Interviewed by Xeng Moua
My name is Lue Thao, also known as Finisher, and I was born in Phanat Nikhom, Thailand. My family and I came to the US when I was three months old and now I currently reside in Minnesota. My current occupation is being a full-time dancer and dance studio director/owner. I definitely enjoy it and I’ve always had the goal and dream to run my own dance studio program.
One day in my elementary gym class, my teacher named Mr. Muller showed our class a backspin break dance move. I was inspired to try it myself after seeing what my gym teacher was able to do! I did not have specific mentor or teacher, but I did have dance crew members that have helped me to get to where I am today. One of my big supporters is Mary Anne Quiroz and Indigenous Roots who has definitely helped me tremendously in my progress as being a dance studio director/owner.
I have participated in many competitions that included being in and out of state. I have won over 20 competitions and have lost in many. Some competitions were with Pulse at the US Bank Stadium, Red Bull competitions, etc.
When preparing, I would usually practice between 3-5 days of the week. Some of my biggest performances were for the Justin Timberlake half-time performance for Super Bowl 52, Tori Kelly’s performance at the Prince tribute concert, Vanilla Ice for his I Love 90’s Tour, etc. I am also a current performer for the MN NBA Timberwolves games.
The youth and the community inspired me to start my own dance studio. Growing up, having a space to practice was always the hardest thing. Sometimes we would get kicked out of friend’s houses, rec centers, or we would have to find transportation as far as 30 minutes to go practice or to a competition. I wanted to be able to provide a space that was accessible to the community.
It took me a while to finalize a name. I thought of “Cypher” which I interpret as a circle where anyone can join in and dance and have fun. The “Side” part comes from a place in the city like East Side or West Side. So Cypher Side would mean having an open circle where anyone can join in and it was the place to be. Thanks to J-Sun who helped with the name Cypher Side.
We currently offer Break Dance, Hip Hop, and Urban Dance. Our students perform in various events including the Hmong MN Day at the state fair, local shows, etc. We have a big show for students at the end of each of our dance class seasons that the students perform in as well.
I believe the biggest impact is getting the children to believe in themselves. I’ve seen tremendous growth in students and their confidence after continuing to dance. Some students were super shy and had little confidence, but as time progressed, they had learned to grow out of their comfort zone.
It feels great to be able to do what I love. I want to show the community that anyone can do what they love if they work hard for what they want. Some advice I would say is to work hard and don’t be afraid to take risks and sacrifices. A lot of people struggle because they do not get out of their comfort zone. I believe anyone can do what they want if they put their mind and heart into it.
My goals are to continue growing, supporting and contributing as much as I can to the community, connecting to local businesses, establishing a consistent performance team which consists of mainly youth that will be performing nationally and internationally. I also want to be able to get my own studio since I share my space right now.
Feel free to follow Cypher Side and Finisher at