Beginning April 30, Jimmy Locust and his Locust Performing Arts Center staff dancers will teach a seven-week hip hop class for third through fifth graders and sixth through eighth graders at the newly-renovated . On Saturday, Locust and associate choreographer Monica Richardson kicked off the program with .
Locust is an acclaimed dancer and choreographer who has worked with many artists including Michael and Janet Jackson, Paula Abdul, and choreographed for Justin Bieber’s summer tour.
"We wanted dance and there's only one person you go to for dance in Stamford and that's Jimmy," Katrina Dorsey, the Stamford YMCA's Director of Membership & Marketing told Patch. "He's so committed to community partnerships and strengthening core values in kids, that's what he stands for and that's what the Y stands for too."
Locust's energy and enthusiasm filled the room from the second he walked through the door. He immediately welcomed the crowd and captured the attention of the children in the room — asking them about their favorite styles of dance and gently encouraging participation as they got right to the dancing.
"You're not sending your kids to just any class — they're learning from us who work with the best. We want to hand that torch to your children," Locust said."It's about learning not only the steps, but the etiquette of dance."
He introduced Richardson, his friend and associate choreographer who helped to lead the class. Richardson has worked with artists including Missy Elliot and Pitbull. Richardson led the children through a series of warm ups and then, along with Locust, began to teach them a series of steps. As they practiced both with and without music, they also took breaks to test the children's memory of the steps and to try a freestyle circle.
Locust and Richardson's enthusiasm held the children's attention throughout and they quickly picked up the dance, parents danced to the music and snapped pictures as they watched, and other kids in the crowd took time to watch parts of class before joining in.
"You'll learn more — not just to dance — but how to carry yourself well, how to be kind, and how to uplift someone if they're having a bad day."
Offering that extra bit of encouragement and lifting others up is a message Locust returned to many times during the class, reminding the group to always applaud for each other and praising their work throughout.
"You did so many positive things today," he said. "I'm so impressed with your dancing, your behavior...and for doing something that could have been scary."