From classical piano to hip hop dance

KAREN WATKINS

Plumstead hip hop dancer and classical musician Russel Hoole believes that life is all about being able to do many different things.

Having grown up playing classical piano, he has always had an appreciation for this style of music but at the same time having a keen interest in pop and contemporary arts.

“My interest in hip hop dance has always been there. I remember watching pop stars’ music videos and award ceremonies and having a great admiration and wishing I could do what they were doing on stage,” says Russel.

However, he was unable to participate in dance lessons while at school at Bergvliet High because his time was filled with classical piano and orchestra practice.

“I’d almost given up on my dream of being a dancer or dance teacher and thought it would be too late,” he said.

“Most people start dance lessons from a very young age,” he add- ed.

The tide turned one day in 2009 when he messaged his friend Stephen Jubber on Facebook to congratulate him on how far he had gone in his career. “He had just completed Grease Lightning. I told him how envious I was and that I wish I’d had the opportunity to do what he’s done with dance. He messaged back to say there was a break until his next job and why didn’t we do a trade. I teach him piano and he teaches me hip hop. Well, I couldn’t reply a great big yes quickly enough,” laughed Russel.

And that’s how his dance journey began.

Stephen gave Russel some dance lessons for about one month in exchange for piano lessons.

Stephen recognised how en- thusiastic Russel was and when his next theatre job came up, he recommended that Russel continue dancing. This was when Russel joined Stephen’s mother’s studio, the Daphne Jubber School Of Dance at Wynberg Boys’ Junior School, in 2009.

He completed his hip hop examination levels, and then a hip hop associate exam, which has now enabled him to teach dance.

He now runs classes at Christ Church Constantia, blending the foundations of hip hop dance – popping, locking, and more, with commercial hip hop style, creating fun and challenging choreography that encompasses how the style has evolved.

“I’ve waited so long for this to come true,” he smiles, adding that people are confused about his hip hop moves as they know him as a classical piano teacher.

“But you need to be diverse in life,” says Russel.

“It makes our character more colourful. And it’s possible to love teaching classical piano equally as much as hip hop dance.”

Moving between Christ Church and Waldorf School where he teaches most of his piano clients, he now enjoys the best of both worlds.

“I’m loving teaching my class so much and a lot of the parents of my piano students have started dancing with their children, making my hip hop class quite a fun family event. This has been fantastic and because I’ve enjoyed this start so much, I want to expand and teach more,” he says.