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Flava 101: Toronto's Brand New 'Street Dance Academy'

When I first started breaking, it was pretty hard to find people who could teach me. I only had one or two friends who danced, and finding any studios that offered anything beyond ballet, jazz or tap was near impossible . Thanks to b-girl Maehem of Shebang crew, aspiring students of urban dance styles can now simply drop by her brand new Street Dance Academy located at the north- west corner of Queen and Spadina. I recently had a chance to chat with Maehem about dancing, the Toronto scene, and her new studio.

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How long have you been dancing? How long for each style?

I've been doing lindy hop for eight to nine years, which is the original form of swing dancing, and I've been breaking for seven years. Those are the two dances I've actually trained in. I've done classes in other styles, but I wouldn't go the length of saying I'm a popper or a locker. I just enjoy dancing!

When and how did you come up with the idea of opening a dance school focused on urban styles?

This has been in the planning for two years. I had another job which I wasn't happy with. Through traveling for dancing I saw that the different street dances were connected as a community. That unfortunately wasn't the case in Toronto, so I felt that this was something that our city really needed. I also feel that people here don't know much about street dances and I want them to learn about them and respect them for what they really are.

How was the process of getting the space? You and I both know as b-people that space is not easy to secure.

*Laughs* I was ready to kill people and myself! It was really frustrating. To find people that were willing to open a studio that wasn't going to have jazz or tap was very hard. Also, I wanted to have it downtown rather than in the suburbs because obviously it would be easier to find and it would make more sense given the street styles we teach.

Which classes do you expect to be the most popular?

I would say the hip-hop classes because it is something that people find easier to understand. But we also have a liquid hip-hop class which could be popular as well because it's a twist on something people can relate to. Overall I think each class will be popular in its own niche or group. For example, House dancing is targeting a very specific group of people and those classes will be popular with them.

Do you ever plan on having out of town dancers hold workshops or seminars?

Oh yeah definitely. At the moment we are finding people who are traveling to hold master classes. We already have top dancers in Toronto teaching master classes and as the studio grows, we hope to have teachers come in from Europe, Asia and other places around the world.

How do you feel about Toronto's urban dance scene?

I think we have a lot of talent, but I also think sometimes our egos are too big. We should just let our skills do the talking.

Are you working on any other projects right now?

I plan on having battles and showcases in the studio in the future. I'm also dancing for the Toronto Raptors!

Do you have any advice for people who are interested in attending classes at your studio?

Drop in! I would recommend comfortable clothes and sneakers. No high heels please!

Any last words, comments, shoutouts?

I hope to see you come through!

Street Dance Academy
160 Spadina Ave, 2nd Floor
416.840.4934
http://www.myspace.com/streetdanceacademy
http://www.streetdanceacademy.com/


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