Student becomes teacher in the only hip hop dance studio on the Central Coast
San Luis Obipso, CA 94301
Membership Required: No
Price: $50 for all you can dance each month, or $10 per lesson (first lesson is NOT free)
Distance from the old Rec Center: 4.7 Miles
Courts: None (It’s a studio)
“The ideal student is the one that wants to improve their dance skills, not someone who just wants to work out or someone who’s only there because their parents put them there.”
I’m on the phone with Heidi Asefvaziri, Cal Poly accounting major and hip- hop choreographer at SLO’s strictly street- style dance studio, Street Heat off South Higuera.
Heidi teaches “probably 98%” of Street Heat’s dance classes: The Sidewalk (for kids 4 to 10), The Bikelane (10 to 18), The Streets: Hip Hop (guys and girls over 18), The Streets: Diva (girls only 18 and over), Jazz Funk and Contemporary. The Streets: Hip Hop and Diva both come in beginner, intermediate, and advanced varieties. I recently tagged along for a 1 ½ hour Advanced/ Intermediate session of The Streets, where the coed group learned choreography to Chris Brown’s “Oh My Love”. This is not one of those friendly Dance for Dummies classes where they break down the legs and arms separately or dance to predictable music. This is hardcore, bona fide hip- hop, where the teacher says “tick” instead of a number and “pop” and “shuffle” are about as ubiquitous as “walk” and “run”. “How many of you are still feeling awkward?” Heidi shouts after we completed the first 8- count. She’s met with breathless smiles and half- confused looks.
“It’s kind of nice to take it, not teach it,” says Nony Okoye, who also choreographs.
Right off the bat, Street HEAT screams hip- hop. One of the walls is a garage door and the other three are covered in graffiti and scribbles from all the peeps who’ve passed through. Asefvaziri tries to represent hip- hop in a positive way, especially to the younger dancers.
“These kids are growing up with a lot, as far as media and wanting to be cool. These kids would probably be the bullies of the school if they didn’t have dance discipline. When they think of graffiti or hip- hop they think of negative things, but there’s a positive side of graffiti. There’s a positive side of hip hop. We’re the positive side.”
The infectious energy and community spirit would definitely keep me out of gang related activities were I an unruly youngster. Experience means nothing to Heidi, who’s been dancing and choreographing hip- hop since she “fell in love with it” in March 2009. An LA instructor told her she had that “It” quality and after five lessons she was up at the front of the class teaching the moves, first at the Academy of Dance and then at her self- operated business. Although many of her students may come from thorough dance backgrounds, passion and room for improvement outweigh any objective qualifications.
“I can’t put someone who’s been dancing for 15 years next to someone who’s been dancing for three months in the studio. You can’t tell the difference.”
She mentioned dancing alone in your room, an activity I know I’m fond of because of the total lack of judgment. Street Heat does a good job recreating that low- pressure atmosphere, resulting in a crew that wants to look good together versus a group that feels like they have to. They’ll soon be collaborating with Team iLuminate, a visual effects/performance art group recently featured on America’s Got Talent. In “December or January”, Heidi’s close personal friend Ryan Benedicto (aka DJ Blindside) plans to open an 18 and up club next to Woodstock’s Pizza.
“We see the demand for people who just wanna dance and at any local club, local bar you don’t see people dancing you just see people who wanna shake their a**. They’re catering to dancers- just people who want to come dance.”
The club, tentatively called Eye Candy, plans not to serve alcohol (“that doesn’t mean people aren’t gonna come drunk”, Heidi quickly acknowledges) and host performances by Street Heat dance crews “at least once a month”.
“Heidi really takes the initiative,” says Street Heat vet Rose Kuncz. “She gets us out there performing, which is what we like to do.”
I signed myself up for an intermediate dance class with nothing but two hours of Daren’s Dance Grooves (remember that dance tape that taught N*Sync and Britney Spears’ dances?) to back me up. Even though I couldn’t tell my left foot from my right and I’m pretty sure I danced eight beats behind everyone else, the whole thing felt like a scene from “Step Up”. As with any dance- for- fun class, attitude outweighed accuracy. Which you’d expect from a hip- hop, right?
But fitness gurus be warned: this is not a gym. “[Street Heat] provides an environment for people to express movement through music,” Heidi says. “It’s not for people who just want a workout.”
So if you’re committed to learning to dance, enjoy mental challenges or just want to look supa fly next time you hit the club, check out Street Heat’s Monday- Friday schedule. Heidi left Academy of Dance because she hated seeing students drop out for financial reasons, so Street Heat offers all you can dance for fifty bucks.
“Students can literally come every day and they don’t pay a dollar over 50.”
Or if you’re just curious (like me!), bring $10 and give it a whirl.
Have you ever tried a new exercise class without ever knowing what you were doing? Do any of you use dance as a workout? Is there any type of class you’ve wanted to try, but been afraid to?