Taking a dance class is one thing. Taking a dancehall class from New York-based choreographer Hanna Herbertson alongside hip hop powerhouse Masia One is another.
The talented emcee Masia One was back on her stomping grounds of Toronto for this year’s North by Northeast music festival, taking a break from her international travels and bringing her fresh sound and awesome tracks back to local stages. She brought along her choreographer, Hanna Herbertson (founder of the Blackgold Dance Crew), who is an expert in the dancehall genre. They’ve been working together for a couple months and they performed for the first time together at a NXNE showcase at the Gladstone Hotel.
Hanna was also teaching a few dance workshops during her first-time visit to Toronto and I was invited to join—so I thought, why not?
Getting to take part in the class at St. Alban’s community centre was a fun experience and I started really getting into the whole dancehall style, feeling the vibe that filled the studio. It was a small class, but Hanna also taught earlier that day at City Dance Corps.
Always on the go, travelling and teaching workshops all over the world, Hanna was looking forward to meeting some of the Toronto dance community and share her moves. But not everyone is familiar with this form of dance—so what exactly is dancehall?
“It’s party dances,” says Hanna.“Crews come together, people come together and do small choreographies, it’s not long.”
Having a strong hip hop background, Hanna has found a niche that is not only a great way to keep fit, but is also a fun way to learn about new cultures. She specializes in “Dancehall Fusion,” which incorporates different Jamaican, South American and Caribbean dances. And pairing up with Masia One was a great way to combine their various influences and backgrounds to create high energy, crowd-hyping shows for worldwide audiences.
Masia One has already taken her success around the globe, but says that Toronto was a great place to start. “I can never stray too far, Toronto is in my heart,” she says. “Toronto is, by the way, the best training camp for any artist because I think the level of talent is so high here.”
She will be releasing a new album called “Bootleg Culture” and will be performing in Europe with Hanna to continue spreading the message and culture behind her music and gaining international support. We’re excited to hear more from Masia One and maybe I’ll be taking some of Hanna’s moves to the dance floor!