Accepting Hip Hop

Hi readers,

Starting this week, we'll occasionally feature master teachers as guest bloggers. They'll be sharing with you the problems they encounter on a day-to-day level, and the solutions they've come up with over the years. Or they might simply talk about issues or current events in the dance community that are of concern to all of us. Here's our first entry, from hip-hop teacher Pat-y-O.

"A perennial issue for me is: Why is it hard for so many ballet teachers to accept hip hop as a form of dance? I have been teaching hip hop since the early ’90s and, for the last 15 years, on the competition circuit. The feedback from the majority of ballet teachers has been that hip hop should not be accepted in dance competitions because it has no technique involved. Quite frankly, as I’ve judged performances onstage, I’ve clearly noticed more and more jazz and ballet being mixed into the choreography, inhibiting the quick, crisp and sharp movements that are required in hip hop. This is why the hip-hop routines look sloppy—which leaves me with an understanding of how these teachers feel.

The reason hip hop can look sloppy is because the movements aren’t being defined. For years, teachers have been counting '1, 2, 3' instead of '1 & 2 & 3' or '1 &a 2 &a 3,' causing two or three movements to be jammed together. If teachers created choreography using either one of the more advanced count techniques, along with proper technique and fundamentals, they would discover that each movement produced will come off more defined.

My career has involved teaching master hip-hop classes in well over 30 cities a year, and it has been my goal to spread proper technique, so that hip hop can be appreciated by not only ballet teachers but by all professional dance instructors. I sensed some progress this past August at the Dance Teacher Summer Conference in New York City. Over 800 teachers from all around the world attended, and many of them, of course, were ballet instructors. At the end of my classes, they came up and told me that they now have a better understanding of what hip hop is all about, and that they can truly appreciate and support it as an artform." --Pat-y-O

Teachers Trending
Annika Abel Photography, courtesy Griffith

When the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis last May catalyzed nationwide protests against systemic racism, the tap community resumed longstanding conversations about teaching a Black art form in the era of Black Lives Matter. As these dialogues unfolded on social media, veteran Dorrance Dance member Karida Griffith commented infrequently, finding it difficult to participate in a meaningful way.

"I had a hard time watching people have these conversations without historical context and knowledge," says Griffith, who now resides in her hometown of Portland, Oregon, after many years in New York City. "It was clear that there was so much information missing."

For example, she observed people discussing tap while demonstrating ignorance about Black culture. Or, posts that tried to impose upon tap the history or aesthetics of European dance forms.

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Owners
Courtesy Tonawanda Dance Arts

If you're considering starting a summer program this year, you're likely not alone. Summer camp and class options are a tried-and-true method for paying your overhead costs past June—and, done well, could be a vehicle for making up for lost 2020 profits.

Plus, they might take on extra appeal for your studio families this year. Those struggling financially due to the pandemic will be in search of an affordable local programming option rather than an expensive, out-of-town intensive. And with summer travel still likely in question this spring as July and August plans are being made, your studio's local summer training option remains a safe bet.

The keys to profitable summer programming? Figuring out what type of structure will appeal most to your studio clientele, keeping start-up costs low—and, ideally, converting new summer students into new year-round students.

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer Diary
Claire, McAdams, courtesy Houston Ballet

Former Houston Ballet dancer Chun Wai Chan has always been destined for New York City Ballet.

While competing at Prix de Lausanne in 2010, he was offered summer program scholarships at both the School of American Ballet and Houston Ballet. However, because two of the competition's winners that year were Houston Ballet's Aaron Sharratt and Liao Xiang, dancers Chan idolized, he turned down SAB. He joined Houston Ballet II in 2010, the main company's corps de ballet in 2012, and was promoted to principal in 2017. Oozing confidence and technical prowess, Chan was a Houston favorite, and even landed himself a spot on Dance Magazine's "25 to Watch."

Keep reading... Show less

Get Dance Business Weekly in your inbox

Sign Up Used in accordance with our Privacy Policy.