Music for Class: Beatz for Boyz

GEO Hubela's ICONic hip-hop choices

Despite their short stature, the ICONic Boyz have a big stage presence. With sharp moves and a charisma beyond their years, these 15 youngsters between the ages of 9 and 14 always put on a good show. They’ve recently brought their standout skills and creative choreography to Madison Square Garden, The Apollo Theater and MTV’s “MADE.” The man behind the munchkins is GEO Hubela, owner of Icon Dance Complex in Englishtown, New Jersey. He and his sister Beth opened the studio five years ago, and it is now home to over 600 students (plus a growing waiting list) and seven kids’ companies, including the Boyz.

“A lot of people don’t realize that there’s a lot of technique in hip hop, and I teach my students those foundations,” Hubela says. “But they know that when they perform, they shouldn’t be focused on pointing their toes or popping really hard, because that should just be there. Onstage, they become entertainers.”

The ICONic Boyz

His student groups are based on ICONic, Hubela’s troupe featured on Season 1 of MTV’s “Randy Jackson Presents America’s Best Dance Crew.” Hubela has danced with Michael Jackson, Britney Spears, *NSYNC, PINK and Jennifer Lopez, and he teaches hip-hop master classes across the U.S.

“I’m a role model for my kids, especially the Boyz,” says Hubela. “Growing up, I was one of the only boys who danced, and I was looked down upon by many of my peers because of it. Now, I love to see these young boys becoming the little stars of the studio. Other kids look up to them, and audiences go nuts when they dance. It’s very personal for me, and I get extremely emotional when I see them perform.” DT

Artist: Michael Jackson

Album: Thriller

“Michael’s music will always be in my repertoire. I like to start class with an upbeat, faster song like ‘Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’.’ For across-the-floor, I love ‘Billie Jean,’ which is very funky, and the boys love to dance to it.”

Artist: Usher

Song: “DJ Got Us Falling in Love”

“I use more commercial songs like this for warm-up and stretching. The beat is funky and energetic. It’s also clean, to a degree (there are a couple of words that he fuzzes out). The kids know it, and they get excited when they hear it.”

Artist: Ne-Yo

Song: “Nobody”

“Not a lot of people know this song, but I like that it’s a little bit faster than an ordinary hip-hop song. Having a good tempo is important to me, because you’ve got to get the kids moving. If it’s too slow, you just can’t get them into it. I also love Ne-Yo’s ‘Because of You.’”

Artist: BoA

Album: BoA

“BoA is a Korean artist who I use for across-the-floor, progressions and routines. The kids love ‘Eat You Up.’ And she has another great song called ‘Energetic.’ I like to use things that aren’t too ordinary. The greatest tool that we have at our disposal is the internet. I’ve found great music while searching for ‘Korean hip hop’ or ‘UK hip hop’ and checking out what people are doing in other parts of the world.”

Artist: Justin Bieber

Song: “Somebody to Love” remix featuring Usher

“Justin Bieber is a great role model because he sings upbeat, happy music. The girls love him and the boys see that and think, ‘Look how much the girls love him. Imagine if that were me.’ Also, my 5- and 6-year-old hip-hop students really like ‘Eenie Meenie’ by Bieber and Sean Kingston.”

Photos: Courtesy of GEO Hubela (Top left photo by Rich Schaub)

Teaching Tips
A 2019 Dancewave training. Photo by Effy Grey, courtesy Dancewave

By now, most dance educators hopefully understand that they have a responsibility to address racism in the studio. But knowing that you need to be actively cultivating racial equity isn't the same thing as knowing how to do so.

Of course, there's no easy answer, and no perfect approach. As social justice advocate David King emphasized at a recent interactive webinar, "Cultivating Racial Equity in the Classroom," this work is never-ending. The event, hosted by Dancewave (which just launched a new racial-equity curriculum) was a good starting point, though, and offered some helpful takeaways for dance educators committed to racial justice.

Keep reading... Show less
Higher Ed
The author, Robyn Watson. Photo courtesy Watson

Recently, I posted a thread of tweets elucidating the lack of respect for tap dance in college dance programs, and arguing that it should be a requirement for dance majors.

According to onstageblog.com, out of the 30 top-ranked college dance programs in the U.S., tap dance is offered at 19 of them, but only one school requires majors to take more than a beginner course—Oklahoma City University. Many prestigious dance programs, like the ones at NYU Tisch School of the Arts and SUNY Purchase, don't offer a single course in tap dance.

Keep reading... Show less
Teaching Tips
Getty Images

After months of lockdowns and virtual learning, many studios across the country are opening their doors and returning to in-person classes. Teachers and students alike have likely been chomping at the bit in anticipation of the return of dance-class normalcy that doesn't require a reliable internet connection or converting your living room into a dance space.

But along with the back-to-school excitement, dancers might be feeling rusty from being away from the studio for so long. A loss of flexibility, strength and stamina is to be expected, not to mention emotional fatigue from all of the uncertainty and reacclimating to social activities.

So as much as everyone wants to get back to normal—teachers and studio owners included—erring on the side of caution with your dancers' training will be the most beneficial approach in the long run.

Keep reading... Show less

Get Dance Business Weekly in your inbox

Sign Up Used in accordance with our Privacy Policy.