This Local Hip-Hip Dance Class is Not Just About Dancing

Consciousness raising to a hip-hop beat

It’s not just dancing. Christopher DeAngelo Gilbert builds each class around a concept, like embracing individuality or renewing confidence. You’ll leave with a few new moves, plus a raised consciousness. Oh, yeah – and you’ll definitely break a sweat. Milwaukee native Gilbert’s Tuesday night classes attract 15 to 20 people, ranging from kids to senior citizens.

“I’m a 414 kid through and through,” says Gilbert with a soft laugh, sitting on a bench inside Daync, one of five studios where Gilbert teaches hip-hop in the Milwaukee area. “I want to use my voice to inspire self-respect and positivity in my students. My goal is help create better people, not just better dancers.”

And Gilbert has done just that, as former competitive dancer Charisse Giangreco contends. Giangreco has taken Gilbert’s classes for over a year; he even choreographed her wedding. Gilbert has helped her regain her footing as she came back from years away from dance.

“I love Chris’ classes because it’s not just regimented choreography – there’s always a storytelling component,” Giangreco says. “Because of that, I’m not scared to dance again … and I know I can open up and be vulnerable.”

In addition to inspiring students at his dance classes, Gilbert is a member of the popular band New Age Narcissism and a life coach, while also working with Milwaukee Public Schools students to help show them their potential. For him, hip-hop is far more than a dance form – it’s a means of instilling confidence and opening up his students’ potential, especially for his younger pupils.

“I was once right in their spot, living in a neighborhood where no one expects you to live past 18,” Gilbert says. “I can show them that that doesn’t [have to] be their path. And I think the work I’m doing … in Milwaukee really shows that you don’t have to go somewhere else like L.A. to make it big – you can build a legacy right here in this city.”

‘Get Smart!’ appears in the January 2018 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

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Since interning for the magazine in spring of 2017, Anna has contributed to both the print publication and website. She has covered topics from women in the workplace to communal gardens and also writes guides to life in Milwaukee. Outside of writing for the magazine, Anna is going back to school at UW-Milwaukee to work towards a career in genetic counseling.