Jovaughn McConnell brings hip hop to dance fitness
Jovaughn McConnell is no stranger to the dance studio. This self-taught hip hop dancer has seamlessly transitioned from perfecting his practice to performing centre stage and starring in his movement. But, what he never saw coming was unlocking a new passion for helping others through his introduction to dance fitness.
“Fitness and dancing have always gone hand in hand. Because I am asthmatic, it was important for me to pace myself and build stamina as a dancer. Seeing one of my dance icons, Keone Madrid, and his wife Mari speak on health and wellness as a dancer and as an artist of the craft,” McConnell told Lifestyle.
But everything changed when he was invited by a seasoned instructor to teach a hip hop segment of a festival. “I was called by Kurt Dunn, the owner of BBK FitFest, to host a section at his fitness expo in 2019. That was the first time hosting a large dance class geared towards fitness and learning a new style. Jamaica is a dancehall-based culture and I was spreading my personal knowledge of hip hop.”
Taking classes online with international choreographers in the industry, he explains that the presence of these industry giants has been evident in studios and also on stage in performances. Moved by this artistry, he decided to follow in their inspiring footsteps and incorporate his dance culture as well.
“Having students move, create stories, shapes and get in tune with the artist of the song is what hip hop dance classes are all about. Now, dancehall is a part of my culture and that will never leave. Dancehall also inspired hip hop so I get the beat on both sides of the drum. That is a plus for me and I get to learn from industry leaders right here in my own country,” he said.
Prior to the festival, McConnell had been teaching at Encore Dance Studio in 2017. With the success of the expo, he found a new home at FitLab Studios, where he has been since 2019.
His teaching style is animated, whimsical, and lyrical-based, making learning both fun and energetic. At the core, he stays true to himself, and that authenticity is what has students eagerly jumping at the opportunity to learn more. “The feedback has been good. Persons say they like my class and my style of teaching. And they appreciate that I show the basics and help them to grow in the process,” he shared.
TIKTOK JAMMIN’ CLASS
Currently, he is teaching a dance fitness class called TikTok Jammin’. This exciting concept was originally created during the pandemic period and it was called PopKulcha at the time. With the world reopening, Christina Evans, the owner of FitLab studios, decided to switch gears and the collaborative process gave birth to a new movement.
TikTok Jammin’ takes students on an energetic journey through some of the popular dance challenges from the social media platform. Attendees are taught the basic movements and from there, the featured moves are broken down step by step. Once the sequence is achieved, the moment arrives to perform what has been learned, adding your personal swag to the mix. “All that matters is that you’re moving, you’re learning and you’re having fun,” the instructor said.
Dance fitness, he highlighted, can help with your heart rate, mobility, metabolism and act as a well-deserved dose of cardio. “The most important thing to consider while engaging in dance fitness is eating well-balanced meals.” An added bonus to taking McConnell’s classes is that can make the smoothest transition into parties and put these moves into the spotlight.
Being a dance fitness teacher has taught him more patience than he could have imagined. “Not everything I can do can be done by everyone around me. So that helps me to focus on technique, which brings me back to my basics in hip hop.”
Witnessing the growth of his students has made the experience incredibly rewarding for him. “I enjoy when my students learn and execute the choreography while having fun.”
So what’s next for McConnell? On Friday, he will be hosting a technical hip hop dance class at FitLab Studios alongside another choreographer. “I am super glad to share the space with Jonae Virgo, another hip hop dancer in Jamaica and an amazing person. It’s for the more intermediate dancers to learn a full choreography piece created by me. The moves and choreography will be mostly popping. They can expect a lot of grooving and high-energy moves.”