Dear friends, it was hard to reduce this passionate dancer to one article, but for you, I had to try.
I met Briana at one of her Social dance workshops. The afternoon included a hip-hop class, and this was my real motivation for joining the weekend workshop. I went there alone, thinking that I will feel a bit awkward. However, I was immediately reassured as putting her students at ease was Briana’s first move. I was not sure what to expect, my last experience with dancing had been somewhat demotivating. Everybody had a different rhythm and direction than I did, and the teacher did not even bother using words to help at all! I considered it a success if my moves managed to at least resemble what the group was doing. I was as lost as the girl in front of me, who was both confusing me and obstructing my view. Afro-dance when you cannot see or hear the teacher turned out to be a real comedy show.
I was left wondering; how will this new workshop go? Will I be able to learn anything? By the end of the session I was able to dance my name & the name of other 7 people, to perform a little choreography which, at least in my view, looked like hip-hop and I had learnt some basic moves to rely on at any party. I felt so good about myself! Getting to experience Briana's teaching style was a joy that I wish to share with you.
This story is about Briana Stuart and her vision about dance, creative movement and human connection.
The shiny purple leotard
Briana’s life has revolved around dancing since early childhood. She and her mother still argue about the date when she had her first dancing class (somewhere around the age of six) but she remembers very well the shiny violet leotard she wore, the freshly done hair with a curly-q in front, and what a great time she had that day. There was no turning back! Briana didn’t say this, but I’m sure that the leotard played a big role. What girl could resist that?
Today Briana is a professional dancer, choreographer and a dance teacher. She studied dance at the University of Michigan. In parallel, she followed sociology studies. She refers to sociology as her “back-up plan”, but I think the two majors work together very well. One can easily perceive the influence of sociology in the way she uses dance to address social situations.
After graduating, she moved to DC for 2 years where she worked for a professional stepping company.Towards the end of her second season she felt the need to explore the world, see dance and art in other places. It didn't take long until she was holding in her hand a one way ticket to Ireland, and no set plan on what to do from there.
She travelled in Asia and Europe for half a year and then decided to settle in Brussels. When she touched Belgian soil “something here felt like home”, she says. So, she moved to Brussels last year and built STU Arts with the ambition to prove that everyone can dance and to make a contribution to the Belgian's dancing scene in her own “Briana style”.
Everyone can dance.. at least in Brussels for now
People sometimes have the impression that if they didn't start dancing at the age of 4, there's no chance for them anymore. STU Arts (see-think-understand arts) is committed to change that sentiment.
After participating at one of Briana's workshops, you will soon realise that this is nothing like a dancing fitness class. It goes beyond physical effort and body coordination. As a teacher she combines the physical and social aspects of dance, showing a deep understanding of dance, and very good pedagogical techniques. She thinks carefully about every little aspect of her training, so that her students can learn in confidence while discovering dance terminology, playing, and connecting with one another.
STU Arts holds currently “Everyone can dance” classes 2 times per week and regularly develops weekend workshops giving people that are too busy during the week the opportunity to discover her moving curriculum (social dance, hip-hop, African-American stepping) and learn some well knows moves like those of Bruno Mars, Michael Jackson, and Beyoncé (coming up in March).
For those who are either too shy to come to a group lesson or would like a more customised class, based on their level and their goals, Briana is also giving private dance lessons.
In order to support the learning process, Briana is planning to develop a teaching platform which would allow her students to go back to the information they received during a class. Sometimes, while struggling to coordinate hands and legs, we might miss some of the comments that are being shared in relation with the moves. Being able to recover all that interesting information can be a great help for those who are interested in perfecting the moves.
Her goal? Connecting people through dance.
Briana sees in dance a much bigger opportunity: “connect people of all walks of life”, use dance to solve a connection issue in any community.
In relation to this idea, our American dancer is thinking of a new project. She wants to develop a team-building curriculum that evolves around movement and dance. This idea seems full of potential in regard to building the feeling of membership, overcome disparities, or any other problems which might exist in the social dynamics of a group of people. As Briana explains it, this is because “in a dance-movement workshop everyone feels vulnerable and then you find people working together to overcome something that is really difficult. Everyone is starting at ground zero”. What starts as clumsy shy individual movement becomes coordinated and harmonised dance. It is like going from erratic particles to waves. Yes, I managed to connect dance with quantum physics!
Even if to date Briana doesn't have classes for children in Brussels, working with kids is also one of her passions. Dance is a powerful form of education and I think children in Brussels would also love “stories in motion”, one of Briana's favourite classes for children that she used to teach in the US . I hope to see this appearing among the offers of STU Arts as well.
I had a great time discovering the person behind the ECD classes. If one didn't know she is a dance teacher, one could easily confuse her with a motivational trainer. She's very enthusiastic with her mind jumping from one idea to another, constantly working towards her vision: a world in which people are connected with one another and, most importantly, with themselves. Maybe dance is not the only art or form of movement which does that, but it is for sure one of the most beautiful and oldest forms of human expression.
For this month, Briana is preparing an intensive dance week-end: American Stepping workshop on the 17 of March and “Social dance” workshop followed by “Everyone can dance like Beyoncé” class on the 18th of March. Her website will give you all the necessary information to subscribe to a dance class or a workshop.
We are happy to have Briana in Brussels, we support her vision and we hope she can share her love for dancing with as many people as possible in Brussels and around the word.. but preferably in Brussels for a while.
While talking with Briana I discovered that she is actively sharing her vision about life and art through her blog as well. If you are curious, take a look!