by Natalie Gainer for The Dance Journal
Philadelphia celebrated National Dance Day on July 30, 2016 with a diverse array of workshops at several dance studios across the city. With open level classes in styles ranging from Bhangra to Ballet to Israeli Partner Dancing, these studios attracted dancers with a myriad of interests and skill levels. For Dance Day, I attended three Philly Dance Fitness workshops at Major Movement Studio: FierceFunk Hip Hop, JazzTech, and Bollywood Blast. The workshops not only provided an unique, high-energy workout to beginner students but also created a lively space in which dancers of all levels were free to celebrate their art form.
First on my Dance Day roster was FierceFunk Hip-Hop, taught by Philly Dance Fitness’ Maya Sethuraman. The class was packed from wall to wall with excited students, and Sethuraman maintained their energy with her enthusiastic and fast-paced teaching style. Sethuraman taught a simple hip hop combination that allowed less experienced students to learn quickly and more experienced students to embellish and alter their movements to their own liking. As she drilled the combination again and again, students of all levels were able to grasp her upbeat movement style and make them their own. While the class was far too large for Sethuraman to provide students with individual attention and technical corrections, she created a welcoming environment for anyone who wished to have fun, dance, and get an excellent workout.
After working up a sweat in FierceFunk Hip-Hop, I dug my heels into Beverly Holskin’s JazzTech class. In contrast to the first class, JazzTech focused not on providing students with a fun workout but on introducing beginner students to proper classical jazz technique. Holskin led us through an abridged version of a typical jazz class as we performed stretches, isolations, pirouettes, and finally a Fosse-inspired center combination. While Holskin’s encouraging attitude and contagious love for movement kept her students motivated, her class seemed to lack certain critical elements of technical jazz training. For example, although students were asked to perform pirouette turns, they were not taught any of the exercises–such as pliés, relevés, and balances–that are the foundation for executing them. Holskin’s positivity and sassy choreography certainly make for an engaging class; however, JazzTech may not be a top choice for students looking to learn and refine their classical jazz technique.
Major Movement Studio’s class roster ended on a high note with Antima Marandola’s Bollywood Blast course. This class integrated North Indian folk dances with contemporary hip hop movements to create a nonstop forty-five minute workout. Marandola’s movements were simultaneously grandiose and intricate: one second she dropped to the floor in a deep crouching position only to quickly rise and perform a series of kicks; the next second, she softly yet swiftly rolled her wrists in order to smoothly articulate her fingers. These subtler movements captured the interests of some of the more advanced students, while the larger movements provided an intense workout and engaged the entire class. Marandola’s merging of a detail-oriented Indian dance style with a high-energy hip hop routine appealed to dance students both new and old.
Major Movement Studio hosted Philadelphia Dance Day zealously with its diverse class offerings and its welcoming, beginner-friendly environment. While the studio may not cater to students who are looking to expand their technical talents, it does offer an unique array of courses in which one might discover new talents. Dancers looking for a friendly atmosphere, a challenging workout, and some new moves to show off on their next night on the town should pay Major Movement Studio a visit.