Trina Lyons’ journey through dance has taken her, quite literally, around the world and back. After college, she danced as an “Ikette,” traveling on tour with the late Ike Turner. She moved to Philly with her husband and dog, Lil Man, in 2013, where she continues to dedicate her life to dance and fitness.
If you’ve taken her classes (Jazz Cardio Fusion, Cardio Pop, Hip Hop or Dance Party Boot Camp), you know just how inspiring her high-energy routines and engaging teaching style can be. Read on to find out why she first started dancing and what advice she has for newcomers to the dance floor.
Philly Dance Fitness: How did you get into dance?
Trina Lyons: I was always a dancer, even in my mommy’s tummy. My first inspiration was Debbie Allen — she had a show out, and I taught myself all the stuff as a little girl. My mom told me that I would be right in front of the television in our house in San Diego mimicking every move. I’d be like, “Ooh shoulders back…okay!” Everything was self-taught. As a teenager, I used to battle in the streets with my brother when I came to Virginia to spend the summers with him and my dad. Breaking, popping, locking — that was my thing.
How were you able to pick up so many different styles of dance?
I went to college to be an accountant because my father convinced me of that. One day I walked past the gym and saw a dance class and I thought, “What is this?” I learned it was modern. I was just like, “I wanna know that, I wanna get in that!” After that, I decided to try it all. I actually trained in modern, jazz, lyrical, tap and ballet for eight years.
What brought you back to Hip-Hop?
Hip-Hop was getting popular in the ’90s, and I was like, “Oh, oh yeah, I can do that.” No one was doing any kind of popping and locking back in the day; it was a lot of street, new-jack swing stuff. I had to retrain my body to dance hip-hop. Now I tell all the people that I have taught and directed that you should do all dance types. Don’t neglect your roots just because you want to train in one or the other. You need to stay in it because you will lose it. And then you’ll have to retrain yourself and that’s a lot of time — retraining yourself to get right back to where you came from!
How did you become an Ikette?
I was choreographing for a singer named Rika Rae who introduced me to Kevin Cooper, a musician who knew Ike Turner. He said, “Hey, you should meet Ike!” And I’m like, “For what? Meet Ike for what?” He said, “I think it would be a great opportunity for you.”
I met him, and he asked a lot of questions about dancing and he was like, “I’m looking for somebody to choreograph some stuff for me.” And I said, “Well shoot, what kind of music you talking about, the Proud Mary stuff?” And he said, “I wanna make it new, make it fresh!” I came in as a choreographer and choreographed 65 songs. And then he heard me harmonizing with his wife, Jenette Turner. He said, “Wait a minute…you can sing? You can sing? Wait a minute, sing that note. Now you harmonize…what? All this time?!”
What was it like dancing for and touring with Ike?
We went to Brazil, Italy, England, Switzerland and throughout the United States. But I was half tired because we would do like seven, eight shows a week, sometimes twice in one day! And I’m dancing in heels, girl! I’m dancing, on stage, in heels, for two hours… singing and dancing…I mean it was crazy! And if you mess up on stage, he would fine you $50.
What do you like about working with Philly Dance Fitness?
We have a whole community now with Jazz Cardio Fusion and Hip-Hop, where we all get together and we’re friends. I like the people here. I love my job, but it’s even more fun when I’m coming to class with a bunch of friends. You get together with your friends and you’re like, “Hey, what we gonna do today? Oh, let’s do this move!” And that’s childlike and it’s so fun! For the most part, I have a core group that comes to all my classes and then we invite the new people in — we want new people in our core group!
Do you have advice for newcomers who are looking to make dance part of their adult life?
Just come on in and, trust me, we got your back! Don’t give up, even if you come into a move that’s foreign to your body. Your body’s never moved like that before, but don’t get discouraged and run home and be like, “I can’t do that because I look funny.” It’s not about you looking funny, it’s about your body getting used to it, so you just have to give yourself time to master that move. And, one move at a time! Don’t try to overload yourself because you’re gonna quit. Dance for me is my life. I can’t see myself without it. It’s my baby!
– Interview by Alexandra Sanyal, marketing intern. Edited for brevity and clarity.