Street Heat Dance Studio founder Heidi Asefvaziri considers her studio "a place of creative refuge for students." | Heidi Asefvaziri/Courtesy photo

Savannah Sperry
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Street Heat was the result of a two-part equation — a 19-year-old searching for a hobby and an Internet connection.

Founder and Cal Poly business administration sophomore Heidi Asefvaziri found a hip hop class online one day, and it clicked. After taking only a few classes at the local studio — Academy of Dance, San Luis Obispo — the studio’s owner asked Asefvaziri to start teaching her own classes.

“I was like, ‘Oh my god I’ve only been dancing for like, three weeks, what do you mean start teaching?’ But I took the offer and then started teaching in October,” Asefvaziri said.

Asefvaziri found that the few classes she was teaching were filled with Cal Poly students who had a passion for dance but couldn’t afford to take regular classes.

That’s when she resolved to start her own studio for people to take classes.

“I was like, I can do this on my own,” Asefvaziri said, “So a month later on November 12, 2009, I decided to open up Street Heat and went and got my business license. I was all excited because I was a business student and I was already kind of putting it all to work after my first year at college.”

Street Heat Dance Studio has grown since its beginning.

In 2011, the studio’s first 18 and older audition-only dance company was created. It’s name? EPiDEMIC.

“A student, Milan Gilio, who was a Cuesta student at the time had been dancing all her life and was like, ‘Heidi, you need a dance company, the Cal Poly students need a dance company that’s hip-hop and contemporary,’” Asefvaziri said.

Though she wasn’t entirely sure what this meant, Asefvaziri obliged to her student’s requests and EPiDEMIC began its first season in 2011.

Cal Poly’s own dance company, Orchesis, offers contemporary, ballet and jazz training, but no hip-hop. EPiDEMIC allows dancers to pursue both contemporary and hip-hop and display their talents at biannual performance showcases.

While Gilio became Street Heat’s primary contemporary dance choreographer, dancers Alpha O’Neal and ShaMar Phillips came on as street jazz and hip-hop choreographers.

“I just heard about this place because it was about hip-hop and I came in one day and checked it out and it was just Heidi teaching everything and I just messaged her on Facebook and asked if there were any spots, and I came in and we started working together and then all of a sudden I started teaching here,” Phillips said.

In Sept. 2013, EPiDEMIC formed its first hip-hop competition team.

“We signed up for Maxt Out in Los Angeles and ran just a seven-week program and went to L.A. and did so well that we we’re like, ‘We have to continue.’ We just got so hungry for it,” Asefvaziri said.

EPiDEMIC now uses its fall season to prepare its hip hop team for competitions while contemporary continues with performance rehearsals. These practices are particularly rigorous during the week before a competition.

They are intense enough to collectively be called “Hell Week.”


“We’ve done pretty well in competition for not knowing what we were getting ourselves into and just going after it. You get a lot of respect and people know the [EPiDEMIC] name now,” Phillips said.

This competition streak isn’t showing any signs of stopping. In fact, the team will attend a hip hop competition as well as a performance showcase in Arroyo Grande during the spring season.

Many of Asefvaziri’s students have been with her since Street Heat’s beginning.

“I’ve had a kid whose been with me since she was four and a half and she’s now nine and I got to see her transform into something amazing,” she said.

Ultimately, Asefvaziri has seen her studio become a place of creative refuge for students.

“Young adults have a haven,” she said. “This is where they want to go after a long day at school or work. It’s just the place to let it all out. It’s an awesome feeling to be able to provide something like that.”

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