“The main thing she has done for me is changed my life. She did that by making me noticeable because before I was just the girl over there.”
Think twerking can’t change the world? Tell that to 8-year-old Gabby Sammarro, who wrote that in a letter about her hip hop teacher, Angel Roberts.
Every week, hundreds of kids and adults alike are getting their groove on through Angel’s Peace Love Hip Hop dance program. But what she has created is not just a dance class. It’s a movement. A community. A place for transformation.
Angel tells the story of an abused woman living in a women’s shelter and hiding her children who rediscovered herself in class. Forty shed pounds and tons of empowerment later, she introduced herself to Angel, saying, “You don’t even know my name but you changed my life.”
The daughter of a dance studio owner, Angel danced her whole life. Forgoing the professional dancer route, she got her degree in clothing/textile design at FIT and went to the bright lights of Hollywood to work in costume. Liked the wardrobe on “That ‘70s Show?” That was her gig for eight years. When she ultimately settled in Charleston and found no great dance option, she went against her mom’s advice (“Don’t ever open a dance studio,” her mother used to say) and did just that.
Now, she is teaching hundreds of adults each week, leading 300 kids through six different after-school programs, and traveling and competing with a core crew of 85. She organizes performances at nursing homes (“They love it!”), nurtures her friendship with the two young girls with special needs who come to class every Monday (“They are freakin’ gangstas!”), and makes sure everyone leaves her class feeling confident, powerful, sexy and strong.
“My goal is to have people leave class a little bit better than when they came in,” she says.
And to get you fit. By God she’s going to push you to the breaking point to get you fit. She is fiercely passionate about the need to be strong and fit for a long life. She says dance keeps you young mentally and physically. Being that she is one of those 42-year-olds who looks 22, you can’t help but believe her. “When people are healthy, they are happy,” she says.
Her ultimate goal? To put a Peace Love Hip Hop everywhere in the United States. Today’s goal? To get you to class. “Walk through the door one time and I promise you’ll have an amazing experience. Just get over yourself and have fun. We can do it.”
Words by: Caroline Nuttall
Photography by: Mark Stetler