All photos by Quinn Wharton

Hip-Hop Dancer Rob Bynes Got His Start in Church and at Clubs

Rob Bynes' formal dance training might not have begun until he joined Rutgers University's Raps Dance Troupe in college, but the New Jersey native had already been dancing his whole life—both in church and at parties. Today, the professional hip-hop dancer's career includes international touring, bicoastal teaching, and performing with artists like Kendrick Lamar, Missy Elliott, Tinashe and Travis Scott.

He recently spoke with Dance Magazine about growing up dancing, his pre-performance playlist and how being a camp counselor shaped him as a dance teacher.


On growing up dancing: "Dance is just part of Black culture. My earliest memories come from praise dancing in church. Jersey and Baltimore club dancing were the most pivotal styles that I was introduced to as I got older. Everything was based around parties, battles and talent shows."

His career highlight: "Hands down, the peak moment of my career so far was dancing for Missy Elliott in the 2019 Essence Festival. Our set was an hour long in front of a half a million people, predominantly Black people. Sean Bankhead was the choreographer and HiHat handled the production. I had to set aside countless moments to just soak it all in."

Dancing live versus on set: "A live audience is always better than a camera crew for me. You have no choice but to be 100 percent in the moment. I've come to love the adrenaline and being able to shout out to the other dancers onstage while we're going full-out."

Favorite touring memory: "Being up in the mountains of Switzerland looking out at what seemed like a painting."

Pre-performance ritual: "I listen to the set mix over and over again, going over my choices and personality and then sometimes I freestyle to random music so that I don't get too wrapped up. I have a playlist called 'Breathe' to calm myself. And I never ever go onstage without praying."

What's on his playlist: "Kendrick Lamar, Samoht, Iman Omari, SiR, Alex Isley, Frank Ocean and Nick Hakim. Best believe that gospel playlist is always in rotation, though!"

Rob Bynes crosses his arms and smiles overlooking trees and buildings

Quinn Wharton

From camp to class: "My introduction to teaching stemmed from my experiences as a camp counselor."

His focus as a teacher: "In my class, the emphasis will always be on dancing from a real place. I want my students to walk out of class feeling inspired to add to their foundations and freestyle to open up a whole new world of movement."

When he's not dancing: "My mind often goes to photography and film, but my first love is basketball. I don't play as much as I'd like to avoid risking injury, but I'll never fully step away from playing.


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