DELMAR — Word on the street proves that Delmar has got some new grooves. A local hip hop studio, The Drop In, is starting summer classes on Monday, July 15 and offering “drop-in” hip hop classes and dance inclusion classes.
For the past few years, Donna Mannarino traveled all over the east coast seeking out professional hip hop classes for her daughter. Now, Mannarino is bringing those coveted classes to the capital region through her new business, The Drop In.
Growing up a dancer herself, Mannarino is a hip hop teacher at Cindy’s Academy of Dance in Delmar, where her daughter Angie also takes lessons. Mannarino created The Drop In in August 2018, after she realized the need for more hip hop in the Capital Region. Albany and the area surrounding it has a multitude of dancing schools, with studios teaching many styles at many levels. Some schools focus on recreational learning, while others require performances at a competitive level; these competitive schools often require the student to travel for competitions, conventions, and masterclasses.
“I wanted to give everybody an opportunity locally to have that experience, so you don’t have to travel,” stated teacher and CEO Mannarino. “Starting The Drop In I never even thought it would get this far… I just wanted to create a space where you don’t have a commitment. Some kids don’t want a dance recital, some kids don’t want to be on a stage, some kids just want to take a class… and just have fun to the music they want to listen to.”
Mannarino wanted to establish a space where anyone and everyone is welcome. She stated, “I think every studio has their niche… I think this is a way for everyone to just learn to unite and learn something new with an overall fun dance experience. You’re able to walk in, take a class, pay a fee and leave” and Mannarino hopes for students to take the things they learn back to their home studio.
Classes are available for students of all ages with beginner, intermediate and advanced levels at the Cindy’s Academy of Dance location in Delmar. Adult hip hop cardio “pop-ins” are also offered at Hiit it with Britt in Albany. When asked what students can expect, Mannarino described “I think every level will learn new techniques,” adding that this summer she wants to focus on the patrons having fun and loosening up. “I think dancers fear looking silly when they hip hop dance because they are often trained so technically… loosen up, let go of fear and just express who you are.”
To accomplish this, Mannarino has a special technique. “I do a freestyle circle in every class — that is the most challenging and intimidating part for [dancers] ages thirteen and up; [dancers] ages four to ten are rock stars. It is scary, even for me, because you have to let go… but in life you have to let go. What I want to get out of this is for dancers to unite and support each other and be able to be who they are.” She also added, “my biggest goal is to get this community to not be so competitive.”
The Drop In’s emphasis on community stems from Mannarino’s childhood roots. “Growing up in Albany, there wasn’t much to do, and Saint Teresa’s church school would have The Drop In… we would all ride our bikes… and that’s where people went.” The original Drop In allowed kids a space to just have fun, and Mannarino is putting an educational and artistic spin on The Drop In, while keeping up the principle values of unity and enjoyment through hip hop dance.
This summer, Mannarino plans to introduce the community to different genres of hip hop. She will create classes that feature popping and locking, old school, and modernized and current hip hop. In addition to Mannarino and her daughter teaching classes, guest teachers are brought in for masterclasses.
Previously, Mannarino has brought in teachers from major metropolitan cities all over the country. One notable teacher was Jay Chris Moore, who has worked with artists like Usher, Missy Elliot, LMFAO and Black Eyed Peas. Moore, hailing from Los Angeles, California, is the founder of The MOB Dance Company. Another masterclass featured two of Justin Timberlake’s backup dancers, Ivan Koumaev and Maja Kareš. While on tour with Timberlake, the two professionals did a “Man of the Woods” workshop for the local students. Attending masterclasses allows dancers to get a taste of the professional world, which Mannarino thinks is a valuable experience, adding “that was great.”
A masterclass teacher also inspired Mannarino to add inclusion classes for kids with disabilities or special needs to her summer schedule. Mannarino has previously taught hip hop to the Best Buddies program at Guilderland High School and after seeing Kenny Clutch, also known as “The Dancing Dad,” teach class she knew that “this is what [she] was meant to do.” New Jersey native, Clutch came and taught at The Drop In, teaching beginning students, advanced students and the inclusion class. Clutch’s son has down syndrome and after being diagnosed with cancer at two years old, Clutch needed to close his studio in order to support his son; all proceeds went to a fundraiser where The Drop In was able to raise over $1,000 for Clutch’s charity.
Mannarino spoke on Clutch’s inclusion class: “When I saw him teach the inclusion class, my heart was so filled with love, because watching him with these kids… they just give love. There is no trying to out dance somebody— it’s just having fun.” She also spoke on starting her own class this summer: “I’m hoping to reach out to this community so that they have an opportunity like we have an opportunity to be able to express themselves… This is what I’m really excited for.”
With worldwide goals at a small town business, Mannarino is changing the face of dance in Delmar. She hopes that dancers all over will participate to “just unite as a dance community and express themselves.”
The Drop In is located at 160 Delaware Avenue in Delmar. Summer classes will take place on Monday nights beginning July 15. For more information visit thedropinny.com, or follow on Instagram @_thedropin and Facebook @518DropIn.
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