Rebecca Wallace looks cool even before she mentions she’s a hip-hop instructor. Tortoiseshell glasses frame her smiling eyes as she laughs, and her flannel shirt is perfectly oversized. Behind her, a graffiti mural screams the name of the building, Jabberwocky Studios, in loud neon paint.
Wallace enrolled at the studio 2 1/2 years ago for its adult hip-hop class, and after one year, she became a hip-hop instructor. She dedicates her Sundays to Jabberwocky while the rest of her time is spent as a school counselor at Smithon and Gentry middle schools. Originally from Webster Groves, Missouri, Wallace came to Columbia for her undergraduate degree at MU, majoring in Spanish, and received a Master of Education in Counseling from Stephens.
Jabberwocky Studios is all about teaching students how to celebrate art and diversity within themselves and the community. For Linda Schust, owner of the studio, Wallace represents why Jabberwocky exists. “My favorite thing about our hip-hop squad is that it’s so diverse, and of course Rebecca represents part of that diversity,” Schust says. “The kids have actually come to think of her as a friend. She’s somebody that they can talk to and feel safe.”
Sitting with her back to the mural, Wallace slides through all this hip-hop talk, her passion for the studio colliding and mixing with her love for urban dance.
What is your earliest memory involving dance?
When I was little, my parents put me in dance because I was a little headstrong, and they wanted to provide me with some structure. I was in ballet and tap when I started, and I remember going to my ballet studio and being around all these older girls who were probably in the fifth grade at the time. But they were en pointe, doing pointe ballet instead of just ballet in little flats, and I remember as a little kid being like: “I really want to do pointe one day. I want to do pointe so bad.”
Why did you move from ballet to hip-hop?
As I got to know myself more, I wasn’t a ballerina. It just wasn’t my thing. My friend and I were going to take a tap class, but we decided instead to take a hip-hop class. I went to this studio in St. Louis, and I was terrified because, you know, you’re like 16. Everything’s terrifying because you feel like people are going to laugh at you. You feel like you’re going to look like an idiot, but we went, and we had a blast and decided to stick with it.
How has dance improved your confidence?
My base personality is not that of a performer. I don’t love performing, so (hip hop) forces you to become a performer, even if it’s just for yourself. It definitely pushes you to do things that make you uncomfortable. When I was at MU, I danced with this team, and I was the only Asian-American person on the team, so it’s just good to have experiences where you’re not comfortable so that you can learn something from it.
What made you want to teach hip-hop?
I wanted to get back into dance just because I loved it, and Jabberwocky was the only studio that offered an adult hip-hop class. After spending some time taking classes, I just wanted to give back to the community and be more of a part of the studio.
What makes Jabberwocky Studios different?
This studio, in particular, is a very encouraging environment. I’ve danced in studios where it’s very competition-driven, which is great because that’s how you develop into a better dancer. But it can be very negative, constantly trying to find approval from a judging panel or whatever. Here, it really is about learning how to express yourself. Because of the encouraging environment, kids might be more willing to try something. You’re not going to see kids get shut down because they can’t do something here.