HHD: You were classically trained in ballet, jazz, and modern dance. What steered you towards hip hop dance?
LO: Initially when I grew up that was the only thing that was there — ballet, jazz. After about 2000, 2001 that’s when hip hop dance started becoming really popular. I really, totally enjoyed it. So, when I graduated from college, I moved to New York and I trained in hip hop. It’s more energy. It’s more fun. When I was training jazz was my thing because it’s more faster pace. But when hip hop became really popular I was like ‘O yeah, this is my thing’.
HHD: Can you define what exactly hip hop dance is?
LO: I don’t think you can. It’s not in a box. There is definitely technique involved. Hip hop is popping, it’s locking, it’s break dancing, it’s crumping. It’s so many different things, there’s not an exact box to put it in. For me, it’s just freedom of movement. It’s not jazz, it’s not ballet. As you see now, hip hop is being done to slow music. For me, it’s just freedom of movement with no constraints.
HHD: You’ve achieved much success as a dancer. You were on two European shows, you’ve danced in commercials, professionally coached and trained, you’ve won so many competitions and awards. Is there a role model that you look up to that paved the way for you to be successful? If not, what has inspired you to be so acomplished in that arena?
LO: For me, I can’t say there’s one particular person I’ve been looking up to. I’m self motivated. Now that my grandfather’s gone I really want to be in a position to take care of my grandmother. I’m looking to not keep myself in the hip hop box. I would defnitely like to maybe get into some acting or tv here in the states. I’m just trying to keep it open. I don’t want to box myself in with anything. I’m looking to go into whatever direction pulls me.
HHD: Lots of girls, just like you, began dancing at a very young age. Most of them do not build an entire career around it. At what moment did you decide dance was your career and what led you to that decision?
LO: For me, it kind of just evolved. I’ve always enjoyed dance. In college, I stopped dancing and I cheered. For those couple years I started really missing dance. I started teaching classes anywhere it could fit into my schedule. I ended up opening my own dance studio. Then I was like ‘Okay, this is what I want to do.’ I want to teach. Especially after going to New York for that year and training in hip hoop. I learned all the different techniques and elements of hip hop. It kind of got my mind right for what is considered hip hop. It’s a culture. It’s not just dance. It’s not just rap. It’s a culture. Some people live hip hop every single day of their lives. Realizing that, I was like this is kind of deep. Learning that, Ifelt like I needed to let people know hip hop is not just booty shaking.
HHD: Right now, hip hop as a culture overall is very popular. Hip hop dance is becoming very popular. What do you think this attention and popularity can do for hip hop dancers?
LO: I really hope there are people like me who really get out there and educate and take hip hop out this box we think it’s supposed to be. Like anything else hip hop is here forever. It’s definitely not going anywhere. I just really hope there’s a lot of positive people out there who get out and educate and inspire people about the background, the history, and the future of hip hop.
HHD: Today you don’t really see a lot of rappers with dancers like Salt ‘N Pepa and Heavy D. The dancers used to be a part of their act. They were in the videos and toured shows with them. Why do you think today we don’t see as much of that? Do you think it’s important to have dancers as a part of your team as a hip hop artist?
LO: I guess it really would just depend on the artist. Like Missy, of course, she has all her dancers in her videos. It’s more of a personal thing. My favorite artist is Mary J, but she never has dancers. I think it’s just a personal choice by the artist.
HHD: When you were in Orlando you owned and operated Butterfly Danzers to reach the underprivileged youth. What kind of impact do you think dance can have on the lives of troubled youth?
LO: I think it can have an amazing impact. There’s so many youth out here that either don’t have the right parenting or their not in the right school system. That can help them. That’s why they’re getting into trouble, because they don’t have something to keep them busy. They dance on the streets and they rap on the streets because it’s a natural talent. It’s a raw talent. I partnered with the city of Orlando initally and I started offering dance classes at their rec centers and it just grew. It was amazing because the kids were getting off the streets. It really gave the kids something to do. I have so many parents who told me ‘We wanted to put them in something we just didn’t have the money.’
HHD: How do you begin to choreograph? What do you use as inspiration?
LO: I always start with the song. I listen to the song repeatedly and kind of get a vision of what I see. Most of the time I choreograph off the top of my brain.
HHD: What are you working on right now?
LO: Right now, I’m working on a workout video. I’m trying to get a couple conventions and tours together and working with colleges and dance teams.
HHD: What is your definition of a hip hop diva?
LO: Confidence, a woman that’s motivated. A woman that knows what she wants and goes after it. Someone with style, someone with class.
To find out more on Lauren Outlaw visit her webpge at www.mzoutlaw.com.
Check out THEHIPHOPDIVA.COM’s feature article on Lauren Outlaw here.