Kelly Dailey is breaking beats—and boundaries—with a new studio business model in Dayton, Ohio.

Clean music, appropriate moves. Dailey (wearing hat, above) keeps hip hop modest at Funk Lab.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hip-hop classes have long been a viable means of attracting boys to dance studios, but what happens when the entire studio is devoted to hip hop? Forty percent male enrollment may sound like a pipe dream, but it’s a fact for Kelly Dailey’s Dayton, Ohio–based Funk Lab—and her numbers are going up. Funk Lab is one of a handful of pioneering studios around the country that specialize in hip hop. And with the successful wave of hip hop–centric competitions such as Monsters of Hip Hop, VIBE Dance Competition and World of Dance, more studios seem destined to follow.

“I would say it’s not a growing trend—it’s a growing culture,” says Shaun Evaristo, who founded the touring urban dance convention, Movement Lifestyle, in 2009. “The form of hip hop has been around for a long time, but it’s starting to flourish and grow more than ever before. People want it, so there are more companies looking to fill that demand.”

Dailey can certainly attest to the demand. Since she first opened Funk Lab in 2011, enrollment has more than tripled, growing from 80 to 260 students. Though jazz funk and contemporary are offered, the focus is almost exclusively on hip hop. Styles like breaking, popping, locking and krump are the name of the game, and the syllabus includes viral street moves like the “Nae Nae” and education on hip-hop history. “Right now, hip-hop studios are few and far between, but there are enough styles of hip hop where you can operate a hip hop–only studio and succeed,” says Dailey.

She opened the studio because she herself had experienced limited resources as a street dancer growing up in Dayton. She moved to Chicago after college to train at Lou Conte Dance Studio, then returned to Dayton to teach at Howard School of Dance, where she created an advanced hip-hop program. “The program at Howard became very successful, and Funk Lab grew out of that,” she says. “I told the owner shortly after my last recital that I wanted to open my own space and just do hip hop, and that I didn’t consider myself a competitor.” The two reached an understanding that Dailey was free to solicit students from her competitive program at Howard as long as she did not reach out to the recreational hip-hop students.

Starting from scratch, Dailey worked closely with her husband (and studio co-owner) Andrew to develop a science-centric branding theme. “My husband suggested we call it a lab, since that’s where you make and invent things,” she says. That concept is incorporated throughout the studio—from the wall graffiti art (mad scientists stirring up musical notes) to the competitive crew names (like Electronz and Lab Werk). “I try to make sure the marketing is gender-neutral and that the studio space is inviting for everyone,” she adds.

Performance opportunities are a big part of the draw. Funk Lab competitive crews attend Monsters of Hip Hop, Star Systems and Legacy Dance Championships. The annual May recital has featured themes ranging from Charlie Chaplin to Super Mario Brothers. The studio also stages flash mobs for everything from a marriage proposal to arts festivals in Dayton.

One of the most popular classes is Advanced Urban Choreography, taught by crew co-director Toni Denee. “We learn music video–style choreography, clean and perfect it, and then record a video at the end of every month; the kids seem to really enjoy that structure,” says Denee, adding that one of her favorite routines was a Super Bowl–themed homage to Missy Elliott (for which all of the dancers wore football jerseys). Many of the videos are posted to the studio’s YouTube channel, “FunkLabDCAC.”

A mad scientist motif plays out in studio graffiti art.

Like all studio owners, Dailey faces certain challenges—for instance, there is what she calls “revolving door syndrome.” “People come in expecting to look like tWitch [from ‘So You Think You Can Dance’] in one class, and then they realize that it takes a lot of work,” she says. To reduce turnover, she implemented a costume fee for the spring recital that’s paid in the fall; that strategy has helped to lower turnover from 40 to 8 percent. “People stick around since they’ve invested,” she says.

Part of Dailey’s charge is to change certain perceptions about hip hop. “I’m constantly defending myself that we play clean music and that our moves are appropriate,” she says. “We’re a more modest studio—we don’t wear anything that shows midriffs—but it’s sometimes hard for people to get past that initial stereotype.”

Both passionate and protective over the unique environment at Funk Lab, Dailey says, “I feel like we’re inventing something here.” For that reason, she tends to hire former students or trusted colleagues she’s known for years. That’s how Denee came onboard as co-director: The two met nine years ago when they were both members of a street dance group. “In terms of the syllabus, I want my teachers doing what I created rather than what they learned from someone else,” Dailey says. “It keeps us true to the Funk Lab form.” DT

Jen Jones Donatelli is a Los Angeles–based freelance journalist who regularly contributes to Dance Teacher, Dance Spirit and Dance Magazine.

Photos by Bill Franz, courtesy of Funk Lab

The Conversation
Dancer Health
Getty Image

Here are a few ways to keep this major muscle group in check.

Keep reading... Show less

Showstopper sees all types of different dancers from across the world at their dance competitions. Sometimes it can be hard to know how to stand out among the 100s of dancers that perform on their stages.

Keep reading... Show less
Just for fun

Here's "The Twelve Days of Christmas" dance teacher style! Try your hand at writing your own lyrics to the song, and share it over on our Facebook page.

You may even want to sing this at your studio's holiday party this year—it's a smash, if we do say so ourselves 💁.

You're welcome!

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
via Youtube

Finding music is arguably the most challenging aspect of choreography. Songs that speak to you in a deep and genuine way are seriously hard to come by! To help, here are five music artists who provide choreography inspiration magic to all who listen to them. They're all the rage this year, and if you follow their music down the rabbit hole of streaming services long enough, you'll find exactly what you're looking for, for your next group number or solo.

You're welcome!

Keep reading... Show less
Dance News
Photo credits, clockwise from bottom left: Peter Mueller, Courtesy Cincinnati Ballet; Jayme Thornton; Jochen Viehoff, Courtesy Stephanie Troyak; Karolina Kuras, Courtesy National Ballet of Canada; Natasha Razina, Courtesy State Academic Mariinsky Theatre; Kim Kenney, Courtesy Atlanta Ballet; Jim Lafferty; Arian Molina Soca, Courtesy Pennsylvania Ballet; Altin Kaftira, Courtesy Dutch National Ballet; Scott Shaw, Courtesy Shamar Wayne Watt

Every year we love to see Dance Magazine's coveted list of the dancers, choreographers and companies that are on the verge of skyrocketing in the field of dance. This year's picks are nothing short of exceptional.

Congratulations to these 25 up-and-coming artists!

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by TutuTix
Photo by Gez Xavier Mansfield on Unsplash

The start of a new calendar year—smack dab in the middle of the studio year—often brings its own challenges, issues and focuses. Here are two big questions on the minds of studio-business leaders as they head into 2019.

Are we giving our students what they really need? After taking some senior dancers to college dance auditions, Dale Lam noticed how they struggled with the modern portion. "They did fine in ballet," she says, "but then when it came to the modern part, they were fish out of water."
Her approach Lam hired a modern teacher for Horton and Graham techniques at her South Carolina–based studio, Columbia City Jazz Dance School & Company. She could see the difference in her dancers after only a few months. "I feel like I'm actually getting them more of what they're going to need—providing them the education they'll need after competitions."

What to do about the demand for instant gratification? Suzanne Blake Gerety and Kathy Blake have noticed a disturbing trend with parents new to dance at their Amherst, New Hampshire, studio. Gerety calls it push-button mentality: "They think, 'If I can get Amazon to ship my package overnight, why can't I get my kid to take class just once a week and get them on pointe?'"
Their approach "It's communicating to parents how it works at our studio, how you progress here and what the benefits of dance are," she says. They hold informational sessions at parent nights, including details of intensive and competition track options. They also invite alumni to help run recitals and assist with summer intensives as a way to demonstrate what studio graduates look like.

Studio Owners who try TutuTix for their Spring 2019 Recitals can get a $222 Visa Gift Card. Click here to learn more.

Dancer Health
Performing Dance Arts dancers at The Dance Awards in Florida 2018 (via @performingdancearts Instagram)

Needing some inspiration for how to celebrate the holidays with your dancers? We've got you covered. Check out how Performing Dance Arts (The Dance Awards Orlando 2018 Studio of the Year), of Toronto, Canada, brings dancers together and strengthens studio bonds throughout the Christmas season.

Let us know over on our Facebook page what you like to do with your dancers to celebrate this time of year.

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer Health

Q: Some teach that a tendu à la seconde should align across from the toes on the supporting side, whereas others teach that it should be directly across from the heel. I feel aligning with the heel is ultimately correct, but I prefer to teach dancers to align with the toes because it's safer. What do you think?

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer Health
"We think as dancers, 'Oh my gosh, if this thing isn't working hard enough, I have to work it harder.' In order for these muscles to work, they have to have a chance to relax, too." –Kathryn Maykish

As deeply familiar as dancers are with their bodies, there's one muscle group that can remain mysterious. You can't see it, and it can be tough to access, but the pelvic floor serves a major role in your posture and body function. Dancers and other athletes are more prone than the general population to dysfunction of the pelvic floor, and this can have major ramifications in dance and life.

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Owners
Getty

The holidays are here, and as everyone knows, the real best way to spread Christmas cheer is serving your community and helping those in need. Luckily for dance teachers, dance studios are the perfect backdrop for the start of some seriously awesome service projects. Your dancers will learn the value of helping others, and you will all feel warm and fuzzy inside!

Check out these three service-project ideas, and try implementing them at your studio this season. Let us know over on our Facebook page, or in the comments below, what other projects you do at your studio that make a difference in your community!

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Eva Stone directs The Stone Dance Collective, shown here in Eve, reconsidered. Photo by Rex Tranter, courtesy of The Stone Dance Collective

Unlike the majority of my students and colleagues, my journey in dance has been unorthodox. At age 14, I enrolled in modern dance at my high school, and something about the large open studio with room to move thrilled me (and still does). I immediately set out to impress my dance teacher with my complete repertoire, a solo interpretation of "Bohemian Rhapsody" created in my living room, infused with several badly self-taught ice-skating moves. In that moment, an awareness of the power of movement, music, space and performance aligned, and I instinctively knew I was someplace special.

My high school dance teacher was smart. Knowing that she did not have the time to mold us into technically proficient dancers, she introduced us to the craft and skill of making dances. I spent four years opening the door to my creative voice, becoming a confident choreographer. As a dance major in college, however, I quickly realized I was lacking something very important: actual dance training. So I began an intense regimen of studying, analyzing, copying, stealing and emulating every movement language, quality and nuance with which I could connect. Later, I completed a master's degree in choreography and choreological studies, formed a small dance company and set out to fund my artist's life with teaching.

As a modern dancer, and having come to dance late, communication and imagery were significant in managing the demands of my training. I had to ask a lot of questions, because I had not yet developed a physical vocabulary of answers. I needed a sense of humor, to prevent me from quitting. I had to negotiate, rationalize, moderate and articulate, both verbally and physically, a pathway through much of what I was performing in or choreographing. This allowed me to solve problems more creatively, from a place separate from a perspective of pure technical ability. I now use these same methods for teaching students.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by TutuTix
Photo by Allef Vinicius via Unsplash

The holidays can make this time of year fly by. But successful studio directors know that December is not the time to rest on their laurels. Here are four projects to consider this month to give your business a year-end boost.

Keep reading... Show less

Sponsored

Videos

Sponsored

mailbox

Get DanceTeacher in your inbox

Win It!

Sponsored