January 2016 | 2 Tips for Hip-Hop Teachers | Arm Wave and Slowing Down

Photo by Bill H

Photo by Bill H

Arm Wave and Slowing Down

By Anthony “Ynot” DeNaro

Tip 1
The wave starts from the fingertips of one hand and travels across arms and shoulders to end in the fingertips of the other. Have students start in a T position—arms out and level with the floor. Tell them to keep a mental image of this position; it will help them hold a clear shape that shows off the wave’s progress.

Start by lifting the right fingertips, keeping everything else level. As the wave travels, sequentially raise the knuckles (fingertips go back to level), the wrist (knuckles go back to level), the elbow (shoulder and hand remain level), and the shoulder (elbow goes back to level). That shoulder then drops as the other raises, initiating the wave’s travel outward through the second arm.

Have students practice in both directions. For a rippling wave, focus on a smooth, in-rhythm transition between the shoulders, and on the detail available from the hands’ small connected bones. Spend time breaking down the wave’s beginning and end into isolations of the fingertips, two sets of knuckles, and wrists.

Tip 2
Students need to learn when and how to create accents—to “stop on a dime” or “hit” a move’s maximum energy—to perform successfully. Usually, accents match sounds in the music, and both dance and music move fast. But that doesn’t mean hip-hop choreography must be taught at fast tempos. Students need to connect to movement and music at a slower pace first, to maintain technique, fine-tune details, discover nuances, and learn to sharpen moves by accenting the music.

Always break down sequences and slow things down. Once students are confident, speed things up. Take your time, teach them patience, and watch them grow.


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.