Dani Knight wants everyone to know that dancing is not a racial thing, it's a rhythm thing.
Ms. Knight, 24, and her partner and friend Jeffrey McDonald, 27, own Knight Moves: Studio of the Arts at 695 Hanover Pike in Hampstead. The studio offers what may seem like an unlikely combination of classes: hip-hop dancing, line dancing, aerobics and martial arts.
"Martial arts is nothing but a dance," said Mr. McDonald. "It's choreographed fitness."
Hip-hop dancing is usually perceived as the dancing style of young African-Americans.
"I try to show the stupidity that people have when it comes to racial stereotypes," said Ms. Knight, who is white. "Anybody can dance."
Ms. Knight could not dance at all when, in 1986, a friend talked a promoter into letting her audition for a spot as a Janet Jackson impersonator.
"They were looking for somebody who could dance like her and lip-sync the songs," said Ms. Knight. "I could not dance a lick, but he [her friend] had talked me up to the guy so much that after work I went to a friend's house and learned the entire routine.
"It took me three hours to learn that routine. And at the end, my friend was crying and I was crying."
The hard work paid off. Ms. Knight wowed the promoter and won the job. One of her first performances was at Gatsby's, an African-American nightclub in downtown Baltimore.
"I was faced with a lot of racial remarks, but after I started dancing they came up and apologized," said Ms. Knight.
Ms. Knight's talent has not gone unnoticed. She has auditioned for the Los Angeles Lakers' cheerleading squad, the Laker Girls, and has done some choreography for local musical artists.
She has quite a few fans -- including her idol, actress/singer Janet Jackson.
With the help of Mr. McDonald, who also is a cinematographer, Ms. Knight made a video of her interpretation of Ms. Jackson's song "The Knowledge." A chance meeting with Ms. Jackson's boyfriend, Rene Elizondo, at a concert led to Ms. Jackson watching the video and meeting Ms. Knight.
"I was blown away," Ms. Knight said. "She's so down-to-earth."
"Dani really likes Janet, and that video was a chance for her to really
get out there and maybe use it as an audition tape," said Mr. McDonald.
After living out the dream of meeting Ms. Jackson, Ms. Knight turned her attention to opening the dance studio she said she's "always wanted." The studio has been open since March 19.
"Basically, somewhere down the line, we'd like to have art classes," said Mr. McDonald. "We offer some acting classes now."
The studio also has a weight room and offers private dance lessons. Schedules for classes are flexible.
"When we started, our opening day, we had no schedule," said Mr. McDonald. "It makes no sense to have an aerobics class on, say, Thursdays, if no one can make it. We wanted to find out when people could take what."
"We work with the people who want to take the classes as well as the instructors," added Ms. Knight.
Helen Myers is the aerobics instructor and Jim Frederick, of Frederick's Kenpo Karate, teaches martial arts.
Mr. McDonald and Ms. Knight also own Jam-N-Knight Creations, a company that offers its services in production, directing, dancing, singing, editing and choreography. Ms. Knight also teaches hip-hop dancing for the North Carroll Recreation Council.