When she was growing up, Hikari Miller knew she wanted to do something creative, so she went to the library and started reading books on dance. Then, at age 11, Miller woke up one day and realized that she wanted to be a dancer.
Today, at 33, Miller, a Silver Spring resident and a member at Temple Shalom in Chevy Chase, is a professional dancer, teacher and trainer.
Why do you think you took to dance so quickly once you started reading about it as a kid?
I grew up in this town called Teaneck [N.J.]. Twenty minutes outside of New York. It was about half African American, half Jewish. We had a lot of recreation parties and I always had dance around me. And participating in Jewish traditions, there’s lots of celebrations and parties. Jewish people dance a lot, too.
What are some dancing styles that you specialize in?
Many styles. Popping. Memphis jookin’. Locking. Urban dance styles. I compete in them; battle in them.
Popping is like the robot and it glides. Locking is a little bit more fast-paced and it’s a little bit more of a comical character and more dynamic. Snaps and claps and fast ups, plus smiling gestures. Memphis jookin’ has a lot of glides and it’s a footwork style with a lot of groove. And it’s done to Southern rap music. It derives from Memphis, Tenn.
And the last style I do is a style called strutting. It’s a choreography-based style that came from San Francisco. It’s the style that inspired the Jabbawockeez. It started in the early ‘70s.
How did you get involved in doing this professionally?
I danced with a modern company for about eight years. When I graduated college I decided to go into urban dance. I did modern dance before, during and a little bit after [college]. I danced with Philadanco second company, a dance company in Philadelphia. moved to New York and I studied with [DJ] Jazzy Jay in 2017. I moved to Maryland in 2018 to study with Urban Artistry under the mentorship of the school’s program. I wanted to learn popping.
And now you make a living doing it?
I’ve been working as a dancer, teaching it and performing it. The first two years I was here I was working at restaurants. But right now I’m only dancing and personal training. I’ll be paid to do a showcase somewhere. Or a demonstration where you teach a little bit of the dance and you demonstrate the style.
For the workshops and stuff, we do it virtually. Website. Monthly subscription. My boyfriend teaches workshops and I teach the fitness side of things. I teach workouts for dance. Then we have monthly jam sessions and competitions. I would say it’s half and half with that and the gym.
I really love helping people. I help people with elite athletic ability and people coming back from surgery. I like training dancers because I had an ACL [a major ligament in the knee] reconstruction and I made a full recovery. So I got really good at helping people with injuries.
I like the dancing part because I love this tradition of popping and I love passing it on to the next generation. I say that popping is one of the most creative dance forms because you can use any of the techniques to express all types of emotions.
You’re a member of a synagogue. Why is Judaism important to you?
I feel like I can understand other cultures and appreciate them because I understand my own culture. I feel like the Judaism aspect of my life makes me really grounded as an artist. My relationship with God helps me stay balanced with my dance. ■