Jake Riley started dancing 15 years ago and opened House of Dance in 2014, Minnesota’s first studio with a focus entirely on teaching hip-hop styles. By opening the Hopkins studio, Riley achieved one of his dreams.
Ever since Riley started dancing, he felt that the hip-hop community needed to grow and Minnesota needed a good hip-hop dancing studio.
“In 2014, there were people teaching at other studios, where their main styles were tap, jazz, ballet and maybe modern,” Riley said. “But why can’t we have a studio that’s dedicated to hip-hop?”
This studio, in Hopkins, was a place for him to build a hip-hop community and make dancing an inviting and engaging activity.
Forming a community is one of Riley’s primary goals. Like many people, he enjoys being around others with similar passions.
Riley saw that hip-hop broke down many boundaries. He knew that dancing could bring a diverse group of people together.
“When I was in high school, Asian people sat with the Asian people, and white people sat with the white people, and hip-hop broke those barriers down,” he said. “It breaks those gender, race, ethnicity, income, where you’re from, religion — [it takes] all those boundaries away. I don’t really care about any of that when we’re dancing together. I think that’s powerful.”
Riley strives to make House of Dance a safe and welcoming place. “We treat everybody the same, whether it’s our student who’s been with us for five years, or students going to come in tonight for the first time,” he said.
Throughout the years, Riley has seen many changes in the students who went through his lessons. He is confident he has made a big impact on their lives. He talked about a student who had attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
“Long story short, five years later, he is the star player on the soccer team,” Riley said. “He still has that same energy, but he knows how to focus his natural ability and energy.”
Riley believes that his lessons played a part in the growth of that student.
“He told me so, and his parents told me,” Riley said.
This is just one of the many success stories that Riley has encountered.
“We’ve gotten multiple e-mails like this where people will say, ‘I just want to thank you. Because before this, my son or my daughter was getting bullied at school,’ or, ‘My son never, ever was open in public settings. My son was so shy, he never [wanted] to do any activity. Now he’s finally found an activity that he loves to do,’ ” Riley said.
Forming close relationships is an important part of House of Dance. Riley connects with his students and teaches them much more than just dancing.
“We’re so close to the parent that if I find out that he’s messing up in school, or when kids miss school, or if one of our students is disrespected, or they’re bullying a kid, I’ll have a sit-down life talk with them. It’s bigger than dance.”
Students and parents appreciate Riley’s efforts to form a tight community. Metallica Ponce had trouble finding a good place for her son to learn to dance. She was delighted when she discovered House of Dance.
“Jake has taken us in like family and we really appreciate it,” Ponce said.
After many years, Riley is content with the hip-hop community. He is optimistic for the future of hip-hop and hopes more young people will take action and change things they aren’t happy with.