a photo of professional dancer, Corbin Hunter in the yellow backup dancer hat and outfit worn while dancing with Beyonce

Hailing from Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, Corbin Hunter is a professional backup dancer with an impressive resume! She has worked with artists such as: Beyoncé, Jay-Z, Megan Thee Stallion and Lizzo, to name a few! We are lucky to be partnering with Corbin for our Stages of Equity Arts Festival this year!

Corbin will be leading a Hip-Hop Dance Workshop on Tuesday, March 19th from 12:30-2:30pm at NHCC in the FAC Main Stage Theater. This Hip-Hop Dance Workshop is FREE and open to all NHCC students and the general public. Reservations are strongly encouraged but not required. If you're interested in joining us for the workshop, visit this link to reserve your spot. 

Get to know Corbin in the Q&A, below! 

1. Can you tell us a little bit about your background?
Yeah! I grew up in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, and lived there until I graduated high school. Dance consumed the majority of my childhood. Growing up, I was able to partake in some of the non-dance extracurricular activities, and my mom also put my siblings and I into an all-African American playgroup for kids. That helped me to meet some amazing girls, (who are still my friends today), who I met when I was very, very young, because my mom made sure I still had a social life, even though I just wanted to focus on dance. Looking back, I’m so glad my mom did that for me. I think I would have been very antisocial otherwise!
However, I do come from a very big family. I have four other siblings, two sisters, and two brothers. I am very family oriented and family based. I've been dancing since I was two years old and all of my siblings danced with me, too (up until I was maybe 13, and then the boys and my other sister went on to do other sports). Me and my sister were the only ones who actually continued to dance all the way through high school. I just made a different choice dance-wise. At a very early age, (I'd say probably 12) I knew that I wanted to dance professionally. So, I made the choice to attend high school at the St. Paul Conservatory for the Performing Arts. I went there from freshman year all the way through senior year. (My sister Parey went to high school there too). Throughout those four years, my mom, (love her!) had me go after my freshman year of high school, to do a whole year with a ballet company. Then I was part of a ballet and contemporary dance company for three other years. In my senior year of high school, I focused on Horton based dance, which is a modern dance style. Those dance experiences made up the majority of my training, while also dancing in and outside of school. I was always a natural entertainer. I loved being the center of attention, I loved performing, I loved being on stage. And over time, you know, when you finally realize, ‘Oh, okay, I’m actually kind of good at this dance thing’ it just stuck. I decided, right before high school, ‘Okay, this is what I want to do for a career’ and this is what leads me to the whole Beyoncé story. But yes, at first, it was just like, ‘This is what Corbin is good at. Let's do it.’ I didn't know what LA, or a professional dance career would be like prior, because all I did was competitive dance. And the worlds of competitive dance and professional dance are so different. I didn't know what that looked like before, but when I saw Beyoncé's backup dancers once in Minnesota, I put it together like, ‘That's a thing? Okay, I think I want to do that!’ Her dancers inspired me to go for that career. When I turned 18, I moved to California, but that's what made up the earlier days of my childhood! I am super, super blessed for all the experiences I’ve had. I love where I'm from. Minnesota will always be home. People ask me where I'm from and I happily say, ‘I’m from Minnesota.’ Yes, I live in California, but I'll always be a Minnesota native.

2. You moved straight to LA after high school, what was that like and how did you find jobs?
Well, my mom, Tracii Hunter being Tracii and doing what she does for a living, made sure I had a plan B. That was the only way my parents let me go to California. I enrolled in a make-up school, since Mom said, ‘You got to make sure you have a backup plan just in case.’  I went to make-up school for my first eight months in LA. It was fun, I learned a lot, it was super great. I worked two jobs just to stay afloat, since it was expensive out there. At 18 years old, I didn't know about real world problems like paying bills and expenses. I never did that before. I thought ‘I got a job, I can pay the rent, it's fine. $1,100 will be easy to make for rent.’ But who was I kidding. I barely danced in that first year, because I was trying to stay afloat. My parents and I discussed beforehand, that if I made this decision, I had to financially support myself. The only time I had to ask my parents to help with rent was when my roommate left the last month and I had to pay full rent by myself. Time went on and I realized life is hard out here and I’m not even dancing. I didn't know what I got myself into. I didn't have a mentor and I didn't know anyone who did this before me. It took me almost five years. I worked in retail, as a server and as a waitress the majority of those five years, just to get around, meet people and make money. Then I put myself through a seven-month dance program, and that is what started my dance career.

3. What made the dance program you joined special and how did it connect you to others?
The program allowed me to meet so many choreographers and network with people. I didn't know it at the time, but in LA a lot of jobs come directly from networking. Just talking to people you know. And when you're 18, 19, 20, 21-years old, just on repeat saying, “Hi.” “Hi, how's it going?” “Hi, nice to meet you.” You're just so open and friendly and that was neat. I met all these cool, new people and I just wanted to dance. Everyone commented, “Wow, where are you from? You must not be from here. Your energy is different.” I’d say, “I'm from Minnesota” and they’d say, ‘We don't come across people like you often!’ I became known as the really nice girl, which was fine. Yes, I want to be nice, but during the process, I learned so many things. It was hard those first few years because I’d still go through the ups and downs and think, ‘Wow, is this worth it? Can I do it? Can I live off of this for one more meal?’ I look back sometimes and forget where it all started. I worked hard. It was all a leap of faith. I'm very happy and blessed that I had support. My family was always there reminding me over the phone, ‘You can do it.’ I called my mom while I walked home from the restaurant I worked at when I was 18, because I was getting home at 1 in the morning and didn’t have a car. Me and my mom talked every night and she’d be up with me as I walked home. I'll be forever grateful to my parents.

4. Can you describe the process of landing the Beyoncé job? 
I finally had an agent at that point and I auditioned in November of 2017, right before Christmas. I’m forever grateful to that agent. Everybody who wanted to audition had a chance and I think I auditioned up against almost 1,000 other girls. For basically all of December, everybody was on edge, asking, ‘Did you hear anything, did you hear anything?’ Then right after the holidays, I got an email that I was asked to partake at Coachella in the skeleton crew (A skeleton crew is a group of people prior to when the job actually starts, who build the steps, the culture and the movement). I helped in the beginning phases to create Coachella; working as a body that the choreographers could look at and see if they like the movement with the music and all of the vocal parts. The skeleton group was made up of us girls and some other gentlemen, and it was very cool. Then January of 2018 kicked off the start to my dream.

5. During your off period, how did you keep your body ready to dance?
Within those first three years, I took dance classes off and on and in the last two years of my off period, I enrolled in a dance program. Six months prior to getting the job with Beyonce, I finished that dance program. Right before my friend was booked as a dancer for Beyoncé's Formation tour in 2016, she just finished that same dance program. I realized, ‘Okay, we can sit here and cry about it and be poor Corbin’ or I can go to class and get in the gym! My friend was picked for the show because she had been putting in the work and I hadn’t been. It was hard! I didn’t know how I was going to figure this out financially. But I figured it out and it was the best decision I could’ve ever made for myself in my career. I kept a close eye and I knew that Beyoncé usually went on tour every two years, so I made sure that I was ready for the next one.

6. Which Beyoncé tour were you in and what was it like to travel as a backup dancer?
The Beyoncé tour I was in was On the Run II (OTR II). As a backup dancer, all expenses are paid for. They took care of hotels and travel. When we were performing overseas, we were usually staying on a tour bus. It was a big, long bus with around 12 bunk beds (top and bottom bunks). We all claimed our little bunk beds and we’d perform in one country, then drive to the next place, while we’re sleeping throughout the night. Sometimes we'd have to perform again that same day! The bus would take us to the venue, we’d wait and then go in and get ready at the stadium. Or other times, we would get to the location, have that day off and we wouldn't need to be back until the next day. We only traveled by airplane when we were going over a big body of water. I do remember going on a ferry a few times though, that was really cool. But yes, all expenses were paid for. We always had food provided for us on the day of show and after the show, too. We only paid for what we did on our off time. After Beyoncé, I got a text message from a random person who said, ‘Hey, Corbin, my name is Meagan Nugent. I'm the choreographer for a new, up and coming artist.’ That was a cool opportunity and I ended up being one of her first dancers. I worked with Megan before she became Megan Thee Stallion. They were looking for tall girls, who had some body, who looked like her, or had a similar body type to her. Up front they said, ‘You know, we can't offer you that much money, but she's going to be the next Nicki Minaj.’ I decided to do it, because I wanted to work with a woman who looked like me. This all happened because a choreographer that I met in the dance program referred me to somebody else. It goes back to networking, it’s not what you know, but who you know. That's how a lot of this works. I didn't even have to audition for her, I just did a trial. We went with Megan to do Miami Rolling Loud, which is the largest hip-hop festival in the world. After that, I continued dancing with Megan from 2019-2022. Megan didn't go consistently all the time and during the break I had a good friend who was assisting the choreographer for Lizzo. I reached out and said, ‘Hey, I heard you guys were doing auditions. I couldn't make it, but do you still need anybody?’ The girl said, ‘Hmm, send me a video right now of you doing ballet.’ I was at the gym and I ran outside to have my friend shoot a video of me doing ballet. I sent the video to her and she said, ‘Yeah, you're good. You're booked.’ And that’s how I booked the Lizzo performance for the Grammy’s in 2020. A lot of the jobs that I got after the fact happened through friends or people I knew. They’d say, ‘Hey, we're looking for a girl who can do X, Y, Z. Are you available?’ That's how I booked both Lizzo jobs, (the Grammy’s and the BET Awards). I don't think I auditioned for either. Other times my friends would ask me, ‘Hey, Corbin, are you available on this date? So and so wants to work with you.’ I'd say, ‘Yes, I would love to work with you’ and that was that!

7. What would you say your biggest takeaway is from being a backup dancer and touring?
My biggest takeaway I would say, is to not take it for granted. Sometimes people in my line of work, we get so caught up in the things that aren't going right. For me specifically, I wish I would have smelt the roses more along the way. I look back at my life and think, ‘Dang, you really got to do all the things you dreamt of doing, Corbin!’ I wish I would’ve stopped more to just take it all in. Because there are so many little girls (and grown-up people, too) who think they won't ever be able to achieve their dreams. But I feel very blessed that I was able to do what I wanted to do. And it is important for me to remind myself that everything I achieved I worked for and I was deserving of it. People claim luck, like, ‘Oh yeah, they were just lucky!’ But, no, looking back at what I sacrificed, what I gave up, what I did to get to where I am; I deserved everything I got.

8. Do you think you'll ever go back to college?
Yes. My mom and I have been talking about this a lot over the past few years. I am interested in philosophy and I could potentially see myself becoming a therapist. I fell in love with working with kids and I’d like to see how I can help them with their positive mindset processes. I go back and forth between a few options for my future: I could be a child life therapist, or a marriage counselor, or I could get my degree in philosophy, but I also really enjoy public speaking. So, my next step is to educate myself further on various topics and be able to talk about them. A lot of the self-work I’ve already done outside of school and I invested a lot of money into attending personal growth seminars. I think now, as I'm getting older, I'm married, my husband has an amazing career…and I’ve asked myself, ‘Okay, what’s next? We did the dancing thing. We lived that dream. People now know you as a dancer who danced for Beyonce! But what are we going to be known for in our life moving forward?’ I’m trying to use the platform I've been given as a steppingstone to the next thing. I’m excited and you never know, I could be coming back to North Hennepin (my mom would really enjoy that)!

9. How did the idea for your Stages of Equity Hip-Hop Dance Workshop come to life?
I think Irma emailed me first. Someone might’ve gone to my mom and asked her if I'd be willing to do it. And there was no question for me. I was like, ‘Of course! I love my mama, love her dearly. If my mom ever asks me to do anything, I’ll do it.’ Doing this for North Hennepin was special to me too, because I did go here and I want to support in whatever way that I can.

10. What can people expect from the workshop?
I have yet to decide if I'm going to show everybody some dance moves from the industry, or if I’ll pick some Beyonce moves, or maybe I’ll share some of Corbin's own moves!? Stay tuned for what I decide! We’ll take the last 20 minutes of the workshop and open it up for a Q&A. I can answer any questions that people may have. Sometimes you have all these ideas and questions in your head, but you never have anyone to ask, so I’ll allow space for that! My goal is that after our 2 hours-time being together, everyone will leave my class feeling motivated, inspired and ready to go and get whatever it is that they want! I am super excited for this workshop!

Thank you so much for sharing your story with us, Corbin! We can't wait to dance with you next week on-campus! 

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