Bringing Hip-Hop to Hopkins

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Instructor David Pellinen takes attendance with House of Dance’s Hip Hop 4 Tots (ages 3-5) students. (Courtesy Jake Riley)

Most people as kids have no idea what they want to do when they grow up. This wasn’t the case for Jake Riley, current studio owner and director of the House of Dance, a hip-hop breakdancing studio in the Twin Cities. 

Riley discovered hip-hop at an early age.  

“When I was 12 years old, I went to a friend’s birthday party where they were breakdancing,” Riley said. “A little while later I went to a middle school talent show, and I saw the same kid and his friends doing breakdancing and I was like, ‘That is really cool.’”   

Riley had just found his passion. 

Riley said before breakdancing, he was somewhat lost as a person and troubled. He said finding breakdancing was a real turning point in his life.  

“Breaking gave me something productive to do and gave me a new set of friends,” Riley said. “A set of diverse friends that I could do a shared activity with that was healthy and engaging.”  

Over the next few years of his life, Riley continued strengthening his skills and friendships in breakdancing, competing in places across the United States, including Miami, San Diego and Houston. 

In August 2014, Riley opened House of Dance in Hopkins, which, according to their website, is Minnesota’s first studio dedicated to hip-hop. 

Seeing the growth of the studio in the two years after House of Dance opened, Riley realized the studio was an actual business opportunity and something he could build his life around. In 2016, Riley went to North Hennepin Community College to get his associate degree in business administration, along with a certificate in entrepreneurship, to help run House of Dance. 

Since opening in 2014, the studio has grown at a tremendous pace. 

In 2014, House of Dance had six students with six classes. Now the studio has almost 300 students and 35 classes. 

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Breakdancing student Sam Ohl hitting a freeze after a head spin during House of Dance’s summer camp last year. (Courtesy Jake Riley)

Riley said one of House of Dance’s goals is to provide an environment to learn hip-hop that wasn’t around when he was a kid. “You know, when I started breakdancing there wasn’t a studio specifically for learning hip-hop,” he said. “There was maybe one breakdancing event a year, and it was very poorly organized.” 

He said another of House of Dance’s goals goes hand-in-hand with the previous goal.  

“Part of our goal is to break (down) negative misconceptions about hip-hop. So here, come in, look; we’re going to be on time, we’re going to be super professional,” he said. “And we’re going to teach your son or daughter a skill.”  

The main thing Riley drove home was the idea of finding your passion in life and doing what makes you happy.  

“I don’t even know what day it is. Tuesdays feel like Saturdays to me,” he said. “I don’t dread Mondays anymore because I love what I do.”  

He encourages everyone to find the passion that makes them spark. For Riley, it’s hip-hop. 

“Follow your dreams,” he tells students. “That’s what I’m really trying to say. There’s no way you can live your dreams without following your passion.”