Teachers Trending

The Teaching Tools This USC Kaufman Hip-Hop Professor Can't Live Without

Carolyn DiLoreto, courtesy USC Kaufman

Tiffany Bong has spent her career stepping into unexpected territory and making magic—a skill that's made all the difference in the face of COVID-19. As an 18-year-old freshman at Santa Clara University, she took her very first dance class, which set her on a path contrary to the expectations of her traditional Chinese household. "I was told I could either become a doctor or a lawyer," the USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance hip-hop teacher says. "I didn't see myself in either of those, so I majored in psychology and dance without my parents knowing."

Upon graduation, Bong joined the Bay Area branch of the international hip-hop company Culture Shock. One year later, she moved to Los Angeles with $1,000 in her bank account, a car and no game plan. "I dove into classes at EDGE and Millennium, making up for lost training," she says. "But my real training came from dancing at the clubs all night long." Soon, she was progressing enough to join (and eventually win) battles.


Around this time, Bong found a passion for teaching. "I realized that as a teacher I could witness growth and transformation," she says. "I knew there were kids out there who would love to do what I do, and I wanted to help them." So, Bong created her own dance education company for K–12 students, UniverSOUL Hip Hop, which can now be found in more than 50 schools. She interviewed for her current position at USC Kaufman out of a desire to better incorporate hip hop into higher education.

Tiffany Bong and four students stand on one leg, other knee coming up to their chest and hands in fists, smiling

Carolyn DiLoreto, courtesy USC Kaufman

In mid-March, Bong quickly moved her classes online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. "Hip hop is about community-based learning. It's all about dancing in a cypher. I use the Spotlight feature on Zoom to create that virtually," she says, by showcasing one dancer at a time, and having students demonstrate their support in the chat feature and with gestural affirmations.

"There is so much possibility that can come from this moment of pause," Bong says. "We are creative people; this is where we shine. As a global community, we can use virtual teaching to our advantage."

Her favorite breakfast:

Smoothie bowl with fresh raspberry, blueberry, coconut flakes and chia seeds. Grey stone background. Top view.

Getty Images

"Açai bowls all the way! I blend açai with almond butter, frozen bananas and nondairy milk. I put blueberries, pomegranates, coconut flakes and chia seeds on top. When I want to get even more healthy, I blend in spinach. It doesn't look as aesthetically pleasing, but it's good for you!"

Her pre-class prep:

"Mental health is very important right now. In order to give, I need to be filled and centered. To prepare for class I use meditation, prayer and walking outside, and review my outline/lesson content."

Her go-to teaching tool:

"Video of the dance forms I'm teaching helps provide cultural context and movement analysis. I love anything from 'Soul Train,' especially in the 1970s."

Her must-have teaching attire:

"I like the flexibility and lightness of Nike Free Runs for quick footwork, as well as the support and spring for jumps. I also like Lululemon. Their sizing fits well for me because I'm petite."

Her guilty pleasure:

"Ice cream, cake and Sidecar Doughnuts."

Teachers Trending
Maks and Val Chmerkovskiy. Photo courtesy Dance With Me

Listening to Maks and Val Chmerkovskiy riff together makes it crystal-clear why each has mastered the art of partnering in the ballroom—they've long been doing this dance in real life as brothers and business partners.

Along with their "Dancing with the Stars" pedigree (and a combined three mirror-ball trophies between them), Maks and Val (and their father, Sasha) also run Dance With Me, a dance company hosting six ProAm Dancesport competitions annually and running 14 brick-and-mortar studio locations across the U.S.

Last year, the pair launched an online component, Dance & Co. The online video platform offers beginner through advanced instruction in not only ballroom but an array of other styles, as well as dance fitness classes from HIIT to yoga to strength training. "DWTS" fans will recognize such familiar faces as Peta Murgatroyd, Jenna Johnson, Sharna Burgess and Emma Slater, along with Maks and Val themselves.

Keep reading... Show less
Teaching Tips
@jayplayimagery, courtesy Kerollis

In the spring of 2012, Barry Kerollis was abruptly forced into treating his career as a small business. Having just moved cross-country to join BalletX, he got injured and was soon let go.

"I'd only ever danced with big companies before," the now-freelance dance-teacher-choreographer-podcaster recalls. "That desperation factor drove me to approach freelancing with a business model and a business plan."

As Kerollis acknowledges, getting the business of you off the ground ("you" as a freelance dance educator, that is) can be filled with unexpected challenges—even for the most seasoned of gigging dancers. But becoming your own CEO can make your work–life balance more sustainable, help you make more money, keep you organized, and get potential employers to offer you more respect and improved working conditions. Here's how to get smart now about branding, finances and other crucial ways to tell the dance world that you mean business.

Keep reading... Show less
Teachers Trending
Courtesy Oleson

American dance educator Shannon Oleson was teaching recreational ballet and street-dance classes in London when the pandemic hit. As she watched many of her fellow U.S. friends pack up and return home from their international adventures, she made the difficult choice to stick with her students (as well as her own training—she was midway through her MFA at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance).

Despite shutdowns and shelter-in-place orders, she was able to maintain a teaching schedule that kept her working with her dancers through Zoom, as well as lead some private, in-home acro classes following government guidelines. But keeping rec students interested in the face of pandemic fatigue hasn't been easy.

Keep reading... Show less

Get Dance Business Weekly in your inbox

Sign Up Used in accordance with our Privacy Policy.