Tiana Canterbury – Hip Hop’s Hot Stepper


Tiana 1

In the world of hip hop choreography and dance, the style and moves change as much as the music genre itself. A constant lesson in evolution, hip hop dance is an essential part of what makes the genre a unique and expressive hybrid of movement through song. When it comes to creating those moves, it takes a special and talented individual blessed with the gift of rhythm, form and confidence to create combinations that both inspire and ignite the human form. And nobody ignites the imagination and the form better than Sydney based dancer and choreographer Tiana Canterbury.

Looking back at her evolutionary career in the world of hip hop dance, the South African born powerhouse has been forging her successful career for the last 15 years in the Australian hip hop community. As a dancer, Canterbury has performed in an array of venues from clubs, stage, TV and the movie screen with her recent screen work included an inspiring scene in the blockbuster movie The Great Gatsby. Working alongside hip hop artists from both the US and locally, Canterbury has always brought her own unique brand of attitude, sass and fierceness to her role as a dancer and her originality and fearlessness has always set her apart from the rest. Moving on to the tutorial role of choreographer has always been the goal point for Canterbury as she joined the inner city Sydney dance studio Urban Dance Centre as one of its head dance teachers. Word soon spread that her hip hop classes were the hottest sessions in town, taught through her method of fun and function. Always pushing the boundaries, Canterbury is never one to play it safe and her choreography is a testament to her ingenuity. It is also what caught the attention of the hit TV series “So You Think You Can Dance Australia “ in 2011 where she was chosen to choreograph a hip hop dance segment. This exposure gave Australia the chance to learn about her impressive and unapologetic interpretation of the art of hip hop dance and what the nation saw they wanted more of!

She is no stranger to performing in front of audiences large and small and more so than anything loves the connection of teaching others the joys and freedom hip hop dance has given her. The stunning  mother of three is the definition of determination and stopping at nothing to make her dreams come true. With an unbreakable spirit and hardworking ethic she realises a long awaited dream of starting her own chain of hip hop only dance classes in October this year called ‘Your Hip Hop Class’. With a legion of hip hop dance converts following her every move on Facebook and Instagram, Canterbury stands like a general fronting her own bastion of hip hop soldiers. In addition to the opening of her own dance chain, the nonstop entrepreneur also heads an exciting venture for kids called ‘Mini Machines Boot camp’, instilling the importance of exercise and fun to the younger generation.

She is cool, confident and focussed on an exciting future ahead for her and her talented family. Where she gets her energy from is a great mystery as she makes the art of juggling motherhood, wife, business owner and dream chaser seem truly attainable. Whatever her secret is, Tiana Canterbury is a certifiable original when it comes to the world of hip hop dance, with her style and form as empowering as her spirit!

Hey lady, how are you and how has life been treating you of late?

Heeeyy Ms Hennessey, I have been absolutely fabulous and bursting with excitement for many reasons. Firstly, I am super excited to be a guest on the Ms Hennessy Blog. I have read all your blogs and have been waiting patiently for you to contact me. Hahaha I’m only playing! Thank you so much for having me, especially during this amazing time in my life. Life has been wonderful and has always treated me well. Ten months ago I had a beautiful baby girl, my other 2 gorgeous kids are Healthy and happy and doing great in school, my hubby is killing it with his music and I am just happy and feeling blessed to wake up each morning to witness all the above and do what I love! Can’t ask for much better than this!  

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Congratulations on your continual success with your amazing dance workshops at Urban Dance Centre – you just keep giving us more mind-blowing steps, routines and visual displays. Where does this skill and passion for dance derive from and how do you ensure you stay at the top of your game? 

I have always loved dance from the time I could walk. I was the little girl in the street in South Africa, who would get the other kids together and teach them routines and formations from video clips I watched of Janet & Michael Jackson. I loved performing for others and always perfecting every move I seen in the clips. I didn’t go to any dance schools so I taught myself at a young age how to listen to music, how to execute moved to certain beats, how to count steps and how to bring that xfactor into my performance. Even though I didn’t know too much what Xfactor meant.( laughs)

We then moved to Australia when I was 10 and that’s when I took what I did in Sth Africa further and taught school friends, met people in the industry and the rest was history. My passion for dance is embedded in me. All I wanted to do in life was dance and entertain people. At the age of 22, a young mother to my first child, I took the chance and left my well-paid fulltime job and I made a promise to myself that I will do nothing else but dance and be successful at doing what I love.

Thirteen years on and I am still doing what I love and enjoying every minute of it. I Love learning new styles of dance, educating myself on cultural moves that I can incorporate in my choreography and also learning from my student on what they like and new trends in the dance scene.Regular fitness training, taking other teachers classes and just having constant music from old to new playing in my house keeps me up there with the young ones.(laughs)

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You have ventured into a slightly different path with your current business venture and have created a mini boot camp party and workshop for kids called Mini Machines Boot camp? How did this idea come about and why boot camp for kids? What has the community response been like?

Yes! Mini Machines Bootcamp is one of my many babies and projects. It’s a Kids Military Style Bootcamp with exciting Obstacle Courses, Parachute runs, Mud Baths Missions, Mega Truck Military Stations and many more adventurous group and individual challenges. It is like the adults Tough Mudda but for kids. Three years ago I started doing outdoor bootcamp with my personal trainer and now business partner Jimmy Mandokous and this is where I got the idea. Jimmy’s training style and equipment is very much like the military and one day my then 6 year old son went crazy on the equipment and started playing around as if he was on a mission… this was what sparked the idea for me and I got the ball rolling from then. Once I started researching and looking further into the business I noticed that there was nothing out there like this or anything outdoors and exciting for kids between the ages of 5 and 13 years old.

To get the business up and running and legit I then enrolled myself into studying health and fitness while I was pregnant and now I am a certified trainer and pushing this business to be the next big thing in Kids Health and Fitness around Australia.The response and support I have gotten from parents and kids organisations have been 100% positive. Just last week I attended an Entrepreneur Workshop and was told by business owners worth millions that I was onto something great. Hearing this was absolutely satisfying to the soul, especially being a mother of three, having worked in the entertainment industry for so long and now venturing into a new business.

With my dancing background and knowledge of how to entertain and create and an experience for my clients, I put all that passion into Mini Machines Bootcamp parties and can honestly say that this is the ULTIMATE party that will thrill the birthday recruit and guests to new levels.

Tiana CAnterbury pic 4

You are a mother of three beautiful children and a hardworking ‘mum-prenuer ‘who is always working on new ideas and business projects that just have that knack of creating lasting success. What are your thoughts and tips on finding that working mother balance? 

Ooo gosh where do I begin…ha-ha as you know Ms Hennessy being a mum yourself, that it can be a challenge. So here is a list I like to stick by:

  • Be kind to myself, everything will get done eventually
  • Make family time priority
  • Delegate (I get Mike to look after kiddies, cook, housework)
  • Learning to be present when spending time with kids, hubby time and when I have me time (dancing, exercising etc.).

You have worked with many artists over the years, choreographing their showcases, music videos and more – when you first started as a dancer what were your ambitions and who was on your bucket list to work with / dance with one day and would you say that you have achieved your passions and worked with those whom inspired you all those years ago? 

When I was younger I LOVED LOVED LOVED Janet Jackson and wanted to be her backup dancer. In 2011 I got to work with her on a 3 day shoot as her double and fill-in for a commercial she did here while on her tour. That was the moment when I realised that if you believe in something with fullness, that your dreams and goals can be your reality. During the same 3 day shoot I got to work closely and learn camera tricks from Jake Nava, a genius director who directed video clips for Beyoncé, Kayne West, Brittney Spear and many more. This was one of the many amazing days of my career. I did a few movies like ‘ Great Gatsby’ where I was a Lead Featured Dancer, I choreographed for many TV shows like ‘So You Think You Can Dance’, ‘SUNRISE’, XFactor just to name a few. I have toured nationally and International as a choreographer and dancer. I created an African Dance group that I lead onto national TV and showcased where I came from.

It blows my mind to see how far I have become from a little girl from South Africa who had never trained in a dance school and I now blessed to be able to tick all this off my bucket list and still continue to tick them off and plus do what I love while I raise my family. Man I feel so lucky reading this right now. For me right now in my life, its not about the famous people I would like to work with like before, its not about the glamorous video clips and photo-shoots because I know how easy it is to create those images to make you look like you are something in this industry…For me now, its about creating my own lanes, my story, my own businesses, sharing my knowledge and passion with others and just keep educating myself because I know I can do whatever I set my mind to do.  

What is it about Hip Hop that inspires you in your dance and in life in general?

I grew up living and listening to Hip Hop, so that’s all I know! It’s like the AND of my heartbeat, so when you take my pulse this is what you will get … 5, 6, 7 AND 8. Every dance teacher will know that. Hip Hop is my everything! IT carved my attitude, my style, my sexiness, my survival in this industry and life, my feistiness, my groove and my “Started from the bottom” grind.   

I know you have some very big and exciting things brewing (as always) … can you share your upcoming projects with us?

Yes Yes Yes… Exciting times ahead. So I am starting up my own chain of ONLY Hip Hop Classes around OZ. Its called ‘YOUR HIP HOP CLASS’. So you go onto our website www.yourhiphopclass.com, which will be up in October, and you can click onto a class in your area and book in your spot with trained Hip Hop specialist or myself. Our head studio & Office is located in Surry Hills where I will be most of the time and teaching from Beginners and Intermediate Classes, Hip Hop for couples where you will learn stepping routine you can do in a club or special events…Great for brides and grooms to be or just a lovely date and I will also be doing my regular crazy dancehall classes. This will also be running in QLD, VIC and Perth by early December.

I am also working on an Afro/Drumming Cardio and Strength Fitness classes that will be first release at our Surry Hills studio in October. I have an Afro and Drumming group launching in September and they are called ‘AFRODISIAQ’ and plus im working on choreography for a great Aussie artist who I can’t name just yet and building Mini Machines Bootcamp. So YES I am super MAD! (laughs)

Tiana Canterbury pic 3

When you have a moment to yourself what can we find Tiana doing? Is there anything you can share with us that would surprise many people to know about you?

You can find Tiana on the couch with her gown, tub of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, chocolate fudge brownie favour and some good juicy reality TV shows like ‘Real Housewives of Atlanta’ and ‘Mobwives’

How do you stay healthy and motivated in your very busy life?

Every morning I am up at 6am going for a run and exercise. I try my best to stick to healthy eating, lots of water and now and again treat myself to something yummy or a great massage. I also like to attend business breakfasts where you listen to other people’s journeys in their entrepreneurship and share your own. I find that motivating and excited to get back home and continue to build my empire. I am also a strong believer in having a vision board that you look at every morning with all your goals, dreams and motivational quotes and reading them before you start your day. All the above gets me going!

The best piece of advice you were giving and / or motto you live by and why?

The best piece of advice I received was from Mike Champion. About 7 years ago when I had just had my second child and I had one of those artist mummy moments of being unsure if I’m doing the right thing in my career and if I was still good enough or strong enough to handle it all. Mike stopped me midway through my rant, and in his cool calm voice just said “No one can do what you do like YOU do!” This one sentence has suck with me through everything I do or take on.

The other motto that I love and live by is a powerful quote that seems to be the way I thought and lived my life from young…

 “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and lead a trail”… by Ralph Waldo Emerson

For more on Tiana Canterbury, her classes and upcoming dance school information visit:


Instagram: tianalc & minimachinesbootcamp

Twitter: @tianacntbry

Facebook: Tiana Canterbury


Always Hip Hop,

Ms Hennessey

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