Maya Tillman-Rayton has a 20-year career in Northeast Kansas with choreographic works being shown at the University of Kansas and throughout the Kansas City metropolitan area. A Hutchinson native, Maya trained in tap and jazz as a child with the Bonnie Neville Dance Studio. Music was always playing in her household, and that led to learning about other dance styles, such as hip hop, locking and breaking. These styles were not offered in a studio setting, so Maya was left to learn on her own at home. It wasn’t until she became a student at the University of Kansas that she discovered the Unity Hip Hop Dance Crew. It was an actual crew that trained and performed locally! Through Unity, Maya was able to gain other opportunities to train. She attended Monsters of Hip Hop Conventions where she would earn a scholarship. Maya would go on to earn a degree in Human Biology from KU. She would continue to work in the community, working with the Boys and Girls Club of Lawrence and at local dance studios in Lawrence and Kansas City, Kansas.
It was through hip hop dance that Maya met her husband. Her husband, Ty, was a popper with the Lawrence based crew, Buggin’ Out. After getting married the two would create Dragon Style Crew in 2012, the “year of the dragon” according to the Chinese zodiac calendar. Inspired by the dragon style of kung fu fighting, traditionally trained fighters rarely would start a fight but would always finish it. The most unassuming and average fighter on the exterior, the artful fighting style always reminded Ty and Maya of why they loved to perform; they saw themselves the same way on the dance floor. As founders of “The Crew”, as it is lovingly referred to by the couple, the two noticed the need to create or promote street dance opportunities in the local area for dancers who recently found themselves at the end of the typical dance career one finds themself after turning 18 in the dance industry. In 2018, the crew was renamed House of Dragons. Along the way, the two realized it was exciting, and fun to create with dancers they’d previously worked with. It was also a chance to create opportunities that were lacking in the local industry.
Maya’s class structure roots itself in a basis of hip hop dance culture and history and uses street and commercial styles of dance as the mode of training. Community outreach and dance education is crucial to Maya’s teachings. “Continuing to teach hip hop dance and teach people about what we love and are so passionate about will maybe spark that fire for someone else and changing their life with dance the way it has for Maya and her students. It is really what makes all the hard work and dedication worth it.”
Maya is a faculty member at the University of Kansas’ Department of Theatre and Dance.
Stingy Lulu’s Jumpin’ Juke Joint is an evening length show featuring the House of Dragons Dance Crew. A part of this piece was originally workshopped by the University Dance Company at KU. The full piece will be premiering at the KC Fringe Festival in 2023.
Meant as a celebration and acknowledgement of the uniquely African American dance styles hip hop, lindy hop, jazz and tap, the story of Stingy Lulu’s is based around a juke joint at the crossroads of a sleepy little town. This place is timeless. A blast from the past and also a glimpse of the future.
At the joint you will meet Stingy Lulu, the club owner and her Diamond Doll Dancers. There’s the gambler and Miss Barbie the bartender and the devilish D.L. Maker. The show is a bit of old Hollywood mixed with nods to great dancers like the Nicholas Brothers and Katherine Dunham.
Always high energy, Stingy Lulu’s is best staged in a theatre but can be adapted to fit a gallery.
Hip Hop Recreated: As it is said, there is nothing new under the sun. Hip hop has often been called the artform that came from nothing, but that is not necessarily true. The lecture will connect hip hop culture to its roots in vernacular jazz. The audience will get a brief history lesson in hip hop renaissance from the South Bronx and its four elements. Using demonstrations and multimedia, the audience will get a walkthrough of the history of vernacular jazz, sometimes referred to as lindy hop and how those steps directly influence street dance. There will be faces and names put with the movement that are now associated with hip hop. There will be a bit of audience participation with providing a beat and keeping the rhythm. This lecture is for all ages.
Hip Hop Recreated, the activity: Bring your dancing shoes, this class is going to move! The class will start with basic movement and interpreting the beat through basic bounces two steps, rocks and grooves. The students will go through three different short combinations, each one focusing on a different point: expression, rhythm and style. Towards the end of the workshop dancers will have a chance to review the combinations through call and response. We will create a common beat and dance in a cypher circle. Those who want to come to the circle to dance can, but everyone will bring the beat. This class is adaptable and can accommodate high impact dancers as well as limited mobility dancers.
Maya Tillman Recommendation