If OK Go were a hip-hop group, they might have chosen this morning's scene as the backdrop for another indie-viral music video à la "Here It Goes Again." Instead of fancy treadmills, the vibrantly carpeted ballroom held nearly a hundred young women spread over a temporary dance floor. But everyone was super-enthusiastic and the energy was infectious. When I walked in, the intermediate-level session was just finishing. A gaggle of dancers crowded around the teacher for autographs, and the rest scattered to grab sips of water before the next lesson.
Though hip-hop started on the street, it isn't really indie anymore. Slick production companies spend tons on tours and videos promoting new albums, and hip-hop choreography is a big business that has filtered down to small towns. Burlington's Urban Reach convention is organized and hosted by Tikune Productions, a project run by Sarah Cover, the founder of Williston's Urban Dance Complex studio. A Vermont native who has studied hip-hop in New York and L.A., Cover has brought some of the business top talent to Burlington.
She ushered me into another ballroom where an advanced-level class was just starting. About 50 young women were focused on a man wearing black baggy pants, a big white shirt and a black hat cocked sideways. "Anybody can step, step . . . I'm looking for that inside groove," explained Shaun Evaristo, an L.A.-based choreographer/dancer who's worked with P. Diddy, Mario and NLT. He demonstrated the first few moves of the dance, turning fluidly and stopping on a dime, then popping his arms into a different shape, all the while tossing around ballet terms to make his point. "Make sure that your left leg is in relevé, and your right leg is planted on the floor."
This group was clearly more experienced than the one out front: The hightop-wearing, sweatpant-clad ladies proceeded to plough through several counts of eight, but the hour-long class was too short to finish the song. At the end, Evaristo asked if they wanted to see more of the choreography. When they clapped and cheered, he stepped to the center of the dance floor and summed up the grace and attitude for which everyone there was aiming.