The world may not know who Brandee Evans is but if she has it her way it will, very soon. The professional dancer has graced the concert and video stage with the likes of Katy Perry, Usher, Ledisi and more.She has served as a choreographer for award-winning cheer and dance teams in the U.S. and Japan. One of her newest gigs is as the assistant to acclaimed choreographer LaurieAnn who became infamously known for her tough go hard or go home attitude on P Diddy’s reality show Making the Band. She just finished the tour she choreographed for R&B singer Ledisi. Brandee, a certified teacher, never set out to be a professional dancer but fate always has a way of twisting our lives around and finding us.
However, it isn’t her Hollywood affiliations that have students, housewives, and plain old working women, like myself, talking about her. It’s her sexually charged Hip Hop In Heels dance class. If I had to describe it in three words it would be sexually confident workout. Once a high school English teacher, Brandee is no stranger to giving instruction but it’s her dance ability, straight no chaser humor and her desire to help women find their inner confidence through dance that makes you love her. Her classes have been featured in California, Florida, Georgia, Texas, Japan and her hometown of Memphis, TN. Now living in Los Angeles, she frequently flies home to spend time with family and friends. I caught up with her there at the Fred Astaire Dance Studio. I don’t quite know what I expected but what I found was a room full of women of all shapes and sizes who wanted to learn a sensual routine whether it be for themselves or to put on a show for their significant other.
The song for the night was Beyonce’s Partition from her uninhibited album “Beyoncé”. Brandee choreographed a number that accompanied the risqué lyrics perfectly. The class is open to women 18 and older and participants are encouraged to wear clothing that allows them to move freely but also makes them feel irresistibly sexy. The attire I witnessed ranged from leggings to leotards with fishnet stockings and short, shorts. But one thing every woman in the room had in common was that they were wearing calf complimenting heels. Men, except for security, are kept out to minimize the inhibitions and intimidations of the participants. Prudish women need not attend.
The class is geared toward nonprofessional dancers but that doesn’t prompt Brandee to skimp on the difficulty of the routine. Each one I’ve seen could easily be used in one of today’s hip hop videos. By the end of the class, the students, the teacher and her friends, who serve as additional coaching staff, had thoroughly sweated out their hair. The price for the class is less than you would pay for a meal for one at Chili’s but the fun experience and confidence building advice would qualify to go for an insane amount at a Sotheby’s auction.
What I enjoyed most about the class was Brandee’s candidness about her own imperfections. She shared that those muscular legs most women would die for are her least favorite attribute and she has become skilled at hiding her knock knees. She is determined to use the talents the good Lord gave her to earn a living and help others. Throughout the class she made us all laugh, which helped to subside the fears of those like myself who felt they didn’t have the skills to get it right. And she really does want her students to get it right. She often gave gentle correction to those who may not have pointed their toes just right or possessed enough arch in their back when popping that booty.
The self-taught dancer is taking her Hip Hop In Heels class nationwide this summer on a multi-city tour. I for one hope that each city is a sell-out. For Brandee, confidence is more than a word. It’s a mandatory element of instruction.
BE: It kind of happened as a mistake. I was on vacation taking some dance classes and someone saw me. The next thing I knew I was on tour. That was when it hit me that maybe I could do this professionally. I thought that time had passed for me. I was teaching school. I was department chair at Southwind High School in Memphis. I was teaching high school English and just dancing on the side and coaching.
JH: You attended college on a dance scholarship, right?
BE: Yeah. I was on the dance team. I graduated from The University of Memphis with a degree in English and a minor in Management Information Systems. I went to go get a job as a substitute teacher instead they hired me full-time. I had to go back to school while teaching to get certified. What’s crazy was when I finally passed my Praxis and got my certification that is when I went on vacation and my life changed. I have been dancing professionally for three years now but I still teach English. I teach English in Japan, and I teach in a private academy in Korea Town in Los Angeles and sometimes I tutor. When the jobs aren’t coming that is when I utilize my degree.
JH: You have quite a bit going on. How are you enjoying working with Laurie Ann?
BE: Me and Laurie are good. People are always asking me what she’s like. The TV Laurie is completely different from the everyday Laurie Ann. I love working with her. I learn so much from her about the business and how to get things done. People on the outside can be hard on her but she gets hired for a reason. She knows what she’s doing, and I love her. It’s been great.
JH: You are also doing Hip Hop In Heels. Tell me how you got started doing that?
BE: I wanted to do something in Memphis that the ladies have been doing in LA. In LA, if you go to the audition none of the ladies are in flats. You may enjoy your hip hop dancing in your sneakers or Timberlands but when you go to an audition they are going to tell you to put on heels and that’s when people start failing. If you don’t know how to dance in heels, you won’t book the job.
I started teaching Hip Hop In Heels at a small studio in Memphis called Dance Houze and I was giving the money to the dancers so they can take dance class. I never took dance classes. I used the money to help these little girls do that and keep them off the street.
JH: So, you didn’t take dance lessons?
BE: No, my mom put me in creative writing classes. My friends taught me the dance techniques.
JH: The reason I thought you would be great for this CONFIDENCE piece was because I saw in a Facebook post how it really bothers you when women don’t have confidence.
BE: Oh, that is my pet peeve. Women will tell me they have plenty of confidence but they don’t dance or they don’t know how to dance. Even though you don’t know how to do something at least have the confidence to step outside of yourself and try it. Now, if you try it and you say ‘oh I just don’t like it.’ That is different from I just can’t do it.
JH: What about people like me who just aren’t good at it? I have no coordination.
BE: Well, maybe you haven’t had the right teacher. You have to have the teacher who breaks it down for you. If they are just doing the steps and moving on then you aren’t learning anything. It’s just like with math or English class, if they are just throwing problems at you but they don’t break down how to do it then you will never get it.
JH: What are Brandee’s rules for confidence?
BE: I say just go for it. Find that other girl that you see in the bathroom when you get ready to go out and you know she looks good. You have to bring that attitude to class, work, or wherever else you want to go and excel. What’s funny is people think that I’m so confident, but I’m not. I would rather be on stage in front of a million people than in my Hip Hop In Heels class where the ladies are just watching me. I push myself to get over my fears. I don’t like my legs so I don’t like to wear shorts. I make myself wear them in class so I can get more confident. The class is helping women boost their confidence by making women do what they don’t like to or helping them get really good at something they enjoy doing.
JH: Well, what’s next?
Hopefully, a reality show. That’s in the works. I helped Ledisi get ready for her tour. I’m her choreographer. I performed on Black Girls Rock with her and I choreographed her video. We’ve been working on her weight loss. She’s lost four dress sizes. Ledisi has been my friend for years. She talked about my class for two years and never came. Now, she’s confident enough to do what I do on stage. With her new album, “The Truth,” she’s telling the truth and everybody is going to be surprised. I’m also helping Laurie Ann take an artist named Ivy on the road with DJ Khalid. I’m doing movies. I was in a movie called “Beyond the Lights” where I assistant choreographed and that should be coming out soon. I also just finished choreographing a video for this Australian boy band named Justice Crew. They are like the Australian Back Street Boys or N Sync.
JH: What about Hip Hop In Heels? I see you are taking it international.
BE: Yes! I’ve done it in the US, UK and Japan, so far and this summer I’m taking it on tour. I plan to do DVDs and all that and hopefully, I can just find good people to carry it on. I’m only one woman, I can’t do it all.
JH: I think that’s great because we don’t have many prominent black women in fitness right now.
BE: I’m trying! Hopefully, the next one will be me.
Update: Brandee got her reality show and it is in post production. She was also a choreographer and featured dancer in the movie Beyond the Lights She has a lot of other great things coming up as well. To find out if she is coming to a city near you, visit www.hiphopinheels.com. You can also view her demo reel here.