Faculty Features: Hip Hop with Natasha Hawkins at JOMDC Bethesda

Native Washingtonian Natasha Hawkins began her dance career, like many of us, as a child. She trained at the RJV School of Dance in Washington, DC starting at the age of four and since then, has gone on to train with local and national talent in hip hop, ballet and modern including Luam and Adrian Bolton. Natasha is the former director of Joy of Motion Dance Center’s resident adult hip hop company DCypher Dance, and was a featured dancer with JOMDC resident arts partner Life, Rhythm, Move Project. With these groups, she has performed all over the area at venues such as The White House, The Kennedy Center, National Theater and many more.

In addition to her success in the dance world, Natasha is also an accomplished business professional. She received a National Women of Color Rising Star Technology Award while working with a private consulting firm that supported the Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate. Recipients of this award demonstrate exceptional achievement in their workplaces and communities. We recently caught up with Natasha, who teaches beginning hip hop at Joy of Motion Dance Center Bethesda, to learn more about her teaching style and dance inspirations.

What is your teaching philosophy and teaching style?

My teaching philosophy is simple. Allow people to have fun and not even recognize that they’re working their butts off! I hope people learn that dancing is more than just movements but it’s a feeling. I would address my teaching style a little different from others, particularly for the beginning hip hop classes I teach. Some beginner classes start slow and remain at that pace for the duration of the class. However, my approach is to start off with more difficult moves and allow dancers to work towards accomplishing a goal. It’s much more satisfying to my students to see big leaps of improvements after one or two classes. I also like to give my students a good workout in the beginning. It’s so important as a dancer to build a strong core and flexibility. Week to week, students should see themselves improving in strength and dance ability. Lastly, I have a big sense of humor and I want to keep the class fun and stress-free. I want to promote a healthy environment where dancers can come work hard, laugh, and sweat all at the same time.

Who are your favorite or most inspirational artists?

I really enjoyed working with Luam while she was here teaching a master class. There is no doubt that she is nationally recognized in the hip hop community and a beautiful dancer, but she is amazing at teaching choreography. Yes, she really wanted you to get the moves but she also emphasized the importance of feeling the moves and letting go. I hope to travel to New York to take her class again.

A gentleman by the name of Adrian Bolton continues to be an inspiration to me in modern dance. I danced with him for several years and I’ve never experienced such hard work and dedication from one man. He pushed my body beyond what I thought were my boundaries and made me realize that I can always go further. Just when I thought I could hold my leg extension no longer, he would come over and push my leg a little higher…and let go. Gosh, I left his class in pain all the time but never complained because it made me such a better dancer. His work is amazing and recognized all over!