A studio of diverse genres

Dance: An Ellicott City instructor finds success, mixing break dancing and hip-hop with traditional styles.

Howard Live

January 09, 2003|By Donna W. Payne | Donna W. Payne,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

The name fits the game at the B. Funk Dance Company in Ellicott City. Becky Funk, billed as "the real B. Funk," handles the dance side, and her husband, Andy Funk, takes care of the business side of their studio, which specializes in teaching moves from the funkier side of the dance spectrum: break dancing, street jam, hip-hop.

"Funk is more you feel it [than explain it]. You feel it with the rhythm of the music," said Becky Funk (Servant is her maiden name), adding that she thought about not taking her husband's fortuitous moniker.

"We were high school sweethearts, so it just kind of worked out," she said. "I was afraid to take his name at first. I was going to keep my name."

She said her mother thought of the word play on "be funk" to label the studio, and the name has attracted attention.

Some clients called initially because "they saw or heard the name and thought it sounded fun," Andy Funk said.

The couple married in 1997 and two years later had just bought their first home in Ellicott City when Becky Funk decided to follow her husband's advice "to do something" about the post-college desk job that she hated.

"She came home and she said, `I quit my job. I'm going to open a dance studio,'" he said.

The studio has grown from 60 students in 1999 to 400 this year. To manage the larger business, Andy Funk recently left his job as an events manager for Make-A-Wish Foundation.

As artistic director, Becky Funk, who has studied dance for more than 19 years and has won regional and national dance competitions, offers all styles of dance for people of all ages and skill levels. The school has nine instructors, including Becky's sister, Angie Servant. They offer classes in tap; ballet; lyrical and modern; African, Caribbean and Latin; and theater dance as well as professional voice and acting instruction.

But it is the streetwise styles of hip-hop that attract a clientele who may not otherwise find their way to a classical dance studio. "It's amazing how many people are interested in that now. We've got lots of guys that come in and take those classes," Becky Funk said.

"There's a huge break-dancing and street-dancing contingent that's still underground," her husband said. " ... You go to a high school and the high school kids are break dancing ... teaching themselves and learning from one another."

Matt Crow, 11, of Ellicott City takes break-dancing classes at B. Funk studio, which is officially in Oella at the historic Oella Mill but has an Ellicott City address."[Break dancing] is something that he picked up from friends at school. ... [So] he wanted to try [lessons]," said Matt's father, John Crow, noting that Matt always gets his homework done in plenty of time on the days that he has a break dancing class.

"Dancing is just really great for the kids all around," said Toni Riley of Ellicott City, noting its benefits of discipline, hard work and self-esteem. Riley's 12-year-old daughter, Kimberly, is a member of the B. Funk Senior Dance Company, which with the Junior and Pewee companies are the school's three dance competition teams.

On Saturday, the Senior Company prepared for this weekend's all-styles dance competition in Crystal City, Va. The troupe of young women tied black T-shirts around their heads and topped that with black knit caps set at an angle to strike an appropriate attitude for their hip-hop number, which features the heavy beat, quick movements and funky style that exemplifies that genre of dance.

"It's hard. It takes a lot out of you," said Senior Company member Kate Bennett, 15, of Ellicott City, who is on the Mount Hebron High School dance team.

The Funks and Angie Servant are expanding their influence from the local dance scene to a wider venue with the recent formation of Rapid Movement Productions. Their first project is ambitious - Monsters of HipHop - a two-day hip-hop dance workshop April 12 and 13 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia.

"We wanted to do an educational, career development workshop [for] students and teachers, beginners to professionals," Andy Funk said.

The event, which is expected to attract 600 to 800 dancers, features an audition class with well-known talent agents and workshops by nine professionals who have choreographed dances for pop stars such as Michael and Janet Jackson, Jennifer Lopez, Madonna and 'N Sync - what Andy Funk calls "the biggest names in the business." The Funks are planning similar events for Atlanta, Dallas and Chicago this year.

Information: www.bfunk.com, www.monstersofhiphop.com, or 410-313-8199.

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