Many studio owners have found that by including hip hop classes on their schedules they are attracting more recreational students to come through their doors. Hip hop is a form of dance that gives the impression that anyone can do it and, as a result, breaks down certain negative preconceived notions that some people have about dance. It gives ordinary kids the idea that they can be an MTV star if they can do some of the moves. It also attracts guys because it is 'acceptable' to be known as a hip hop dancer, it’s cool and current and, unlike the average person’s perception of ballet, it is macho!

Many studio owners have found that by including hip hop classes on their schedules they are attracting more recreational students to come through their doors. Hip hop is a form of dance that gives the impression that anyone can do it and, as a result, breaks down certain negative preconceived notions that some people have about dance. It gives ordinary kids the idea that they can be an MTV star if they can do some of the moves. It also attracts guys because it is 'acceptable' to be known as a hip hop dancer, it’s cool and current and, unlike the average person’s perception of ballet, it is macho!

 

We all are well aware of the fact that a vast majority of the music involved is unacceptable for use in a studio setting, an unfortunate state of affairs since if it were not for the lyrics it would be terrific music with great beats. So much of it has to have a hacksaw taken to it to edit out the profanity! Other alternatives are to use the music without any lyrics or look to other music that has a good beat but may not be your typical hip hop music.

 

Hip hop was born on the streets and therefore brings both the good and bad aspects of that environment. The good is that ordinary people are out there looking for ways to express themselves through dance and are able to do so without reservation, which I heartily applaud. The bad is that everything that happens in the street cannot always be presented to children as it is almost too real and too sophisticated to be acceptable or necessary for them to be exposed to.

 

Parents and students who are more serious about dance sometimes question us about the necessity of taking hip hop as a form of dance. Dancers who are more interested in classical and modern dance find it hard to understand why they need to go anywhere near a hip hop class. My reply to them is always the same: Hip hop is here to stay! Dance has always been born out of rebellion and celebration, and hip hop is part of the universe of dance. It will, of course, continue to evolve and refine to an even higher art form. And just as Isadora Duncan was frowned upon and jazz dance in the 1920s was considered risqué, as the years go by there will be more and more acceptance of hip hop in the art world and it will bring more people toward the world of dance, creating bigger and more enthused audiences for dance in theaters and on TV.

 

Ballet companies are using more and more contemporary works, which means that those dancers who have only become proficient in a totally classical style will struggle with other styles and consequently be passed over in favor of those dancers who understood the importance of learning as much as possible about as many styles of dance as they had the opportunity to try. As we know, very few of our students will actually make it as professional dancers.  For those who do, it is important to give them as many avenues as possible to go down, so that they will be able to earn a living as a dancer and be adaptable to whatever comes along. For the vast majority of students, exposing them to as many styles as possible will not only challenge them, but will also give them a much better understanding of what is involved when they go to see a dance performance, automatically making them a better member of the audience.

 

Many teachers of jazz no longer teach the importance of true isolation work in their classes, even though jazz certainly requires that knowledge. Isolation work needs focus and discipline, neither of which is currently that popular with students! Jazz dance Masters such as Jack Cole and Matt Mattox were huge advocates of using isolation work and were themselves fabulous dancers, able to do just about anything. In fact, I am sure that, were they in their prime in this day and age, they would be doing both jazz and hip hop because they understood the importance of gaining control of every part of the body in order to be able to use the technique to express themselves. Michael Jackson, although not a 'trained' dancer, used isolation work all the time in his dance numbers, and how many kids all over the world emulate his moves? It is funny how no matter where dance goes, it always seems to come back full circle, and a perfect example is how hip hop dancers use the popping and locking and all the other ways to isolate their bodies.

 

While I do believe strongly in the importance of ballet training for every dancer serious or recreational, I also believe very strongly that dancers should never limit their dance experience—they might actually end up enjoying it and, after all, isn’t dance all about expressing your emotions and telling a story?

 

Here are a few important tips to make your hip hop program successful:

 

1. When hiring a hip hop teacher, make sure that they understand   your philosophy on the training of young students.

 

2.  Be clear with them about their choices of music.

 

3.  Make sure that you are on the same page as far as age appropriate moves.

 

4.  Encourage your students to watch hip hop choreography that is of a high level by choreographers who are both current and innovative. One of my favorites are the husband and wife team, Tabitha and Napoleon, because they do what dance is all about—they tell a story and make it real.

 

When your parents or dancers ask you why you think it is important for them to experience hip hop, use these ideas to show them that it will not hurt them—it will only further enrich their dance lives.