Allison Duncan Lilly might be the coolest 50-year-old in Charlotte. She’s known for her butt-kicking hip hop and spin classes at the Dowd YMCA, her original choreography and her infectious, high-energy teaching style.
Never taken a dance class in your life? Allison breaks it down in a way that’s approachable for experienced dancers and beginners alike. I took one of her CIZE classes at The Dance District in UCity, and came away immediately feeling like a part of the group. And like I needed a sports drink.
How did you start your hip hop career?
“I’ve been in the fitness industry for more than 30 years. When I was about 28 I was at a convention and saw this thing called hip hop. I was teaching step at the time and just started learning videos. *NSYNC, Britney, Aaliyah, everything. I asked my boss at the Y if I could teach hip hop and the response was ‘What is that?’ But they let me and it just took off. I started a troop in 1998 and led that through 2007.”
What’s your creative process for choreography?
“I love music more than anything. I love mixing my own music. I feel music hard – that’s what I tell people. When I’m in the car, I’m constantly flipping around, listening to what’s new. If something absolutely moves me, I’m going to choreograph to that.
My studio is my kitchen. It’s kind of funny. I put the music on and just start dancing. I take it about 4 or 8 counts at a time. I play with it, see what comes out. I video what I just did if I like it and then move on to the next 8. I’ll scratch it and come back sometimes.
I don’t typically practice in front of a mirror. It’s a funny thing I’ve noticed about myself: I don’t worry about what I look like. I never have. If it feels good, it’s right.”
How do you memorize all those moves?
“It’s a skill and it takes practice. I make myself take choreography on Tueday nights from other teachers. It’s a whole different animal to take than to teach. I’ll go in the back row, like ‘Don’t look at me! I teach, I choreograph.’ For me to pick it up from somebody is a challenge if I’m out of practice.”
What’s your wildest dance dream?
“I’m 50 – I’m not trying to be a back-up dancer. But… I am trying to find a way to get on stage with Janet Jackson. I’m a huge Janet fan. I know every one of her routines.”
Take a class with Allison
Dowd YMCA: Hip Hop, Cycle, Water Extreme Cardio
NC Dance District: CIZE and multiple levels of hip hop
See a performance
3rd Annual Project Full Out
Sunday, December 6, 7 p.m., McGlohon Theater
$10 advance, $15 at the door, $20 VIP seating