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Davis, California

Thursday, July 18, 2024

ARC hip-hop classes are a mood-booster for dancers of all experience levels

UC Davis student recreation dance instructor Evie White builds up students’ confidence through her classes


By ANA BACH — features@theaggie.org 


The competitive world of dance offers a platform for experienced dancers to compete with one another, advancing their skill sets and performances to prepare for their professional dance careers ahead. For others, dance is a fun, confidence-building activity. All are welcome at the Activities and Recreation Center (ARC) hip-hop classes, taught by second-year international relations major Evie White though.

White is a former competitive dancer, and her work on campus as a dance instructor allows her to teach hip-hop classes while giving her students a platform to build confidence that will allow them to be successful even after they leave the studio.

“I just love screaming and hyping people up,” White said. “I honestly look at my class more as a confidence-building class than a dance class. Dance just translates over to so many other aspects of your life.”  

The PAVE School of the Arts student reminisced about her competition days and her experiences dancing for The Innovate Dance Company studio.

“Essentially, PAVE stands for performance, artistry, versatility and exposure,” White said. “My coach instilled in us that we should be well-rounded dancers. We would have these intensive weeks as our audition for the company. She would have these choreographers come in, and it was just all blind classes. We didn’t know who was coming in to teach that day. So I was doing ballroom at some point, dancing in heels, ballet, you name it.”

White emphasized the intensity of dance culture, especially in Orange County, and compared the mannerisms of the practice to the hit Lifetime show “Dance Moms.”

“There would be parents that would get [upset] because they would see me in the front row,” White said. “I see girls who are nine or 10 years old, and they are already doing jobs, auditioning and skipping school.”

Though White always loved dance, she said that her busy high school schedule consisted of a number of extracurriculars.

“In the end, dance was the most important to me,” White said. “Still, I’ve always wanted to try to find that balance, and I knew dance wasn’t going to be my one and only. What I was worried about coming into college was thinking about how I incorporate this into my college life because I don’t want to give it up. Teaching, I found to be the best route for me to still incorporate it.” 

The transition White made from her experience in the dance world to teaching dance combinations to students who are just trying out dance for the first time seems like a big jump. But White said that she’s found that she loves teaching newcomers. 

“Personally, I love teaching people who have zero experience with dance,” White said. “They’re just there for a good time. I love that I am teaching people in college because that just shows me that they are here because they want to be here.”

White compares the rush of performing a dance to an “indescribable adrenaline high.” 

“I tell people that it’s an indescribable feeling,” White said. “The rush of energy when you are performing in front of a crowd is like nothing else. It’s just insane when you have all these people watching you. You feel like you are just on top of the world. If you’re an adrenaline junkie, it’s that same feeling when you are on stage. There’s 100% always nerves. But every time you go out, it ends up being fine. It’s muscle memory at that point.” 

During White’s classes, her main priority is making sure students are comfortable with themselves, not perfecting their dance technique. 

 She starts her classes by getting her students amped up with high-energy music and movement, incorporating a dynamic warm-up with fast-paced hip-hop music. The movement also allows students to pulse to the beat for a deeper stretch and helps them get acclimated to the tempo of the routines to come. 

She later has students line up in groups, asking each to perform their own variation of a catwalk. White stands between the lines to offer a great deal of support and positive affirmation. 

“I have all of my students strut across the floor […] every single class because I just want them to learn to walk with confidence,” White said. 

From there, she starts to teach the students the sequence without music, using counts to help with movement cues and segments the dance into a couple of counts at a time. Once the students have a good idea of the movements, they rehearse the sequence with music a couple of times and White answers questions about the form of any dance moves. 

At the end of White’s classes, each group performs the dance one at a time, while the other participants gather around, cheering in support. White also extends her assistance after class if students want more help with the sequence or would like to work toward perfecting it. 

The class is an energized environment for individuals of all experience levels who are comfortable making mistakes and using their own techniques to play up to their strengths. 

Elisabeth Van Roijen, a third-year graduate student in environmental engineering attends White’s classes every Tuesday. 

“Her energy is contagious,” Van Roijen said. “The very first class I came to, I came really tired because it’s a late class. As soon as I left, I couldn’t sleep because I was so hyped with energy. I always come because I know it’s always gonna lift me up and make me happy.”

Van Roijen emphasized the confidence she gained through White’s encouragement. 

“I think it’s how she hypes everyone up,” Van Roijen said. “I am not a very confident person, but she pushes you to be out of your comfort zone and really just own it. It’s a really comfortable space, and it’s just a lot of fun. I really enjoyed this class, and it’s the highlight of my week.”

White has cultivated an environment that brings joy to all of her students — and herself. Her main focus is making sure that everyone feels pride in their abilities and moves through the rest of their day feeling better than when they came into class.  

“I feel great when I leave,” White said. “Sometimes I come in, and it’s not the best day. I have just had an entire school day, and I am a little tired, but every single time I have left teaching, my mood is immediately 10 times better. Every single time.”  

Written by: Ana Bach — features@theaggie.org