D.C. Hip-Hop Fitness Classes Foster Community

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From the Washington Post:

It’s five minutes to 7 on a wet March night, and, as I peek into classrooms while walking down the hall at the Dance Institute of Washington in Columbia Heights, I see several classes taking place at once. Girls in black leotards and pink tights hit plié after plié in Studio 1; adults in Lycra reach up to relevé on toes, then gracefully extend arms over head in Studio 2.

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I’m going to the room at the end of the upstairs hall. There, a woman with a pile of twists pulled into a bun stretches her leg out on the bar; she wears sweats, an old baggy Baltimore Law School T-shirt and colorful sneakers. Two teachers walk in, LaTasha Barnes, a fitness trainer and former competitive track star; and Junious “House” Brickhouse, dressed in a purple hoodie, shiny white sneakers and a purple baseball cap, brim up. He’s the founder of Urban Artistry, the five-year-old urban dance company in residence since January at the Dance Institute that offers classes for everyone from company members to people, like me, off the street. He offers a hand to me, clearly the newbie, and introduces himself.

As more dancers trickle in, they greet each other as old friends and banter with Barnes while she connects her iPod to the sound system. “Hi!” the stretching woman says to me, extending a hand. “Welcome! The great thing about this class is that you can drop in. It’s not like other dance classes, where if you miss the beginning of the choreography, you’re just lost.” Brickhouse slips out; he’s not teaching this class. Suddenly the room jumps with sound — gone is the classical music from down the hall — and up comes a deep bass, up comes hip-hop.

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