No matter what I create, speak about or teach, it all comes back to the same source. My lessons from veterans of hip hop and street dance have granted me a massive library of terminology and concepts to help me understand this dance from its very inception. Hip Hop is the most tragic game of telephone. Something about the phrase "hip hop" draws people in. Because of that, so many people have latched on and somewhat picked up where it left off. Disregarding the source of information has been the name of the game because quite frankly, its easier to copy what you see and move forward. Mostly because it's done on such a large scale that you can get away with it.
Hip Hop is not supposed to be easy.Considering how essential the history and roots of every other culture are, I never teach without knowing its roots. My information on Locking comes from Lockers. My information on Breaking comes from B-boys. My stories about hip hop come from conversations with the people WHO WERE THERE! My love for all things hip hop keeps me open to the history and the values of a hip hop artist. It's blessed me with the respect and recognition to be capable of sitting down and conversing with those who started all of this. Today, more than ever I feel compelled to stick with the art form the way I understand it. I've been humbled and educated by some absolutely incredible teachers over the years. Without the wisdom and training from teachers such as Tom Mckie, Spex, Brian Green, Jazzy J, Sekou, Pavan Thmmaiah , I could never even begin to do the work I do today. I encourage all my students to get as close to the source as possible when it comes to learning. It's not enough to pick up where I leave off. If you ever have a chance to learn from one of these teachers, don't ever pass it up. They are rare and they are the most real experience you will ever have when learning these styles. If any of you( or my other teachers) ever read this, thank you!
My work evolves, but it evolves from hip hop. It is honest, especially when it is not adhering to the rules of hip hop. I am a dancer. When my work follows rules of hip hop ( or locking, or popping, etc.) I call it that. When it doesn't, I acknowledge that too.
Respect the art form. Respect the roots. Respect the History. We Build from there.
I have no interest in looking like anyone else. I think that's a huge issue with many dancers in the days of mass social acceptance. In an effort to create an identity, we accidentally create a facade. To be an artist is to be daring, dangerous. To speak your truth. It is difficult to learn how to do that when you worry about opinions. It's difficult to do that when you are also trying to stick to the rules of your art form.
I aim to bend the rules. My work will let you know when it is going to be a "pure" style vs work inspired by elements of a certain genre. The music I choose speaks to me and helps me express my very many emotions. In my class and at my shows you'll see empowering work. You'll see fun. You'll see funny. You will hear blues, rock, funk, hip hop, instrumentals and so much more.
My ever-evolving identity as a dancer helps me stand out. As a teacher, I don't want my class to feel like other classes. That, too should be an experience. My time so far in this world gives me all the inspiration I need to create a world for my audience. I dress, act, speak, perform the way my life inspires me to do so. That's my expression.That's my hip hop. Expressing my story and my self through art. If you come into my class dressed like me, you are not dressing like hip hop. You're missing the point. Whats your identity?
Celebrate your identity. use your voice.
Mentor and protege. Teacher and student. Performer and audience. When we step in front of a group of people and proclaim ownership over our work, we are establishing a relationship. Our audience needs us at our very best if they are to continue to do with our art what we do. As teachers we will imprint onto our students. Yes, our weaknesses too. We all have much to learn. However, I must leave my students with what I believe to be all the essential ingredients to succeed beyond me. Personally, I want my dancers to understand the following:
Knowledge - Proper terms and techniques for each style we learn.
Freestyle(Improv) - Thinking freely and making true, in the moment connection with music.
Rhythm - The understanding of the music and what to do with it as a dancer .
Perseverance - In class, finding your true threshold of exhaustion and powering through. Beyond class, dedicating enough to your ( not so easy ) path to where you want to be as an artist .
Integrity - Staying true to yourself and your art. Loyalty to your own voice.
Knowing a balance between confidence and humility - Fully believing in yourself without having to compete with others for validation.
Know your audience. Know your influence. Know the language of your students.
It's not enough to want these things for your students. I come to class ready to speak their language. I honor the vibe of hip hop by applying the free and expressive nature to an otherwise strictly guided classroom. In my class, we acknowledge the importance of technique and conversation. There is no "Part A. Warm-up , Part B. Choreography" structure so to speak. Class moves with the acknowledgement of those present. Hip Hop SHOULD be done differently in a dance studio if you hope to keep what makes hip hop authentic. My entire structure is formatted to consider what is needed by each dancer. What makes it a dance studio class? What makes it hip hop? When do they contradict eachother?
Rather than doing it the way it has always been done, I refer back to the beginning. High school and college training in childhood education. Psychology. School system style long term class structure. All come into play with hip hop and street dance in mind to create effective, rewarding lessons for dancers. This is no longer the class that students come to for the easy and familiar. This is the kind of class you create to invest in a long term plan - to fix the way dancers understand hip hop and its place among other dance genres.