move has been archived somewhere, and we are all very thankful.

We decided it was time DT did a deep dive through those years of footage to show you the evolution of competition dance since the early days of YouTube.

From 2005 to 2019, styles have shifted a whole lot. Check them out, and let us know over on our Facebook page what you think the biggest differences are!

Enjoy!

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by World Class Vacations
David Galindo Photography

New York City is a dream destination for many dancers. However aspiring Broadway stars don't have to wait until they're pros to experience all the city has to offer. With Dance the World Broadway, students can get a taste of the Big Apple—plus hone their dance skills and make lasting memories.

Here's why Dance the World Broadway is the best way for students to experience NYC:

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Photo courtesy of Koelliker

Sick of doing the same old stuff in technique class? Needing some across-the-floor combo inspiration? We caught up with three teachers from different areas of the country to bring you some of their favorite material for their day-to-day classes.

You're welcome!

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer Health
Thinkstock

Q: I have a very flexible spine and torso. My teachers tell me to use this flexibility during cambrés and port de bras, but when I do, I feel pain—mostly in my lower back. What should I change so I don't end up with back problems?

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Owners
Getty Images

If you're a studio owner, the thought of raising your rates most likely makes you cringe. Despite ever-increasing overhead expenses you can't avoid—rent, salaries, insurance—you're probably wary of alienating your customers, losing students or inviting confrontation if you increase the price of your tuition or registration and recital fees. DT spoke with three veteran studio owners who suggest it's time to get past that. Here's how to give your business the revenue boost it needs and the value justification it (and you) deserve.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teachers Trending
Margie Gillis (left); photo by Kyle Froman

Margie Gillis dances the human experience. Undulating naked in a field of billowing grass in Lessons from Nature 4, or whirling in a sweep of lilac fabric in her signature work Slipstream, her movement is free of flashy technique and tricks, but driven and defined by emotion. "There's a central philosophy in my work about what the experience of being human is," says Gillis, whose movement style is an alchemy of Isadora Duncan's uninhibited self-expression and Paul Taylor's musicality, blended with elements of dance theater into something utterly unique and immediately accessible. "I want an authenticity," she says. "I want to touch my audiences profoundly and deeply."

Keep reading... Show less

mailbox

Get DanceTeacher in your inbox