This fall, Jae Haile Phillips and his dance partner, FSMN parent Hannah Esparza, came to Friends School for a week-long Latin dance residency. Jai taught merengue, salsa, hip-hop, fusion (a combination of salsa and hip-hop) with all of the steps and complexity that each of these dances demands.

Students were right there with the instructors showing their steps! Kindergarten through 8th grade danced three times a week during their Spanish class time (Spanish teacher Veronica Guevara was studying in Cuba for the week).

View video in YouTube of Jae teaching first and second graders.

Jae Haile Philiips (right)
Jae Haile Phillips (right) taught a dance residency at Friends School of Minnesota in November.

On the first day of the residency, students walked into class feeling anxious, and nervous, and asking questions like, “Do I have to touch anyone?” Jae immediately got their attention, welcomed everyone, started to learn their names, and captured their desire to move. Jae’s sense of humor, respect for the students and ability to showcase the growth the kids made his dance classes the buzz of the school.

Normally middle school students approach dance instruction with dread and heavy feet. Some older readers, may recall middle school dance instruction in the gymnasium as one of the units we had to take.

Middle school dancers
Jae got FSMN middle school students dancing!

Friends School middle school students felt the opposite way. Students who would never dream of dancing with a partner, not only danced, but were willing to dance with anyone. They were disappointed if it was not a dance day and were thrilled and excited by what they had learned. Lunchtime turned into dance practice, and any free time during the week was spent perfecting the hip-hop or salsa step the students had learned that day.

Third and fourth graders perfected their dance about the Montgomery bus boycott and performed it at our Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration in January.

Third and fourth graders worked for over a month choreographing and practicing their dance with Jai.
Third and fourth graders worked for over a month choreographing and practicing their dance with Jae.
Third and fourth graders perform at Friends School of Minnesota's Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Celebration
Third and fourth graders perform their dance at Friends School of Minnesota’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration
Kindergarten dance at FSMN's Martin Luther King Jr., Day Celebration
Kindergarten dance at FSMN’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration

Jae and Hannah found a way to ignite the light in all of the students. As the students walked through the building that week, they were “dancing with the stars”.

Jae Haile Phillip‘s experience includes directing, facilitating, and choreographing many after-school and youth programs around the Twin Cities.  He began salsa dancing in 2004 while studying abroad in Sydney, Australia.  He teaches salsa and hip-hop classes at the Social Dance Studio, and has found a way to blend the two styles of dancing in his salsa and hip-hop fusion class.  He is currently the choreographer for the Minneapolis Professional Salsa Team.