BEST OF DAYTON: Funk Lab Dance Center puts the fun in funk

From hip-hop to krump and popping to street jazz – footwork and fun go hand-in-hand at Funk Lab Dance Center.

For a second consecutive year, the Kettering dance studio – which prides itself on its creativity, diversity and inclusion – has earned the distinction of being recognized as the Best Dance School/Studio in the Best of Dayton contest. Funk Lab, at 1226 Stroop Road, also finished second in the Best Dance Group category in 2021.

“I’m so proud of this because we all work really hard,” Funk Lab owner and founder Kelly Dailey said. “We have a staff of highly trained teachers, who are all dancers themselves. They are educated in history, not just movement.”

When Funk Lab opened its doors in 2011, it was one of the first dance schools in the country dedicated to hip-hop.

“Hip-hop hasn’t been in the studio, as far a dance form, for very long,” Dailey said. “It took a lot of work and acceptance for me to start this studio.”

Fast forward a little more than a decade and Funk Lab now has a staff of 35 and runs 200 classes a week for 1,400 students. Beyond breaking, the studio also offers classes in tumbling, commercial choreography and even graffiti.

From Mommy & Me Hip Hop, for little break dancers as young as 2, to adult beginner classes, that have had included dancers well into their 70s, Funk Lab has offerings for all ages and ability levels. And unlike many dance studios, boys make up almost half of the student population at Funk Lab. The studio’s popularity is evident by being at 95 percent capacity for the 2023-24 season by late summer.

“This is more than I imagined it could be,” Dailey said. “Watching it all come to life, seeing what these teachers and dancers can do, I’m amazed every single day.”

That amazement extends well beyond the studio as Funk Lab’s competition team Labwerk Crew has finished in the Top 5 at the World Dance Championship four times since 2016.

From local events like Art in the City and the Dayton Holiday Festival Children’s Parade to the World Dance Championship, Funk Lab dancers represent the area and their art form. They will even be taking to the sea as 35 dancers have been selected to perform on an upcoming Carnival Cruise.

It all started with some Salt-N-Pepa and Janet Jackson and a makeshift stage in Dailey’s childhood yard.

“I was probably 9 or 10 years old, and I would make up my own routines and teach my friends,” she said. “I would create recitals in my driveway and even type up a newsletter.”

While Dailey and her dance studio have come a long way, so too has the dance form itself as breaking will make its Olympic debut in Paris in 2024.

“We love it,” Dailey said. “One of our previous students turned teacher made top 16 at finals – she is incredible. She almost made it to the Olympics and is trying again next time.”

Esita Calhoun, known as Flyya, started dancing with Funk Lab in 2014.

About the Author