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

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