Learning to move with the music

Music was blasting from speakers hooked up to Mihran Kirakosyan’s laptop as kids ran laps around Matador Dance Studio, where the motto is, “You will never truly grow until you dance.”

It was the beginning of Kirakosyan’s hip-hop class for kids ages 5 to 12. After they ran a few laps, Kirakosyan’s warm-up routine would have them stretch and complete reps of sit-ups, push-ups and jumping jacks.

Then it was time to dance. With all their eyes on Kirakosyan, the kids followed his steps to his count with no music at all.

“It’s simple counts, no counts in between, so they can put steps and choreography into music. It’s for brain and muscle memory because they’re really young,” he said.

When it was time to move to music, Kirakosyan placed the students in three lines. They were surrounded by four walls, just two of them with mirrors.

“This is your chance. Face the wall. You can’t see yourself. You gotta trust your body. Muscle memory — trust it,” he said.

The more steps students remember, the better.

“The more you could, the better for you later on when you’re dancing on tours or when you have to learn eight, nine, 10 different dance numbers,” he said.

He knows from his own experience, dancing on stage around the world as he toured with Madonna and Britney Spears. He has also choreographed and performed in award shows for Rihanna and the Black Eyed Peas.

Kirakosyan moved to Los Angeles from Armenia when he was 7 and has lived in Glendale since 2000. Parents of dancing students within Glendale’s Armenian community convinced Kirakosyan, now 26, to start teaching dance. He started teaching at the studio last November.

“Every time I would go to any event, a lot of the parents would be like, ‘When are you going to do something in Glendale for our kids?’” Kirakosyan said. “That’s when I made the decision — I should give back to Glendale, the neighborhood I grew up in.”

Jack George sat off to the side and watched his 7-year-old son, Anthony, learn the routine.

“He enjoys it. It keeps him fit, it teaches him discipline,” he said.

Kirakosyan’s class welcomes students at all experience levels. They recognize Kirakosyan for his current work on “Victoria Justice” on Nickelodeon, and with actress Selena Gomez. Sometimes they approach him about performing in the entertainment industry.

Once in a while, he’ll recognize a kid’s talent when he sees a movement in them he says he can’t teach.

“I could teach you the step, but I can’t teach you the attitude and everything that goes with it,” he said. “That happens every now and then.”

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