How I teach hip hop

Marty Kudelka and student Alyssa Cintron

Versatile and slick footwork paired with smooth upper-body strength defines the movement style of commercial choreographer Marty Kudelka, which he says is a fusion of many dance forms. His dynamic yet unforced manner is visible in Justin Timberlake’s “My Love” music video, in which dancers punctuate rhythms with their torsos and arms as they float through space—their feet skimming the floor’s surface. Kudelka’s direct and clear movement style might best be described as unaffected and translates to his class combinations as well.

“Simple is better,” he says, as he prepares to teach a master class at the Ailey Studios in New York City as part of the Monsters of HipHop convention tour. “Choreography does not have to be brain surgery.” What makes a combination brilliant, he says, is the honesty behind the phrase. He is not impressed by how many movements students can fit into a short amount of time, “I’d rather see quality over quantity.”

Although Kudelka doesn’t teach a warm-up, he’s adamant that a student enter his class prepared to dance and with a solid technical foundation. “The ideal dancer has training and a funky side,” he says. “You need to know where your center is and understand how to move strongly from your core,” in order to perform his combinations with his signature smooth and relaxed demeanor. Although his choreography is very shape-oriented, Kudelka emphasizes that being able to control elements of a movement is key—like hitting it sharply as opposed to calmly halting the flow. And while cool, sharp and relaxed are centerpieces of Kudelka’s movement vocabulary, it’s the musical specificity that sets his classes apart.

“Any combination I teach will always be to a specific song,” Kudelka says. Before creating a combination, he listens to the track numerous times, studying the piece. “I listen to each instrument, trying to find stray sounds. I want to know the music better than the producer. Then, I stand up and start to freestyle.” This method not only adds texture to his work choreographically, it also encourages students to be attentive to detail.

Here, Kudelka and student Alyssa Cintron demonstrate eight counts of a combination set to “Addicted,” by Ne-Yo.

Originally from Dallas, Texas, Marty Kudelka has choreographed for artists including Janet Jackson, Pink, and *NSYNC. He co-choreographed Janet Jackson’s “All for You” world tour, and he was principal choreographer and director of Justin Timberlake’s “Future Sex/Love Sounds” tour. His choreography for Timberlake’s music video “My Love” won the 2007 MTV Video Music Award for best choreography. Recently, Kudelka traveled to India to choreograph the 2010 Bollywood film, Chance Pe Dance. A master teacher on the Monsters of HipHop convention tour, Kudelka also teaches at Millennium Dance Complex and the Debbie Reynolds Dance Studio, both in Los Angeles, California.

Alyssa Cintron, 17, from Fall River, Massachusetts, has studied with Kudelka for the past three years.


Photo by Ramon Estevanell at the Ailey Studios

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