Underground Dance Masters

Underground Dance Masters: Final History of a Forgotten Era

By Thomas Guzman-Sanchez

Praeger, 2012

169 pages, $48

From the soul and funk boogaloos, to rocking, popping and power moves, Underground Dance Masters explores the evolving styles and movements that dance crews across the United States performed in the mid-1960s through the 1980s. It’s written by Thomas Guzman-Sanchez, a member of the West Coast dance group Chain Reaction, who’s made it his mission to accurately report the moves, styles and dancers that make up what people know as “hip-hop dance.” (According to Guzman-Sanchez, the term “hip hop” was coined by a DJ in 1979, and the media jumped on it. “Original Generation” b-boys and street dancers do not accept the label.)

The book is structured by geographic region and style of dance, and personal interviews and photographs show the origins of the moves echoed in today’s hip-hop dance scene. Guzman-Sanchez first produced Underground Dance Masters in documentary form, featured at the 2008 Dance on Camera Festival. The new print material is an equally compelling account of the dances and dancers.

Note for teachers: Some minor drug and alcohol use is mentioned.

Technique
Nan Melville, courtesy Genn

Not so long ago, it seemed that ballet dancers were always encouraged to pull up away from the floor. Ideas evolved, and more recently it has become common to hear teachers saying "Push down to go up," and variations on that concept.

Charla Genn, a New York City–based coach and dance rehabilitation specialist who teaches company class for Dance Theatre of Harlem, American Ballet Theatre and Ballet Hispánico, says that this causes its own problems.

"Often when we tell dancers to go down, they physically push down, or think they have to plié more," she says. These are misconceptions that keep dancers from, among other things, jumping to their full potential.

To help dancers learn to efficiently use what she calls "Mother Marley," Genn has developed these clever techniques and teaching tools.

Keep reading... Show less
Teachers Trending
Alwin Courcy, courtesy Ballet des Amériques

Carole Alexis has been enduring the life-altering after-effects of COVID-19 since April 2020. For months on end, the Ballet des Amériques director struggled with fevers, tingling, dizziness and fatigue. Strange bruising showed up on her skin, along with the return of her (long dormant) asthma, plus word loss and stuttering.

"For three days I would experience relief from the fever—then, boom—it would come back worse than before," Alexis says. "I would go into a room and not know why I was there." Despite the remission of some symptoms, the fatigue and other debilitating side effects have endured to this day. Alexis is part of a tens-of-thousands-member club nobody wants to be part of—she is a COVID-19 long-hauler.

Keep reading... Show less
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

Get Dance Business Weekly in your inbox

Sign Up Used in accordance with our Privacy Policy.