Oh. My. Goddess. YOU GUYS. We made it. We did it! Y’all, back in January, we started on a journey together. Once a week, we sat down with one of Hustle and Flow’s teaching staff and learned a little bit about what drives them, where they came from and what gets them out of bed when they’re not focused on their movement practices. We learned about Carla‘s insatiable love for Type O Negative and Tiffanie‘s adorable teen years as a cheerleader. We spent some time unearthing deep secrets like Tanya‘s unabashed love of karaoke and Bianca‘s hopefully future band called Kitties go Ka-BOOM. Some of the teachers shared their unique methods of preparing for class, like Sam‘s mood-based moves and Naomi‘s crystal grids. We found out about Beto‘s Brazilian Roots, Alyx‘s cats who are somehow unimpressed with her sweet choreography, and Liz told us about pursuing her Masters in Social Work this fall. We even caught a little glimpse of Hustle and Flow teachers’ other lives, like Stacie‘s days as a preschool owning mom and Jamie‘s late nights as a trombone and keys player in various bands. This is the dream team, the crew that helps make Hustle and Flow more than the sum of its parts. They don’t want to change you – they want to move you.
It has truly been a blessing and a journey to learn about these amazing people, and I hope you’ve enjoyed it as much as I have. Of course, it wasn’t my idea; it was Hustle and Flow Owner Steph Harmon’s idea. Why? Because she knows that it’s the people that are at the heart of this warm community; she’s proud of her team, and she should be – she’s worked super hard to get here.
There are few people in my life that impress me as much as Steph Harmon does on a consistent basis. I often think of her as a tiny lady version of the Greek god Hermes, wings at her feet and head, always carrying her swiftly forward on the wind. She’s always coming up with new ideas, staying miles ahead of whatever we think is hip and exciting; Steph seems to knows what’s coming next before anyone else. Driven, determined, diligent and dedicated, Steph has laid her life at the feet of dance and movement, a humble servant of the almighty booty (have you seen the ass wall yet?). But don’t discount her hidden depths – she’s mysterious too, her dark Scorpio energy always swirling just beneath the surface, keeping us guessing. And it’s her compassionate, deeply caring and kind heart that ties everything together, infusing Hustle and Flow with the same life energy as Steph herself offers every day.
It’s infectious, isn’t it? It really can’t be explained in words, can it? Perhaps that’s why I am so excited to present to you this enigmatic leader in her own words, starring here in our Owner Spotlight as we wrap up our Teacher (and Owner) Spotlight series with the gal who started it all, Steph Harmon.
Owner Spotlight: Steph Harmon!
Teaches: Dancehall Hip Hop, Yang Bang, Hustlercise
Tell us a little bit about how and when you decided to create Hustle and Flow? How long have you had the studio, and what did you do before this?
I decided to create Hustle and Flow when I was 16, but I didn’t quite know what it was. For most of my life, I have wanted to have my own business doing 2 things – 1. Expressing myself creatively, and 2. Being in the service of others. I developed 3 very important life skills, early on. I know how to actively listen and be compassionate, I can train, teach and manage and I can sew like a sonaofbitch! I love to dance, obviously, but I think I am a better teacher than dancer and that goes a long way.
I knew the time was right to finally make business moves after I had been teaching for a couple of months. It all happened very smoothly. I bought a yoga business in 2014, it was a completely different kind of studio then and I knew I would not be successful unless I made it authentically my own, which ruffled a lot of feathers and made room for what you see now. The change from the original studio format to Hustle and Flow took less than a year, but felt like forever… and changes are still happening. Before Hustle and Flow I was a seamstress and upholsterer/upholsteress…I have been a professional seamstress since 1996!!! Whaaaattt! Ya, I was young when I got into it. I have been working, in general, since age 11 and I’m not really good at not working on something.
Hustle and Flow has had a huge impact on my life and on the community of people who come here – I will often find myself at a social gathering or out in the world, and another student and I will recognize each other and instantly bond, hug, and get excited about this special thing we share. Can you tell us about your original vision for the studio and your community of students and how that has evolved over time?
I feel like a dick saying this, but the community had nothing to do why I started Hustle and Flow; it is, however, absolutely why I keep doing it. I knew I was going to be able to express myself creatively, but I forgot that this could also be a way to be in service to others. I hadn’t experienced a closeness at any other studio before. I would go in, get a workout, leave. But that’s not what I wanted for my own place. The people Hustle and Flow attract are the kind that will talk to strangers in class, help each other out, laugh in class and feel like they can let go.
My vision comes together bit by bit every day. It is a slow process, but the bulk of it is in full effect. The teachers, for the most part, are longtime students who know they already love the vibe of the studio and I know that they are a good fit. Anyone else who comes along is chosen by me. That’s where community is very important to me. You have to be very much a part of Hustle and Flow to teach here. I want to see my teachers in other HnF classes just like they did before. We are truly in this together and need to flow together.
To me, Hustle and Flow is a very special place and I could write a novel about why. But can you tell us what you think drives the heart of this studio and attracts the type of students that come here?
It’s strange how it all happened because I knew I wanted to dance, work out and have fun with like-minded people, but I didn’t know it was going to be this awesome! Hustle and Flow is very much like my personality. I just want to have fun when I’m working out and dancing, I want to forget about anything else for an hour or so a day, I want to laugh and make people laugh, I want to get real and raw and be sexy and free to shake my ass and do it for me. I want to be challenged and supported. I want to be raunchy and listen to nasty music, I want to let my freak flag fly. I’ve embraced my flaws and inner misfit and I fucking love her and I want to share it all. I hope that the students who come are people who need an outlet not just to workout or dance, but to feel like their true self, in all its messy glory. What drives the heart of the studio? I do, and I do it with the help of each teacher. We attract the students who come. Each teacher has their crew and there is a lot of overlap, but though we are all on the same page, we each have our own styles.
Being a business owner is a deeply challenging lifestyle – what is the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome in owning your own movement studio?
I haven’t overcome it yet! Stay tuned!
At the beginning of the year, Hustle and Flow moved away from teaching Buti Yoga, replacing it with a more vigorous and upright dance/twerk inspired, less yoga-centric movement style called Yang Bang that incorporates unique ‘signature’ movements from many of Hustle and Flow’s teacher team. Can you tell us a little bit about that decision, what drove it and your vision for Yang Bang as it evolves?
I think a lot of people, myself included, don’t always have the confidence or the support they need to do their own thing, and trademarked fitness classes and yoga, barre or Pilates (etc) certifications give us a format and help us promote classes without having to go it alone. Buti certainly helped the jump off of Hustle and Flow, until we all realized students weren’t coming for Buti, they were coming for us. There are so many awesome workouts out there that are super cool and to which I am very attracted. But at this point in my life, I want to offer myself in the fullest way I can.
I have been taking dance classes, going to the gym, freestyling in my kitchen, moving my body out at the club etc. since I could, but there is this thing called “imposter phenomenon” and it’s an asshole who creeps in and tells you, “you can’t do that, so you better do something that someone else has made already.” I kicked that creep out. I have a lot of anxiety, I’m kind of uptight on the inside and scared on the daily that I’m going to fail, but when I decided that we would not be teaching Buti anymore, I didn’t have a whisper of fear. It was the surest I’ve been in the whole time I’ve owned HnF.
Yang Bang was a lot different when Carla developed that class. There was more breath work and it had more of a Tai Chi vibe. Since then it has really morphed into a cross between Abs and ASSana and Hustlercise, which means we start out with a bang on our feet with a dance type warm up and we get down on the mat, back up again, repeat. It has less yogic rigidity and more dance flow fluidity.
Hustle and Flow won Best Walking Entry in the Pride parade last year – can you tell us about why Hustle and Flow participates in Pride and your vision for being of service to the queer community?
Hustle and Flow participates in Pride because it truly is important to so many of our community members, including me. I am a lover of love and human connection and this is one way to show our support as a local business. I have to be honest, I don’t know the best way to be in service to the queer community other than being supportive and protective of peoples’ human rights. I want everyone to feel safe and supported in Hustle and Flow, but I also know listening to explicit music and twerking is not everyone’s safe haven. But we are here for anyone who vibes with that!
Hustle and Flow also participates in Safe Space Portland. Can you tell us how you become involved in that organization and what it means to you?
Safe Space Portland started as a poster making committee. Local businesses got together to make a poster that would let marginalized peoples know that they were not only welcome but safe in our business and there is a zero-tolerance policy on racism, sexism, and bigotry. What happened was that we decided that it needed to be more than a poster, like what does that poster really mean? A few local businesses kept meeting and came up with a manifesto on what we were really all about. My favorite part about this Safe Space Committee is that I feel like I can reach out to other local businesses if I need help or if I need to warn them about any kind of bigotry I see or experience. I also like knowing when I am in another business that is part of Safe Space Portland. I feel a camaraderie and I am looking out for them when I am in there business.
I was looking through your playlists on Spotify and noticed that right now YOU TOO love Drake’s version of “Nice For What.” How do you stay on top of musical trends that fuel your movement?
Music is life! Music sets the scene for each class. I love doing theme classes so much. I can only hope the students love my playlist choices as much as I do, like when I do oldies and the late 90’s P-Diddy version! Oh man, so fun! Most recently I did a Motown Hustlercise which was tricky, but it totally worked! I watch a lot of YouTube dance videos, I’ve found songs I love by watching those, and Spotify has premade playlists and a “Discover” option that I scroll through. I can tell if I like a song after 2 seconds, so I can cruise through music. I have a bad habit of not listening to songs all the way through to the end and some songs have super long outros that are the worst! People send me songs all the time too, so that’s helpful!
What’s your favorite song to move to right now?
I have 3 songs I’m loving right now! Like you mentioned: ‘Nice For What’ Drake, ‘Boom’ Tiesto and ‘How Long’ Charlie Puth. I am also listening to Higher Love by Steve Winwood on repeat, it is such a beautiful song. When I really listened to the lyrics it made me very emotional. I’m not really dancing to it, but I will sneak it into a playlist for warm up or cool down!
What’s your favorite song to move to OF ALL TIME?
I cannot pick one!! So here are my 2 all-time faves: Kiss by Prince and Freedom 90’ by George Michael.
What dancers, movement practitioners, yogis, drag queens, divas, musicians, actors, scientists, feminists, bad bitches and/or anyone else inspire you?
Maybe I get spurts of inspiration from different people at different times, but there is no one person that I draw inspiration from. I admire people, I feel proud of people, I support people, but I am inspired in different ways. I am inspired by music and movement and color, scents and nature, animals and art and randomness.
What do you like to do when you’re not focused on your movement practices or business?
It doesn’t matter what I’m doing, I’m always focused on one or both of those, but… other things I love to do: laugh, sunbathe, swim, drink coffee, drink tequila, be with my friends, be with my husband, kiss llamas, hug cows, cuddle my kitties, enjoy simple things and laugh some more! And sex, I love sex! But I guess that’s part of my movement practice…
What can we look forward to from Hustle and Flow in 2018? Do you have any new projects, workshops or movement journeys you’re working on that we’ll see this year?
We have started a new project, you may have umm seen it…it’s called the Ass Wall. It is literally a collection of pictures of the asses of Hustle and Flow. Anyone one can be a part of it, they just have to talk to me about logistics first. We will be twerking in the Portland Pride Parade again this year and hopefully take home another plaque! And we do have some fun workshops in the queue, check that schedule for details!
We will continue to bring some outdoor classes this summer and who knows what else we will throw your way!
Most of all, we will keep having the most fun, being more awesome and living our best lives!