Arts on Friday
A Palmerston North hip-hop enthusiast with an entrepreneurial spirit is behind the latest addition to Palmerston North's flourishing performing arts scene.
Talia Shadwell meets Turbine Dance Company founder Monique Bell and checks out the dance opportunities on offer around the city in 2013.
Rocking pink lipstick, tall platform street shoes and a loud headscarf, Palmerston North hip-hop performer and now businesswoman Monique Bell certainly looks the part.
Naming hip-hop enfant terrible Nicki Minaj as a style influence, the owner of Palmerston North's newest dance studio is never without her trademark red lipstick when she hits the dancefloor.
"I like to be a bit out there and stand out."
At just 18 years old, Bell has just taken possession of the keys to her very own dance studio. She says the Cuba St studio, built about 100 years ago, had an "antique" appearance about it when she first saw it. One of the first dance studios ever opened in Palmerston North, the floorboards had the kind of spring required for performers to practise, and Bell says she fell in love at first sight.
The former Freyberg High School pupil is now the proud owner of Palmerston North's Turbine Dance Company, a venture she has always had her heart set on.
"It was something that I always wanted to do. It was just finding the right time and the right place," she says. "Dancing is my life - it's been my passion since age 4 and I always wanted my own studio. My sister is about six years younger than me and as soon as she was walking I started teaching her how to dance."
Growing up in Palmerston North, Bell took ballet and jazz classes before foraying into hip-hop at age 12. By age 13, she was teaching the modern genre, which is usually associated with pop music video performance, as well as rap and R&B music.
"Hip-hop is the dance of the time at the moment. You see it in all the music videos, it's always out there and seems to be what everybody is interested in at the moment," Bell says.
Before she started her own company, Bell had been teaching classes out of Zero Gravity Studios, primarily a cheerleading outfit which shares its Taonui St venue with another Palmerston North performing arts newcomer, Circo Acrofit.
She has also been teaching in schools around Manawatu, and has found little resistance from primary school children bred on a diet of You Tube and music video hip-hop icons.
"So far there has been only one kid that I had to convince to do it."
Turbine Dance Company will begin offering classes on February 8, including hip-hop and jazz for ages 6 to adults, the studio will also cater to older women, offering dance fitness and hip-hop classes for the 50-plus age group.
Bell is aiming for a relaxed vibe - avoiding formal exams and focusing on building performance skills instead.
"I'm all about just having fun and performing - I hated doing exams growing up, I just loved being on the stage."
Instead, her studio will present multiple end-of-term performances, will train for regional dance competitions at The Regent on Broadway theatre, and will top it off with an end of year performance.
She hopes to take on about 100 pupils by the end of term one, including an advanced hip-hop performance crew, who will star in promotional videos for the studio and will build up toward regional and, Bell hopes, national-level hip-hop competitions. Her dad has taken two weeks off work to visit the studio everyday, ensuring it's ready for his daughter's proteges to hit the dancefloor on February 8.
With her family's help she is installing full-length mirrors at the studio, painting and decorating it to give it a personal touch.
"My parents are so supportive. They are behind me 100 per cent, I couldn't be doing this without them."
She will also offer a child-friendly space for parents wanting to take classes to leave their children, hoping to attract an older clientele, and the studio will convert to a school disco space monthly, offering dress-up parties and dance competitions for school children.
Bell hopes her Cuba St space will become a permanent fixture of Palmerston North's dance scene.
"I just want to be about getting the kids out there, building passion for hip-hop, building their confidence and just having fun.
"The parents love watching their kids dancing just as much as the kids love it."
- © Fairfax NZ News