“Five, six, seven, eight!” starts Heidi Hoover as she patiently leads me through the first eight beats of her choreographed dance.
The gym at Alberta Avenue Community League echoes with Doja Cat and my tentative footfalls, and I’m having a blast.
I warn Hoover that I am a terrible dancer, but she laughs and says, “That’s what everybody says to me and I’m just like, ‘Okay, back it up.’ Not one single person is a terrible dancer, but society tells us [otherwise].”
This year, Hoover started her dance company, On The 8 Choreography & Lessons, and she began teaching free dance classes to youth at the league in mid-April. It didn’t feel right for Hoover to charge students a fee, and she simply enjoys passing on her love of dance.
When she joined Alberta Ave Community League in January 2022, she asked herself how she could contribute to the league. Her love for dancing inspired her to start teaching others. “Nothing has ever come close to how I feel when I’m dancing, and I know I’m not alone,” says Hoover.
Hoover is a freestyle dancer who has been dancing since she was two years old, and she spent many years in dance lessons. “But mostly,” Hoover says, “I’ve just danced every day of my life in front of the mirror.”
The dances that she choreographs and teaches combine several different types of dance, including jazz, hip hop, and contemporary styles. Hoover also recently added in some African dance elements as well.
“Eight count by eight count, the genre can change, so it’s really fun in terms of teaching you how to move in a lot of different ways,” says Hoover. This means that the first eight beats of the dance can feature hip hop moves, the next eight can be in a jazz dance style, the next eight beats can be contemporary dance, and so on.
Youth of all skill levels are welcome, and the class is perfect if kids just want to run around for an hour, or if they want to learn something new. Youth ages 3 to 17 are welcome to attend the class.
“The most important thing is just that they are having fun while they’re here,” says Hoover.
There is usually a large age range in the youth who attend the class, and Hoover asks the older kids to help the younger ones if they notice anyone is struggling.
Hoover also keeps her dance classes very interactive. In the last 15 minutes of class, she encourages the students to participate in collaborative choreography. She asks her students to suggest moves they’d like to include in the dance and they work together to add more choreography to the end of the dance. For example, if her students want to twirl, she adds in lots of twirls.
The collaborative choreography makes sure everyone feels included and it also encourages creativity through dance. Hoover also uses her students’ input to build on the choreographed dance every week with their favourite moves.
And Hoover’s favourite part about teaching dance? “It’s definitely discovering the different strengths that kids have,” says Hoover. Getting to know each of the kids and understanding their goals is very rewarding, she adds.
Right now, Hoover plans to continue the classes until the end of June. If there is enough interest, she would be glad to continue teaching throughout the summer.
Hoover’s free youth dance class runs every Thursday from 7:15 to about 8 pm at Alberta Avenue Community League. Get out your dancing shoes and check out her classes for a fun evening!