I danced at a celebrity choreographer masterclass hosted by SEE and NextNOW Fest

Kyle Hanagami's dance class was held over Zoom. (Daryl Perry/For The Diamondback)

The University of Maryland’s Student Entertainment Events and NextNOW Fest came together to host a virtual dance masterclass with choreographer Kyle Hanagami Tuesday evening. 

I was quite nervous to attend; though I’d consider myself an intermediate dancer, I hadn’t danced in more than a year. And a lot of the dance masterclasses I’ve been to have felt like they were choreographed with advanced dancers in mind and a bit inaccessible to people at lower skill levels.

Dance masterclasses usually have a professional choreographer — Hanagami, in this case — teach the group a sequence of dance steps. After learning the material, the class ends with students performing the number in groups.

Hanagami has choreographed for the likes of K-pop group BLACKPINK, Now United, Sofia Carson and for a Justin Bieber music video. As soon as I saw this class on The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center’s online calendar, I signed up. 

This class, however, wasn’t geared exclusively to advanced dancers. Though it was a little quick for true beginners, it was a good class for those with some previous experience.

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The masterclass was held on Zoom and started with a short warmup. It was nice to have an extra two minutes to stretch, which helped me clear my anxious mind for the choreography ahead and prevent injury. 

Hanagami asked us to turn our cameras on and some students did, which helped make the class feel a little more normal. A huge part of taking a masterclass, and dancing in general, is being in the same physical space as others and being able to learn from how others interpret the movements.

Although this comes at the cost of comparing your dancing to others, being able to feed off of their energy and see what you might’ve missed while learning the choreography is really important — and it’s lost on Zoom. The squares are simply too small, and it’s inefficient to view everyone in gallery mode when only learning from one choreographer.

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Hanagami taught the contemporary hip-hop dance alongside an assistant, who danced while Hanagami sat to observe us and go over parts he saw us struggling with.

We learned the dance in short chunks and went from the beginning multiple times. As we danced, I got more and more into the choreography, and did I mention we danced to “Midnight Sky” by Miley Cyrus? When Hanagami played it, I almost screamed.

After all of our hard work, we were split into two performance groups. My group went first, and I was terrified.

Although I didn’t grasp all of the choreography (it was very fast-paced, and I was a little rusty), I had a fun time. My only frustration was that the class ended 10 minutes early; it would’ve been nice to run through the dance a few more times.

At the end, Hanagami chatted with us briefly and talked about his origins in dance, which was motivating. He didn’t start dancing until college, which was quite inspiring since most professional dancers started dancing before they were in the double digits.

“Whatever you do, commit wholeheartedly,” he ended.

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