February 2016 | 2 Tips for Hip-Hop Teachers | Two Choreography Strategies

Photo by Bill H

Photo by Bill H

Two Choreography Strategies

By Anthony “Ynot” DeNaro

Tip 1
Individuality is essential in hip-hop. While students need to know how to pick up and execute other people’s choreography, they also need strategies for generating their own movement. Try these exercises to get students’ brains working and creativity flowing. Allot plenty of time, and end with performances and a critique session. As they work, students may find it helpful to jot down steps in a notebook.

Choreograph without music: students create steps in silence (encourage them to hear the rhythms in their heads) and then connect them into three or four short phrases. (The variety of movement they can create when not “led” by music may surprise you.) Now put on music. Students will find that some phrases fit the music and others need adjusting; they then connect their phrases into sequences.

Tip 2
Choreograph by “cutting and pasting”: students generate short sequences, then identify beginning, middle, and end sections. They cut apart and rearrange these sections—for example, moving the end to the beginning or the middle to the end.

Variation: students cut their sequences into sections of four and/or eight counts, then “misplace” them—for example, sticking a four-count phrase in the middle of an eight-count phrase, or swapping four-count phrases around.

This exercise is a fun way to get ideas rolling. It also creates surprising step juxtapositions, posing choreographic “problems” that challenge students to move beyond their go-to transitions. Observe how your students think through and solve these problems.

We need to show students what’s out there now in the world of hip-hop. But it’s also important to challenge formulaic ways of creating, if we want to develop the dancers and choreographers who will take hip-hop into the future.


Philadelphia b-boy Anthony “Ynot” DeNaro is a member of the Rock Steady Crew and an MFA candidate at Arizona State University. He studied with Crazy Legs and Mr. Wiggles and travels the world teaching.