The City Magazine Since 1975

In the Groove

In the Groove
June 2014
Talking hip-hop with dancer, instructor, and choreographer Naquan Villega

Anyone who’s met Naquan Villega—vibrant with infectious enthusiasm and a passion for dance—won’t be surprised to learn the hip-hop dancer, teacher, and choreographer found the spotlight early in life, grooving in the Pinckney Elementary School talent show to gospel singer Donnie McClurkin’s “So In Love.” From there, he moved on to Wando High School and joined the show choir, soon taking over its choreography. And today, the 21-year-old is a member of the adult performance company at Dance FX (you may have caught them recently at the Jail Break festival), where classes he leads in lyrical hip-hop have garnered an avid following of teen and adult students.

His Big-Apple origins: I was born a New York Yankee but raised a Southern gentleman. When I was seven, I moved to Mount Pleasant to live with my grandparents. My mom liked the schools and the slower existence here.

And returning to them: I’m planning to move to New York City in September to pursue a job in the arts. Whatever it is, I’ll definitely continue dancing—hip-hop, and I love modern and contemporary styles, too.

On hip-hop: Hip-hop is freedom. A lot of other forms are based on rules and regulations, but hip-hop is more free-form, and that makes it easier to express yourself in your own way.

Favorite tunes to move to right now: Jason Derülo; his music is so exciting and new.

Choreography work: I’ve probably choreographed more than 25 works over the years. The latest was “Jackets” for Dance FX’s spring show at the Sottile Theatre. It’s a piece about who’s in control and who we want to be—trench coats represent our secret lives; blazers show corporate America; and a motorcycle jacket is freedom.

Becoming a dance instructor: I knew if I could teach Southern boys in show choir to “touch-step,” I could teach anybody!

Teaching teens: I like to teach them to respect themselves, and hip-hop has the power to do that because there are so many freedoms; there’s a consequence for every action. Pointing one finger can mean so many different things. It’s up to us as dancers to evoke an emotion that is respectable and attractive.

Secret to his success: I am an energy drink! I am all about energy and ask my students to give all that they have—I really dive in and connect with them. I like to keep people focused and engaged. When the connection is lost, we all lose interest.

Performer to most influence him: Janet Jackson. You could always tell she was feeling the movement.

Off-hours entertainment: I like to hang out with my friends, maybe go to Kaminsky’s to get a dessert and talk about the week. I also love to sing karaoke; give me some Luther Vandross, and I’ll perform the mess out of it any day.  

Watch a video including clips from ”Jackets” and Dance FX’s adult performance company at Jail Break