Dance News

92nd Street Y Workshop Encourages Classically Trained Teachers to Explore the Value of Hip Hop

Teacher Elias Kababa with students at the 92nd Street Y "Hip-Hop to the Top" workshop. Photo by Todd France, courtesy of Votaw

With hopes of better connecting to young students, dance educators met Saturday at New York City's 92nd Street Y for "Hip-Hop to the Top: Exploring the world through hip-hop dance."

The five-hour workshop provided age-appropriate lesson plans rooted in history and Laban Movement Analysis. But the program also reassured classically trained teachers to "come as you are." After all, a "groove" is just a plié with a grounded "urban edge."


Led by Elias (Eli) Kababa, who is also a teaching artist at the New York City Ballet, the workshop sparkled with positivity. Not only were mistakes welcome, they were the fuel of hip hop. Consider Grand Wizzard Theodore, who accidentally invented the record scratch technique when his mom told him to turn down his music.

As attendees entered a large hall at the 92Y Center for Arts Learning & Leadership, they were met with uplifting mottos, including "Don't be afraid to be awesome!" and "Take it to the next level and own it!" posted on newsprint throughout the spacious room. Photo by Todd France

Kababa, dressed head to toe in black Adidas gear, asked students to introduce themselves with a rap. He used himself as an example: "Uh, yeah, we gonna make it pop. Eli, Eli, take it to the top."

While a piano played in the ballet studio next door—and some educators looked like they would rather battement than battle with words—they gave it a go until the whole circle was a clapping, rhythmic "crew" of professors and classically trained dancers.

Common goals of the group included dealing with behavior issues and instilling confidence among students in K–12 and beyond. Two women who teach in some of New York's most impoverished areas wanted to find common ground with their young charges, many of whom are struggling with major challenges at home. A few participants said they work in private schools and higher education, where self-esteem is also in short supply.

Kababa, who teaches at several public schools, recommended guiding students toward their hip-hop super-powers. Not everyone in the class is a dancer, he suggested. Some may be DJs who control the music on their smartphones. Someone else might be the emcee who tells a story with rhymes. Another might be the artist who incorporates graffiti into set design.

Several dance educators said they wanted to stay relevant at a time when Hamilton reigns supreme on Broadway. "If you want to work in New York, you have to learn hip hop," said Sue Moss, a professor at Bronx Community College. "My kids love hip hop," said Lindsey Della Serra, who teaches dance full-time at Franklin High School in Somerset, New Jersey. "But I don't feel equipped to teach it."

Kababa took notes and nodded.

As a first generation American, he understands that children want to be acknowledged. After relocating from Egypt to the United States, his parents felt overwhelmed by the stresses of a new country and eventually divorced. Kababa grew up in New Jersey not knowing about his Egyptian roots. Frequently in trouble, he sought refuge in martial arts. When he discovered hip hop, he and his friends would "dance until the sun went down."

"I remember being 8 and 9 and riding my bike to my friend's house," he shared with the group. "We would take a mic that wasn't even plugged in, and we would rap into it and scratch up records with needles that weren't made for that. I was playing pretend hip hop at a young age. It was 1989. As I got older, hip hop naturally became my language. I think that's valuable for kids who are removed from their culture. Hip hop can give them a way in."

At County College of Morris, he was a criminal justice major. But when the director of the dance department saw him breaking on campus, she invited him to check out some of her classes. Now with a dance degree, Kababa is a beloved teaching artist at the Y and co-founder of The Garden State Dance Project. He is also a dad who knows the importance of lineage.

Just like ballet has its heroes and traditions, hip hop is rich with folklore. To illustrate, Kababa gave slideshow presentations about the Bronx, the birthplace of hip hop, where disco was dying and landlords were burning buildings to cash in on insurance policies. Photo by Jennifer Dayton

Notable figures in early hip hop include DJ Kool Herc, who became known as the father of hip hop. Meanwhile, graffiti artists like Taki 183 and Julio 204 tagged New York subways with their spray-painted signatures. It was a way of saying, "I'm here," explained Kababa, who invited the class to draw their individual "tags" on a long strip of newsprint.

Newly inspired, participants wrote a rap, "I'm More Than a Man With a Can," and experimented with sound techniques through djay Pro LE, a free app featuring two turntables. At the end of the afternoon, the group was divided into three teams that had 15 minutes to develop pieces based on all they had experienced. Participants incorporated LMA themes of body, effort, space and relationship that they could use in class. Even though they might not be as fleet as Crazy Legs, an early break-dancer, they could build a structure for kids to embellish.

"I enjoyed hearing about the groundbreaking history," said Kelvin Cooper, a dance educator at Bronx Community College, NYU and Alvin Ailey. "I learned that hip hop is a powerful tool for expressing yourself and who you are."

Show Comments ()
Dance Teachers Trending
Choreographer Andrea Giselle Schermoly, center, demonstrating. Photo by Andrew Yew, courtesy of Schermoly

You might think ballet competitions are all about the dancers—offering them valuable exposure, scholarships and job opportunities. They serve as vehicles for growth, with dancers spending countless hours working to perfect every step they'll take in front of the judges. But these same events have also become a way for choreographers to launch their own careers. The competition work they make helps to refine their voices, and it offers the chance to dive further into the creative process with pre-professional students. DT spoke with five award-winning choreographers about their roles on the ballet competition circuit, and how this unique opportunity has both inspired and elevated their craft.

Keep reading... Show less

Dance education for preschoolers has many benefits. It exercises the whole body and the mind. It also creates a love for dance that develops into a lifetime desire for being fit. If you have the insight to get your preschool age children to love learning dance, you have taken the first step in establishing a core of students who will be with you for years to come. Preschool age is when you cultivate an early love of dance, and that is a major responsibility. Studio owners should always have preschool teachers that are high energy, creative and love children.

Keep reading... Show less
Madi Hicks in Jeff Edwards' ballet class at Juilliard (Kenneth Edwards)

You know what unfortunately goes hand in hand with the greatest time of year? The dreaded cold and flu season. But, never fear—you can stay ahead of the curve this year by keeping your immune system working smoothly before the sniffles set in. We've rounded up our best tips and tricks to help you stay healthy (and dancing!) all season long.

Keep reading... Show less
Just for fun
Via Odyssey Dance Theater on Instagram

Halloween is on the horizon, which means we should all be embracing the spookiest aspects of the season. If you're a dancer (or dance lover), your list of holiday fun should include watching some seriously fabulous Halloween-themed dancing. Whether it's a live show in a city near you, binge watching old Halloween episodes of your favorite television show, or digging into the black hole of dance videos on YouTube, trust us—it's a riot!

Here are three Halloween-themed dance performances you should DEFINITELY check out!

Have a terrifying time!!!

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teachers Trending
Mastering a fish lift, with Nicholas Mishoe and ADA students Connor Medrow and Renee Shubov. Photo by Sori Gottdenker, courtesy of ADA

What makes someone ready to leave a successful performance career to buy a dance school? For Nicholas and Shayne Mishoe, that turning point came while Nicholas was touring in the Netherlands with the Dutch National Ballet. "Dancing late into the night on a hard stage, getting on a bus and driving a couple hours and doing the whole thing again the next day, for a month—one night, I thought, 'I've had enough of this,'" Nicholas says.

"We train dancers to be accountable for their own dancing," says Shayne Mishoe. Photo by Sori Gottdenker, courtesy of ADA

"The life we were living didn't feel sustainable long-term," adds Shayne, who was performing on a project basis in Amsterdam, while also teaching ballet, Pilates and Gyrotonic. Operating their own school had always been their dream, and after Nicholas' bus tour through Holland, the stars aligned. Shayne knew that the founder of her childhood studio in New Jersey, where her mother has also taught since the early 1990s, had been thinking about selling. She and Nicholas talked it out, made the phone call and set the plan into motion.

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Owners
Getty Images

As much as we wish otherwise, bullying is something all dance teachers have to deal with at some point in their career. Unfortunately, it just seems to come with the growing pains of aspiring artists (sigh 🙄).

Because it's such a tricky thing to manage, we reached out to dance teachers on Facebook to see how they choose to handle unkindness at their studios.

Check out what these three teachers had to say, and let us know the things you do at your studio to stop bullying in our comments!

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Thinkstock

Q: What do you do when a dancer shuts down because of a correction?

Keep reading... Show less
via capezio.com

As of today, there are only 13 nights until the spoOoOokiest evening of the year—and just 1 week left, if you're planning to dress up over Halloweekend. Do you have your costume(s) yet?

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teachers Trending
Thinkstock

Just like foodies pursue their favorite taco trucks, dance lovers can track beloved choreographers and teachers through pop-up events advertised on social media.

"I've stopped thinking of myself as a starving artist," says Natalia Roberts, a Brooklyn-based dancer who has almost 5,000 followers on Instagram. "I am my own business."

Through Instagram posts, Roberts, who has a background in fitness and architecture, chooses off-beat locations to showcase site-specific choreography for events, like this gallery opening at Long Island City's Cigar Factory. Her strong web presence operates as a 24-hour business card cultivating the element of surprise.

Pop-ups rely on the delight of being in the right place at the right time. Such flashes of intrigue have changed the way consumers engage with products and services, according to "How Pop-Ups Took Over America's Restaurants." Because dance itself is built on impermanence, many artists embrace fleeting moments to market themselves on the web.

Below are five suggestions to get you onboard the pop-up train.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips

For decades dance teachers have worked tirelessly to get their dancers to look cohesive onstage. From perfectly matched costumes, to the exact brand and style of footUndeez, to buns that are all parted on the exact same side (the bane of my existence), you people know how to get your kids to look uniform. And when it comes to getting your dancers' makeup to match, your attention to detail is no different. You have each spent hours with parents teaching them how to apply it so that it looks just the way you want it to.

Those are precious hours you could have used cleaning choreography or correcting a student's arabesque. Am I right? Thankfully, the internet has come to the rescue and created YouTube tutorials that you can send out to your dancers' parents so you don't have to spend unnecessary time on it. They can even watch the video each time they do their makeup to make sure they get it just right! Heaven bless modern day technology.

Scour YouTube to find the look that fits your studio. Here are three clips we think are great for the stage!

You're welcome, people!

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Owners
Thinkstock

Cary-Grove Performing Arts Centre co-owner Amy Krigas instituted a pointsbased loyalty program when she opened her Cary, Illinois, studio 20 years ago. "I don't give scholarships to boys for free. I don't give sibling or multiclass discounts," she says.

Keep reading... Show less

Sponsored

Videos

Sponsored

mailbox

Get DanceTeacher in your inbox

Win It!

Sponsored