Mabgate has a new urban dance studio and it’s bringing the hip-hop, afro and dancehall community together under one roof.
KOBY Studio is the new jewel in Mabgate’s crown – and that’s saying a lot. It’s one of the city’s most up and coming areas, a creative hub filled with art galleries, independent cafes and performance spaces. They fit right in here, and they’re creating a community of their own, by inviting the city’s urban dancers to come together in one place.
It was started by three dancers, who are also very close friends. Sid Raphael, Mimi Moreno and Victor Amango have never actually worked together before, but they’ve danced together – and their shared passion made KOBY Studio possible. “Our main aim is to unite all of the urban and social dancers under one roof,” Sid explained. “I couldn’t do that where I was before because there weren’t enough dance studio slots available, so we decided to open our own studio. This all happened in the space of three months – we had a few classes, then we started building workshops in, and they started selling out.”
Now they have their own studio, they have the freedom to offer classes across a huge range of styles, from hip-hop and street dance to afrofusion, house and urban bhangra. It’s a real mixed bag and there’s something for everyone, whether you’re a seasoned pro or an absolute beginner – you might just have your New Year fitness craze sorted here.
If you’ve got kids and teens at home that you want to keep out of trouble, their classes are the perfect choice. They’re just £5 a pop, and everything except their Scandinavian Spice classes (yep, they do those too) are open to the little ones – you’re never too young to work on your moves.
Although Sid was a bit of a late starter himself. His dancing career began eight years ago, in epic style. “I was in a nightclub and there was a dude dancing in the middle of the dance floor – it was like one of those cliché cheesy battle moments that you see in Step Up, so we battled it out on the dance floor and then became friends. Afterwards, he told me he taught a class at Leeds Uni, and said, ‘Why don’t you come?’ So I did. A year later, he had to leave to go back to London, so I took over.” The rest, as they say, is history.
Now he has his own studio and he’s already pushing boundaries. Alongside their diverse range of urban dance classes, they also offer a range of more unusual sessions. There’s Deaf Jam with CatNis, a special fitness class for people who are deaf or hard of hearing – it works by placing the speakers face down on the ground, so students can feel the beat through their feet. And if you’ve ever wondered how Beyonce pulls off those moves in five inch heels, you can find out at their Heels classes with Raven Swaine.
They’ll also be opening the floor to aspiring new choreographers every Friday. It’s a £2 class, so it’s a good little taster session (and perfect if you want a fun workout in the last week before payday) – but it also gives advanced dancers a chance to practice teaching in front of a real audience, which is really important to their development. After all, everyone has to start somewhere.
And then there are the workshops – Sid has contacts all over the UK and he’ll be bringing them to Leeds for a series of one-off events, giving you a chance to learn from new instructors. “They’re mostly improvement workshops,” he explained. “It’s always in a class format, and the reason I bring these workshops to Leeds is so people can experience different styles of teaching, different styles of dance, different people in general, and so they can get to learn from other people and not just from ourselves.”
You can do it for fun or you can do it for a reason – and if you want something to work towards, it should be King Kompany. That’s Sid’s troupe – he selects the best dancers through an audition process, they train together and they compete. They’ve entered four competitions in 2017, with even more planned for next year – which gives them a chance to show off their skills on a national stage.
There’s one more thing you should know about KOBY Studio. This isn’t the kind of place where you have to be perfect – right from the outset, they wanted to be a studio where everyone would feel at home, in fact, it’s the inspiration behind the name. “KOBY is actually abbreviation for King of Being You. It means we want it to be a place where people can just openly express themselves as artists without having to worry about anything or anybody, so when you’re in the studio, you can just let go and forget about all your problems and just have fun.”
If that sounds like something you want to do, get down there and have a go. Classes are just £5, so what do you have to lose?
KOBY Studio, 23a, 66-70 Mabgate, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS9 7DZ.