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Afaliah Tribune Makes Age-Appropriate Hip-Hop Music for Class

Photo courtesy of Tribune

Finding age-appropriate hip-hop music can be a struggle. Choreographer Afaliah Tribune addresses this common dilemma for hip-hop teachers by making her own original tracks on GarageBand. "I love experimenting with live music, and my students think it's fun, too," says Tribune, who is an adjunct professor of dance at New York University. "There are so many ways we can open up our work when we experiment with sound."


Tribune has been inspired by music from an early age, thanks to her father, an eclectic musician and bandleader. "I'd come home from dance class and end up harmonizing with the band in choir rehearsal in the basement," she says. Tribune, who's also a singer, rapper and songwriter, says she didn't realize how much this played a pivotal role in shaping her artistry. "As a kid, I didn't think it was cool, but now I realize my love for music was because I was surrounded with so much of it."

After studying postmodern and contemporary dance at Ohio State University and touring for a decade with Rennie Harris Puremovement, Tribune was itching to choreograph. "I really wanted to find my own voice," she says. Pulling from her diverse dance background and natural love of hip hop, and incorporating all of her artistic skills, Tribune developed her own style—a blend, she describes as "contemporary with hip-hop nuance." In 2010, she founded her own company, Afaliah Tribune Dance.

Tribune enjoys exploring music throughout her class. To start, she'll have dancers lie on the floor, making shapes with their bodies and ironing out the kinks in a moving meditation to live beats that she created. With a Maschine, a portable instrument that produces beats and sounds, she might play a basic eight-count-of-eight track and, after demonstrating movement, add layers and build on accents. Tribune has found that editing music, while adding poetry or spoken word to a track, enhances her work, and it's simple for teachers to learn. "It's just another way to expand yourself as an artist," she says. "It makes the work more personal and creates a signature."




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Artist: Jayswifa

Song: "Dystopia"

Album: Enigma

"The synthesizer and then the drums! Perfect for a house dance, hip hop, contemporary dance or across the floor."




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Artist: Kaytranada

Song: "You're the One" (feat. SYD)

"This song features beautiful vocals and insane house vibes great for a hip-hop or jazz class."




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Artist: Roy Ayers

Album: Wake Up

"I've always gravitated toward '90s R&B for class. I love Ayers' music for floor work in a technique class."




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Artist: Anita Baker

Song: "Caught Up in the Rapture"

Album: Rapture

"I use this song during class for technique, like tendus and positions of the feet."




Artist: Afaliah

Song: "A Woman's Work" (available on SoundCloud)

"I created this track on GarageBand because I couldn't locate a song with the exact elements I wanted. It was such a daunting task, but I pushed through my limits and conceived something meaningful for the work. And it was fun!"

Higher Ed
The author, Robyn Watson. Photo courtesy Watson

Recently, I posted a thread of tweets elucidating the lack of respect for tap dance in college dance programs, and arguing that it should be a requirement for dance majors.

According to onstageblog.com, out of the 30 top-ranked college dance programs in the U.S., tap dance is offered at 19 of them, but only one school requires majors to take more than a beginner course—Oklahoma City University. Many prestigious dance programs, like the ones at NYU Tisch School of the Arts and SUNY Purchase, don't offer a single course in tap dance.

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Teaching Tips
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After months of lockdowns and virtual learning, many studios across the country are opening their doors and returning to in-person classes. Teachers and students alike have likely been chomping at the bit in anticipation of the return of dance-class normalcy that doesn't require a reliable internet connection or converting your living room into a dance space.

But along with the back-to-school excitement, dancers might be feeling rusty from being away from the studio for so long. A loss of flexibility, strength and stamina is to be expected, not to mention emotional fatigue from all of the uncertainty and reacclimating to social activities.

So as much as everyone wants to get back to normal—teachers and studio owners included—erring on the side of caution with your dancers' training will be the most beneficial approach in the long run.

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Teachers Trending
Photo courtesy TUPAC

When legendary Black ballet dancer Kabby Mitchell III died unexpectedly in 2017, two months before opening his Tacoma Urban Performing Arts Center, his friend and business partner Klair Ethridge wasn't sure she had what it took to carry his legacy. Ethridge had been working with Mitchell to co-found TUPAC and planned to serve as its executive director, but she had never envisioned being the face of the school.

Now, Ethridge is heading into her fourth year of leading TUPAC, which she has grown from a fledgling program in an unheated building to a serious ballet school in its own sprung-floor studios, reaching hundreds of students across the Tacoma, Washington, area. The nonprofit has become a case study for what it looks like to carry out the vision of a founder who never had the chance to see his school open—and to take an unapologetically mission-driven approach.

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