Stance and Style
By Geo Hubela
Before doing any hip-hop moves with students, work on their stance, which embodies hip-hop’s attitude and style. Compared to jazz and ballet, the body is looser and more relaxed, with rounded shoulders, soft knees, and feet in parallel. I tell kids to place a finger on the belly button, then contract like a deflating balloon. (Making deflating sound effects helps!) Emphasize imagining their strength and energy being pushed into the ground—I use the image of feeling your feet sink into wet sand.
Last, tell the dancers to do the opposite of everything they do in ballet class—slouch, hunch over, round the shoulders, bend the knees, add lots of swag. Then tell them to hold out their arms to their sides and say, “What’s up!” as they hit the perfect hip-hop stance.
Now add music and counts. The goal is to get young hip-hop dancers to use variety and not hit the same funky pose repeatedly. To help them avoid repetitiveness, emphasize that they should change body direction, body levels, and arm positions (in and out and up and down), and focus on different points in the room.
Start the music and tell the dancers to hit a cool pose on every 8 count. Do this four times, then have them change poses on every 4 count, then 2 count, then on single counts. To avoid wild movement on single counts, tell them to strike defined poses, as if being photographed or moving in a strobe-lit setting. In fact, this quick movement is known in hip-hop as “strobing.”
This helps them develop their freestyle and get creative with movement. Tell the dancers not to think too much about the poses and instead let the music move them. In hip-hop, style usually wins over technique.
Geo Hubela is the co-founder and director of ICON Dance Complex in New Jersey. His ICONic brand activities range from hiphopgeo.com to the ICONic Boyz hip-hop troupe to instructional DVDs.