C/O Zary Photography

Hamilton’s sole hip-hop dance studio takes strong precautions to ensure the safety of its patrons.

Before 2009, not many studios in Hamilton focused on hip-hop and street dance; it was not until Josh Taylor co-founded Defining Movement Dance in 2009 and opened the studio in 2010.

“The point of it was to offer something different than other studios were offering at the time, with a focus on hip-hop and street dance, alongside Latin dancing,” said Taylor.

As of now, DMD has shifted its focus from Latin dancing to hip-hop and street dance.

Youth technique class led by Josh Taylor in February 2018. C/O Zary Photography

“The point of it was to offer something different than other studios were offering at the time, with a focus on hip-hop and street dance, alongside Latin dancing,” said Taylor.

The studio has a varying number of programs for all individuals. Dance programs for the children consist of: breaking classes where they learn how to “breakdance”, funk styles classes where they learn the technique “popping and locking”, hip-hop classes where they learn basic hip-hop dance moves and all styles class, where students are introduced to various street dance styles and eventually freestyle and participate in dance battles with fellow students.

Mini dance battle in March 2019. C/O Josh Taylor

For the younger members, there is also a competitive team, Megacrew, in which the students would usually compete against other dance studios. The students learn multiple dance styles and undergo training and conditioning, while under the guidance of the artistic director.

“This year is a little different given the COVID-19 situation,” said Taylor on the cancellation of competitions this year.

For adults, they have both drop-in classes and registered programs. The drop-in classes consist of choreography and contemporary classes, where the former takes a focus on incorporating a variety of dance styles while the latter looks at personal expression within dance.

The registered programs consist of a heels class, where individuals exhibit beauty within their techniques, and street dance training classes, where street dance, popping and locking and hip-hop dance styles are all incorporated. On an occasional evening, the studio offers salsa dancing pop-up classes.

Now with the COVID-19 pandemic, DMD’s functions have taken quite a hit, just like many other small businesses. Before the pandemic arrived in March, classes were up to 30 children, running for two hours straight where they underwent training, conditioning and participated in small freestyles and dance battles.

“That was one of the largest classes at the time, where we could operate classes without worrying about numbers, in terms of how many people are in a room,” said Taylor.

Once the pandemic hit, classes immediately went online — utilizing platforms such as Zoom, YouTube Live and Instagram Live — to keep people moving while stuck indoors. The length of the programs was also limited to about an hour to adjust for the online transition and learning curve.

“That was one of the largest classes at the time, where we could operate classes without worrying about numbers, in terms of how many people are in a room,” said Taylor.

When the government allowed the studio to re-open in September, the studio created a comprehensive plan to keep all of its patrons safe. The first item on the list was to create a 4.5 square-foot taped box on the floor, each three meters apart.

There is an “x” placed in the middle to give the students a visual of where they need to be stepping. Due to these wide boxes, the class sizes had to be reduced in order to keep up with current government regulations.

“From a dance educator perspective, what really is exciting is working with six students in that class and really just focusing on each student’s needs. From a business standpoint, [the reduction in students is] not as great; we want to have more numbers in the studio. But it is where we are,” said Taylor.

“From a dance educator perspective, what really is exciting is working with six students in that class and really just focusing on each student’s needs. From a business standpoint, [the reduction in students is] not as great; we want to have more numbers in the studio. But it is where we are,” said Taylor.

The studio has also taken a variety of steps with regard to cleaning. They implemented a fogger which takes a disinfectant and makes it into a mist to disinfect the entire studio. There is a 15-minute gap at the end of each class to allow the disinfectant to spread over the studio before beginning the next class. Aside from this, wipes and hand sanitizers have been also placed around the studio. 

To ensure comfort for the dancers, they are allowed to take a break from wearing their masks as doors are open to allow for greater air ventilation and quick breaks.

“It’s really important for everyone’s mental, emotional and social health with dance, but it’s really important as our responsibility to ensure they do it safely. A business is not worth more than anyone’s health,” said Taylor. 

“It’s really important for everyone’s mental, emotional and social health with dance, but it’s really important as our responsibility to ensure they do it safely. A business is not worth more than anyone’s health,” said Taylor. 

Screenings and temperature checks have also been implemented in order to minimize the amount of risk for students and staff to contract coronavirus. While these listed precautions are not ideal for any business when they are trying to carry out their daily operations, they are a necessary step to ensure everyone’s safety. For Taylor, he is unsure as to how the studio will continue to operate in the current pandemic climate.

Dress rehearsal for the year-end show in June 2019. C/O Josh Taylor

“It’s hard to say, I think what we will do is follow the advice of the experts and continue to do that. If it gets to a point where businesses are asked to lockdown, then we will lockdown. We have to play it by ear and go from there. I think that’s all we can do. We can hope that we make it to the other side. Small businesses are what make up communities. The corner store, then dance studios, the small gyms, the bookstores — all of those places are so important. We hope we continue to offer our services and be a part of the community and eventually, people feel safe to continue coming out,” said Taylor.

“It’s hard to say, I think what we will do is follow the advice of the experts and continue to do that. If it gets to a point where businesses are asked to lockdown, then we will lockdown. We have to play it by ear and go from there. I think that’s all we can do. We can hope that we make it to the other side. Small businesses are what make up communities. The corner store, then dance studios, the small gyms, the bookstores — all of those places are so important. We hope we continue to offer our services and be a part of the community and eventually, people feel safe to continue coming out,” said Taylor.

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