Hip-hop sizzles on a chilly night

Minneapolis dancer Alissa Paris shares her skills with Hamline.

Alissa Paris cranks the warm-up into high gear, prompting surprised laughs from everyone.

Kelly Holm, Senior Reporter

The polar vortex might have put people in the pits, but Minneapolis-based dancer and educator Alissa Paris sought to raise spirits in lieu of rising temperatures on the evening of Tuesday, Feb. 4, when she came to pass on her hip-hop expertise in Anderson 112.

Taking up two hours, Paris’ lessons were coordinated by Hamline University Programming Board (HUPB). Junior Savannah Spirov, one of HUPB’s Late-Night Event Programmers, has known Paris since ninth grade, when Paris was her dance teacher at Washburn High School. Since then, Paris has become a mentor for Spirov, the two performing together on various occasions, including a recent impromptu stint at First Avenue.

“She’s able to give me opportunities, and I’m able to give her opportunities, which is really, really cool,” Spirov said. One such opportunity that student gave to teacher was the chance to bring hip-hop to the halls of Hamline.

Paris participated in the dance magnet program while a student at North High School in Minneapolis, where she dabbled in a plethora of styles including African, tap and ballet.

However, she says, “Hip-hop was the thing that really resonated with me.”

Paris studied dance in its many facets at the University of Minnesota, from dance theatre to dance history to dance theory. Her degree turned into a choreographic career of teaching and performing all around the Twin Cities in a variety of contexts, from the laid-back atmosphere of a bat mitzvah with friends to the perfection a team seeks to achieve when coordinating a routine to be performed at a showcase. She cites Janet Jackson as one of her biggest influences, and aims to create what she describes as a late 1980s-early 1990s aesthetic in her choreography and music selections.

Warm-ups featured a self-dubbed “mish-mash” of hip-hop songs from past and present, while the routines themselves were set to the tunes of Princess Nokia, an underground rapper based out of New York City.

“You never know what you’re going to get with hip-hop dance,” Paris said. “You have to ask more questions, because every hip-hop instructor has a different style and background. While we all might be flex with that and try different things, typically everyone has their own signature style,” whether that be breakdancing or house dancing. “It can be a very sexual and empowering dance, but it’s not always about that… It has a lot to do with the dancer, and their personality, and their comfort.”

While it’s up in the air if Paris will be returning to Hamline anytime soon, the hearty crowd attendance and enthusiasm showed surging spirit for a second act.

“I just haven’t danced in a while,” sophomore Grace Bauer said. “[It’s] just kind of a way to warm up in general.”

Paris conveyed well-wishes for the swarm of attendees.

“I hope that they feel ever so slightly more comfortable and at home in their own bodies, a little more courageous.”

Chloe McElmury
Alissa Paris leads the group in a warm up routine with lots of stretching.
Chloe McElmury
Paris’ dance class gets down low.