Keisha Hughes

Keisha Hughes
Professional dancer, dance teacher, and entrepreneur in LA

Bachelor of Arts in Dance, UNC Charlotte (2011)

Hometown: Queens, NY

Keisha “Sparkle” Hughes began dancing at age three and attended Frank Sinatra High School of the Arts in Long Island City, New York, as a dance major. While a student at UNC Charlotte, she was a finalist on BET’s Born to Dance with Laurieann Gibson. That break launched her career in commercial dance, and she has performed with Cardi B, Nicki Minaj, Lil Kim, Yo Gotti, Big Sean, Tostitos, 50 Cent, Missy Elliott, Netflix's Tick Tick Boom, White Castle, Footlocker NYC and much more. She has also trained closely with two of the industry’s top choreographers: Rhapsody James and Luam Keflezgy.

Describe the various aspects to your professional life. What is a typical week like for you?

I start my Sundays off with a big reset, checking in with my goals, meal prepping, budgeting and planning my week. I'm really big into personal development and improving all aspects of my life. I may work my side job for 4-5 days, there are a lot more auditions in LA or castings that I may receive from both the NY or LA office. So I'm doing submissions and castings virtually on a regular basis. Hitting the gym, the class scope in LA is huge because of a lot of working choreographers and camps for artists are based here so I'm able to have a nice range of classes to choose from. And almost all of my close friends live in LA, so because the weather is often nice I'm able to see them a lot, we help each other create content and stay visual/present online etc.

What are your most interesting recent or current projects?

I worked on a movie during quarantine which was AMAZING! I was booked for the role back in February and had to turn it down for another job I received during the waiting period. But the universe and God works in amazing ways, and I was asked to come back and do the role in November when they began to re-film (they had shut down due to COVID in March). So for three weeks I quarantined and shot a movie. It was life-changing and put me in the best headspace to tackle the end of the year and to start a new one. 

Recently, I moved to LA because I wanted to cast a wider net for the work opportunities. I came in Jan 2023 just to test it out and ended up staying permanently. So it's been one year. When I switched agencies in April/May, it also gave me a wider range of jobs and network to be pushed for as well. So through my own connections and also the connections of my agency, I did a few spot dates on 50 Cent's Final Lap Tour; I also toured with him the year prior for almost the entire year. I did the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction with Missy Elliott this past November. BET Awards in June, Los Angeles. BET Hip Hop Awards in October in Atlanta. Just to name a few of the things I've been up to.

What have been some of the keys to your success in the commercial dance world?

The keys to my success in the commercial dance world have been to work hard, to remain myself, and to give my career 100%. I'm always learning from each experience, taking it with me to the next. I'm never complacent. I always continue to train and be the best version of myself, because this industry requires that when you look like me. I think understanding your look, your skills, and what you bring to the table can help you stand out. I believe I was also very aware of where I could improve and would continue to strive to make those things better, too. We are in a time where being viral or being on Tik Tok can get you hired, but for me as a Black female dancer, that's not going to be enough. I have to be superhuman and the best at what I do. So I don't stop until I can attain that version of myself; to be undeniable is the goal. 

What are your favorite memories from your time at UNC Charlotte?

My favorite memories were the bonds that I created with my fellow dance majors and the time I spent with Tantrum Dance Troupe. The BEST memories I have are from those people because I was doing what I loved with like-minded people. They made balancing all my extracurricular activities worth it, because we were doing it together. We found a way to learn, to dance, and be involved in so many other ways (together)  

How did your education at UNC Charlotte prepare you?

My education at UNC Charlotte prepared me to work with all different types of dancers. It really helped mold my teaching style and my voice in choreography. I was always encouraged to use my movement as expression and how to clearly articulate my message through dance. 

What advice do you have for current dance students who wish to succeed as professional dancers?

My advice for current dance students who wish to succeed as professional dancers is to know this industry isn't for the faint of heart. It's going to test you and you're going to hear a lot of no's before you hear a yes. But always remember why you're doing it, keep the love of dance close, and never allow it to change you. If it does change you, I hope it's for the better. 

See photos and videos of Keisha and her work on Instagram @keishasparkle.