UT alum Jarell Rochelle offers expertise with hip-hop expression lessons

Stephanie Jumper, General Life&Arts Reporter

As Jarell Rochelle eases his group of beginner dancers into the next hour of hip-hop instruction, he allows each student to introduce themselves and tell the class why they enrolled in the class.

After getting acquainted with each other and stretching, the dancers bounce into position,  echoing Rochelle’s eight counts across the walls.

Rochelle’s touring dance classes span the last seven years, but starting this month, his Xpress VIBE lessons are based in Austin’s Cherrywood Center. While Rochelle, a dance and social justice UT alumnus and former teaching assistant, plans to expand classes to various experience levels, classes currently cater to beginners.

“I’m for the person who lost touch of their gifts and passion,” Rochelle said. “(I don’t) mind that I’ll get first-timers or people who lost their way to their play and innocence. I want to be that breath of fresh air.”

Fellow UT alumnus Joseph Mayang met him during Rochelle’s time as a teaching assistant for an introductory hip-hop class that Mayang registered for impulsively as an undergraduate student. 

“His approach is philosophical, mixed with passionate teaching,” Mayang said. “He focuses on allowing each and every single one of his students to express how they move through dance.”

Rochelle also extends his energy in mommy-and-me classes, motivating mothers to channel choreography into a bonding opportunity. Rochelle’s 5-year-old daughter, Addelynn, who he calls his “little partner,” dances alongside her father in various classes.

Despite earning the titles of father to Addelynn and husband to Madeline Rochelle, he never acted as Madeline’s boyfriend. The pair met at Rochelle’s workshop shortly after his “So You Think You Can Dance” run in 2012. Rochelle said he pulled her from the crowd for a dance during the lesson, developing an impenetrable friendship that led directly to marriage.

“I pulled her in and dipped her back it was not planned at all,” Rochelle said. “It just felt like we were moving toward each other.”

Basketball also shines as one of Rochelle’s loves. He likened his dance battle with street dancer Mr. Wiggles at Freestyle Session, an annual b-boy competition, to then-no-name player Allen Iverson crossing Michael Jordan on the court in 1997.

“It was like when you see a gold aura over somebody,” Rochelle said. “It’s like, ‘How did this moment happen?’ But I can’t think too much or I’ll miss it.”

Although moments like his video with Mr. Wiggles amassing almost 150,000 views speaks to his talent, his teaching encouraged dancers like marketing junior Gabriel Ochoa to connect with their bodies. Ochoa said Rochelle’s instruction eased him out of the awkwardness of finding his rhythm.

“He uplifts everyone,” Ochoa said. “He always has a great energy. It’s infectious to the point where it allows you to be comfortable within your own body.”

Harmony between the mind and body, Rochelle said, not only improves dance skills but aids in conquering life’s twists and turns.

“We experience the most friction when we don’t know our rhythm,” Rochelle said. “Dance gives you a beat, so as long as you can catch that beat, you’re good. When I think about how dance and life correlate, it’s finding that intrinsic movement inside of you and trusting that to the umpteenth degree.”

Join Rochelle for classes here: