By Cary Shuman
Chelsea native Reia Briggs-Connor, who has built the Phunk Phenomenon Dance Complex in to the No. 1 name in hip-hop dance in Greater Boston, is looking for another home.
Briggs-Connor, a former New England Patriots cheerleader, learned in April that the building on Revere Beach Parkway in Everett that housed her dance studio would be demolished. The studio started on Ferry Street in Everett before moving to the old Harley Davidson building on Route 16.
“We received notice in April and my end-of-the-year recital was in May,” related Briggs-Connor.
The former Chelsea High School cheerleader and Miss Chelsea pageant winner has turned her attention to her hometown and has begun talks with developers about a site in Chelsea close to the Everett border.
“I’d really love to be back in Chelsea where I came from,” said Briggs-Connor, daughter of Barbara Casino Casino of Chelsea. “I’m looking for a new location and have a specific spot in mind and I’m going through the process of signing a lease.”
Briggs-Connor’s ascension to the top of the local hip hop scene took hard work, talent, vision, and a supportive family that includes her husband, Everett Police officer Rick Connor, and their two children, Jared Connor, 12, who suffers from a rare disease, San Filippo Syndrome (the family conducts an annual fundraising event, Jared’s Run, each year), and Aaron, 7, who is a rising dancer and Pop Warner and Little League player.
Phunk Phenomeon has grown steadily to a current enrollment of 450 students of all ages. Phunk has gained considerable recognition for creating the Boston Celtics Junior Dance Team that performs in front of 18,000 fans at Celtics’ home games.
Phunk showcased its national credentials by earning a spot on MTV’s “America’s Best Dance Crew” show that was videotaped in California. Phunk dancers also appeared on “America’s Got Talent” and were a finalist for Jennifer Lopez’s new show, “World of Dance.”
“My dancers and I have been blessed enough to meet a lot of celebrities such as Busta Rhymes and Salt-N-Pepa and a lot of old-school rappers and hip hop artists. They love it that we keep hip hop alive from the foundation and all its high energy.”
A graduate of Wheelock College, Briggs-Connor is proud of her studio’s legacy and looking forward to building on its stature as the hub of youth hip-hop dancing – at a new location in Chelsea.
“I think the popularity of our studio, aside from the opportunities that our students get, is the family-oriented space that we offer and staying true to hip hop dance and its foundations. Basically it’s the love and care that goes in to the kids and we accept kids of all levels of dance ability. We build their confidence.”
Briggs-Connor said her goal as a studio owner and professional instructor hasn’t changed since opening in Everett in 2001.
“Hopefully I can help more kids in Chelsea and all the surrounding communities. That’s always been my goal. I want to help these kids learn and appreciate the joys of dance and teamwork and have a positive outlook on life.”