Tiffany Chao is running her highly successful fitness class MVMT Theory in LA, which is not an easy task. Having been trained in everything from Ballet to Hip-Hop and understanding that music really is a common language, the mixture of all of these elements are what make MVMT Theory one-of-a-kind. Having a good workout at the core while focusing on two important things, movement and music; it's easy to see why the class has become such a community. Read the full interview to learn about how it all started, what makes MVMT Theory so special, and Tiffany's favorite spots in LA!
You’re a Founder and Instructor of MVMT Theory. For those who don’t know, what is MVMT Theory?
MVMT Theory is a hip hop fitness dance studio and lifestyle brand. Our mission is to unite the community through movement and music and to ultimately make dance accessible and approachable for everyone.
What inspired the concept behind MVMT Theory?
I grew up dancing my entire life, so dance was always a part of my daily routine. It wasn’t until I graduated from college and started working a 9 to 5 that I couldn’t keep up. I wasn’t able to find a dance class that complemented by schedule, and even if I did, I noticed there was a lack of quality adult hip hop dance classes for the community. If I did want to take a dance class, it was either at a professional dance studio with advanced pro dancers (and I wasn’t trying to stunt) or at the local gym--which honestly wasn’t up to date with music or choreography.
MVMT Theory sounds so fun! How important is it to make fitness fun and engaging?
I think that once you make fitness feel like you’re not working out is when you’ve truly mastered it. Dance and fitness are a mental game and a lot of what we try to do is to help people get out of their own heads. I always try to encourage our instructors to create an atmosphere of inclusiveness, no judgement, and pure hype. We really try to make the classes feel as if you’re dancing at your friend’s house party. The community and the fun are really what we do it for--it’s part of our culture. Dance should be fun, not intimidating or inaccessible.
How--to you--does movement and music bring people together?
I think even before movement comes music--it’s a common language and serves as our ultimate connection and touch point with the community. No one can deny that music initiates a certain type of camaraderie for people--it’s the only thing that we can all experience in unison, while still holding our own individual experiences at the same time, and that’s where movement comes in. So we connect because we have music, and we express in our own way through movement. When these two things come together, it becomes a pretty epic outlet of expression.
What can someone expect from a MVMT Theory class and more importantly, how do you want people to feel after?
It’s a cardio challenge for sure, so it goes without saying that you’ll be drenched in sweat by the time you finish class. Our ultimate goal is to make dance more accessible to everyone so we want people to walk out feeling good about themselves, and like they just unleashed their inner cool kid.
“We connect because we have music, and we express in our own way through movement. When these two things come together, it becomes a pretty epic outlet of expression."
How has your background in dance and other practices influenced MVMT Theory?
I was trained in ballet first, then made my way into everything from jazz, to contemporary, to hip hop--so musicality has always been a big part of my fitness regimen. I moved to New York for a quick minute right after college and found Yoga to the People in NYC--which I became obsessed with. I loved the mental and physical workout that yoga embodied, and knew that this was an element I wanted to incorporate into all MVMT classes.
What’s the most challenging part about running a fitness business?
Fitness is an interesting space as there are always new developments, trends, and ways to work out. Especially in LA, there are so many different factors that can influence a person’s decision--from traffic to the variety of options that are available--people get bored easily. I’m definitely still collecting data and learning, and I think it’s a bit too soon to say. However, I think for MVMT, I find a big challenge for us to be breaking down the intimidation factor that dance classes inherently possess. It’s not like we’re coming into the market with a workout that’s already understood--we’re completely trying to change the conversation surrounding dance--demystifying it in a way and making it accessible to the everyday fitness goer.
How has starting MVMT Theory transformed not just your career, but you as a woman?
Well for one, I’m doing the two job hustle at the moment so it’s definitely taught me a level of resilience that I never knew I had within me. I think having both jobs allows me to take skills from each and apply them in different industries, which I find extremely beneficial and rewarding. Running a business is no easy feat, especially building something from the ground up. Learning how to think on your toes, making quick decisions, and keeping up morale on the team--it’s helped me to become a better leader by forcing me to trust myself.
With so many different options to get a good work out these days, what is about MVMT Theory that keeps people coming back?
We create good vibes--it’s that simple. At the core, we have a solid workout, and our approach to dance fitness is definitely unique. However, we truly breed a community that’s about the things we care about in the most authentic way: movement and music. We try to strip away all the frills and just make it about those two things.
What inspired the concept behind MVMT Theory?
I grew up dancing my entire life, so dance was always a part of my daily routine. It wasn’t until I graduated from college and started working a 9 to 5 that I couldn’t keep up. I wasn’t able to find a dance class that complemented by schedule, and even if I did, I noticed there was a lack of quality adult hip hop dance classes for the community. If I did want to take a dance class, it was either at a professional dance studio with advanced pro dancers (and I wasn’t trying to stunt) or at the local gym – which honestly wasn’t up to date with music, or choreography.
Finish this sentence: “In 2017, I…” am creating and continuing to be the most authentic version of myself.
What are three hidden gems in LA?
Not sure if they are hidden gems, but here they are--all food related of course:
1. Cofax for the best breakfast burritos.
2. Paramount Coffee Project for the best lattes.
3. Speranza in Silverlake for the best pasta.
What does MISSBISH mean to you?
A woman who’s in her own power.
Who's your MISSBISH? Tell us who she is and why she's an inspiration to you.
It’s definitely a mix of women in my life who are continually showing me what great leadership and friendship is about. I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by amazing mentors during my day job that encourage me with my own endeavors. My director in particular--I look up to her workforce stamina and grace--she has a way of connecting and understanding people that forces you to see things from different perspectives. I also can’t forget my mom--her patience, love, and understanding are all traits that inspire me.
Photos by: Christina Choi