This article is part of the 2019 Winter A&E Guide. To read the rest of the section, click here.
Thanks to Gene Kelly, we know there are people who “gotta dance.” Safiyyah Rasool (safiyyahdance.net) is one of those people. As a specialist in hip-hop dance, she is filling a void from her childhood.
LEO: What type of dancer are you?
Safiyyah Rasool: By definition, I’m a hip-hop dancer; however, I consider myself a creative movement dancer. I like to just allow my body to move in any way that expresses how I’m feeling at the moment.
When did you start dancing?
My earliest recollection is 5 years old. I like to say that I was dancing in the belly.
What’s your dance background and education?
I was a street dancer the early part of my dance education. I started to formerly train when I was about 22 years of age and when I moved to Atlanta. Ever since then, I’ve trained with renowned choreographers all over the country (Atlanta, Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, Miami) and Warsaw, Poland.
Who are some of the dancers you admire?
There are so many amazing dancers out here, but some of the ones that come to mind are Sean Bankhead, Devin Solomon, Candace Brown, Luam K, Keone and Mari, just to name a few. My favorite dance styles are African, Lindy Hop, Chicago Footwork, House and Old School hip-hop.
You are a cofounder of the Safiyyah Dance Co. What type of dance do you teach? Why did you feel this was needed?
I teach hip-hop dance and creative movement. Growing up there were never any schools that offered a hip-hop dance class as a main curriculum. Most of the schools only offered ballet, tap and jazz. Some of the schools currently offer a hip-hop class, but it’s only offered as a class to be taken after you complete so many hours of ballet, jazz, etc. Students love the freedom and expression that is hip-hop dance, and many are more interested in taking it as a full-time option. My wife, Venus Ludlow, and I started Safiyyah Dance Co. to meet the needs of those students. We also offer and encourage our students to take ballet, jazz and contemporary so that they can become well-rounded dancers.
What are some of the challenges of being a dancer in Louisville?
One of the biggest challenges I’ve experienced is that there are not enough opportunities for dancers here in Louisville. Dance gigs are few and far between. I’ve been blessed to have had some amazing opportunities here locally, but it would be great if they came more often to allow dancers who can’t move out to Los Angeles, New York and other mainstream cities to be encouraged to pursue dance as a career here in Louisville.
And on the flip side, why do you do it?
I love it. I have to do it. It fills my spirit in a way that is hard to describe. When I dance, it’s when my mind is most free from all other things, and I am truly living in the moment. It’s the most blissful moment.
What is a typical day like for you?
I wake up usually around 8 a.m. and turn on music (music gets me going — it’s my morning coffee). I always try to drink a healthy smoothie in the morning. After breakfast, I dedicate a few hours to my emails, promoting on social media, meetings and any administrative duties for the Safiyyah Dance Co. I usually try to stretch and incorporate some sort of personal development (gym, yoga, etc.) before I head to the studio around 4:30 p.m. where I typically teach anywhere between three to four classes each day.
You recently received an Artist Enrichment grant from the Kentucky Foundation For Women. How will you plan to use it to further your knowledge of African dance and hip-hop?
I plan to travel to Nigeria for a couple of weeks to train with the Nigerian dance communities and those dancers in the surrounding areas. Hip-hop is heavily influenced by African movements, and my hope is to connect with the locals and learn from them as we bond over our love for the art. The training that I receive in Africa will enhance me as a dancer and enable me to share African dance with a better understanding with my students.
What is something most people do not know about you?
I am a new grandmother, a GiGi, to a 5-month-old beautiful baby boy named Cash.