Where to take hip hop dance classes in the Bay Area during COVID-19

Footage from Allan Frias’ weekend classes through Dance Mission

Usually at the start of the year I would have posted an update to all the hip hop dance classes I recommend in the Bay Area. But as we’ve all experienced, the start of this year was not normal and I every time I would try to write about joyful dance experiences, it was just hard. I’ve been doing online dance classes for years and while I do enjoy it, I’ll be the first to say….it’s not the same as being in class with other people. It’s just not. It’s safer for sure and it’s on my own time. Where else could I take a hip hop dance class at 6am without a mask? It can only happen at home! But I miss being with people in class. I miss seeing the teacher in front of me. I miss the mirrors. I miss it all.

Now as the year has progressed and vaccines are becoming more and more available, we’re slowly coming out of our quarantined spaces and venturing out into the world. This makes me very excited because that means we are able to dance with one another.

HOWEVER.

I’m not ready to go inside. I know indoor studios are opening up with reduced capacity but I’m just not emotionally ready to do that. I’m including the studios I’ve known in the past who are opening indoor classes and that I trust are doing all the right things….but honestly the only classes I’m going to are outdoors and online.

I’ve gone to several outdoor classes and each time it’s been perfect. Air is flowing, people are distanced, the music is pumping, and I’m sneaker high-fiving and booty bumping with my dance friends again. Also note, I haven’t gone to every one of these outdoor classes, just a few. Why? Many reasons. Timing. I’m dead tired from roller skating. Life. I will only go to a outdoor dance class that has bathrooms nearby. So if you know of an outdoor class I must join, do tell.

So understand this list below is not as comprehensive as I would normally write. It’s my personal experience and if you feel I’ve missed somebody let me know and I’ll add them. If I’m more detailed about one space vs. another it’s because I’ve only gone to a few outdoor classes. I’m watching all these classes through IG and just salivating how good everyone is. And hoping one day we’ll all feel safe to be in a studio together indoors without masks.

Tips for outdoor classes

Thankfully we live in the Bay Area which means you’re not taking outdoor class in the snow or in a hurricane settings. It’s typically extremely sunny so bring a hat, bring lots of sunscreen, and bring MULTIPLE MASKS. You do not want to be in class with one mask and end up accidentally waterboarding yourself with a sweat soaked mask. It will happen. Trust me. Bay Area microclimates are real so come out in layers but know you are going to be shedding them as the class progresses.

If you’re like me and you like to record, I have found that being in the back is ideal. You can setup the camera in front of you but you’re behind all the students. This solves the problem of other students who hate being recorded. Now the camera is only on you and also you can use your camera as a mirror. Which is great because usually in these outdoor classes, THERE’S NO MIRROR. I thought I would hate that but honestly having no mirror has become super liberating.

Masks I use for dance: Happy Mask | Boco Gear Performance X Mask

Hats ideal for dance in the sun: Visor with a wide brim | Vimhue hats with a hole for a ponytail
If you think wearing a big ol’ hat looks dorky and uncool that’s fine. You can continue sweating in the hot sun. I’m wearing it and I’m completely shaded and feeling wonderful.

You are dancing on concrete so take note of that especially if you haven’t danced in a while. Dancing on concrete is really hard on your body so if you remember being able to do three hours in studio, it feels very different on concrete. For me I felt like I got hit with a truck and it took me a few days to feel ok. Now I’m used to it but OOF THAT WAS ROUGH.

Bay Area Hip Hop Dance Classes

theDrop – Devi Hadsell
I’ve known Devi ever since she taught at Uforia so I knew she brought the fierceness every time. So when she announced that she’s doing silent disco hip hop dance I was like REALLY? TELL ME MORE? theDrop is the ONLY outdoor dance class that I’ve heard that provides headphones that have shared audio with the rest of the class. What this means is you can be in a huge park setting and you will be able to clearly hear the music and the instructor because you are wearing recently sterilized headphones. This is key because as you may have noticed in parks, there could be two Zumba classes nearby with speakers blasting different music but you’re only going to hear the music for Devi’s class along with her voice. The sound is actually better than in real classes because you can hear everything, even Devi heavily breathing as she’s teaching you one of her amazing choreos. Devi is the Co-Founder of theDrop and they provide not only hip hop classes from her and other great choreographers but they also do yoga.
This is what you look like dancing with headphones and a mask.
Classes are mostly based in Palo Alto but they do venture out to the city with special classes.
You need to sign up in advance so they have enough headphones for the entire class.
Website | IG

Allan Frias
Allan is a legend and there’s a reason for that. He’s the best teacher, he’s got the best dance moves, and he’s goddamn hilarious. If you took his indoor classes at Dance Mission you know why his classes were ALWAYS packed. No he’s not easy, but it doesn’t matter. You go because his choreography feels amazing on you and even if you don’t get it the first time, or the second, or the third you will still have a great time. I wasn’t sure how Allan’s classes were going to translate outdoors but after much urging from several dance friends, I took his class outdoors and I kicked myself for waiting too long. The vibe of his classes outdoors are just as good as when they were indoors. The speaker is loud enough for everyone to hear, the outdoor space at St Mary’s is big enough for people to move around wherever they want and still feel safely distanced. And the choreography!!! Oh my god girl, he has not let up on the quality and length. You will be given a 90 minute class that will challenge you and you will love it.
Video from one of my favorite Allan routines outdoors under the sun.
Book classes through Dance Mission Theater | IG

Roryography – Rory Davis
I first learned about Rory from his online class and let me tell you, BIG JOY. Look at my face, I’m so happy. The moves may be beginner but the joy is advanced level endorphin insanity. Rory has got an energy and light that you gravitate to even when it’s covered up in a mask. His online classes are great but his outdoor classes are even better.
Website | IG

On One Studios
I know On One brings out some of the most innovative dancers in the area and was worried that some of the intricate moves would be harder to learn outdoors. Especially since there are no mirrors. Plus you are dancing between the dance studio and a Target so how does it feel? IT FEELS GREAT. On Saturdays there’s two classes that are back to back and it’s worth going to both. I went to Max and Anthony’s classes and the time just flew by. The speakers are loud, the teachers are so helpful and generous, and the choreography = perfection.
What it looks like in an outdoor On One Studios class.
Website | IG

In the Groove Studios
This studio always has my heart because they are led by Leslie Panitchpakdi and Daniel Kang, two of the most talented choreographers in the area and they’re just lovely people. They have been going back indoors with limited capacity but they still do outdoor classes and they look amazing. Big distanced crowds, loud music, and fantastic choreography. I have not been because the distance is too far from me and COVID has changed me, I only feel comfortable doing classes in the morning. In the Groove classes are in the evening and all my dance friends who have gone LOVE EVERY MINUTE OF IT. I’m an old lady and just can’t go out after night falls. They’re young. I get it. So go and be bold and dance with some of the best choreographers in the area at In the Groove.
Website | IG

Full Out Studios
One of the first hip hop dance classes I ever took was with Emerson Aquino and he’s still holding strong at his studio in Oakland. They are doing select indoor classes but the majority I’ve seen is all outdoors in a space that is right next to their studio. They’ve got hip hop with Rocko Luciano, jazz funk with Alli Fritz, sass & grooves with Brandon Davis, and a bunch of pop up guests that visit them weekly. I haven’t gone to their outdoor classes but all my dance friends who have gone regularly to Full Out ADORE IT.
Website | IG

Uforia Studios
When COVID hit and studios started thinking about how to adjust to our new world, I wondered how Uforia was going to handle it. And oh my, they handled it very well. Sadly they don’t have classes any more in Palo Alto or the Mission, but classes are going strong at their Nob Hill location. And the reason for this is they have a driveway right in front of their space that allows them to not only host dance classes….but spinning classes. I don’t bike but I know this is important for my Peloton obsessed friends. The driveway is kind of on a slant and if you’re in the back middle spot there is a divot that’s not so great to be on. BUT it doesn’t matter. The dance classes there are solid and totally fun. they’ve got Ariel Krizack, Esteban Deleon, and my joy Joseph Lagare. The music is pumping, the choreo is fantastic, and you will definitely sweat.
Website | IG

Kristin Damrow
Ok, technically she’s not hip hop. She’s contemporary. Only does online classes but they’re worth every minute. You will be swirly and writhing in joy with her moves. I love her energy and everything she teaches me.
Website | IG

The list of studios that are hosting online/outdoor/indoor/hybrid classes that I know about are below.

City Dance (online only) – Website | IG
Dance Mission Theater (online and in person) Website | IG
Dancevibes (online only) – Website | IG
Esteban Deleon (online and in person) Website | IG
Funky Bees (online and in person ) Website | IG
JJ Ghera (in person) Website | IG
Lee Pazmino – BodyBeatz (in person and online) Website | IG
Lines Ballet – they don’t just do ballet. They do MORE (online) Website | IG
Liza Erpelo – U-Jam Fitness (outdoors and indoors) Facebook | IG
Montage Dance Productions (online and outdoors) Website | IG
Mood Studio (hybrid – virtual and in person, in person, and virtual) – Website | IG
ODC (online) Website | IG
Rae Studios (hybrid – virtual and in person, in person, and virtual) – Website | IG
re.DEFINE Dance Studio (hybrid, indoors, outdoors, online) Website | IG
Sexitude (outdoors and online) – Website | IG
Shereen Prince ( outdoors) – Book through EHS Pilates | FB


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