Best Dance Company 

Readers' Pick

click to enlarge arts_richmond_urban_dance.jpg

Marc Schmidt

First place:

Richmond Urban Dance

109 W. 15th St.
richmondurbandance.com

Second place: Richmond Ballet

Third place: Genia Johnson Dance Company

Hip-hop dance came from the streets, and sadly, there are still a large number of dancers from those same streets who cannot afford professional training.

Enter Richmond Urban Dance.

A street-style dance company, the registered nonprofit offers classes to all ages and skill levels. It was founded in 2014 with a vision to bring professional level hip-hop dance training to Richmond with an emphasis on serving the community — and it has grown from 20 students in that first year to more than 570 registered students last year. That's better than a 2,000 percent increase for founder and artistic director Mandy Helmlinger. Also, this is its third year in a row winning best dance company in this readers' poll by Style Weekly.

"The irony behind these dance moves that are created in the street by kids is that dance studios take the moves and profit off of them," Helmlinger says. "They charge people to come and take class in order to learn them. Meanwhile the creators of these moves can't even afford to join the class. We at [Richmond Urban Dance] are changing that."

Class prices range from $15 for an open-class drop-in to various passes ranging from $96 (one month all-access pass) to $320 (40 Open Class Dance Pass for a year. But a core element of the group is its scholarship program, offering partial and full financial assistance to families who cannot afford classes.

In 2018, it began partnering with Dogtown Dance Theatre, and also offered classes in special needs hip-hop, street tap, and teen and adult break dancing among others. Coming up this year, it has the third annual I Am Hip Hop show June 7 and 8, as well as summer camps in June and July and plans for a hip-hop dance convention are in the works.

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