Tips for Hip-Hop Teachers

November 2014 | 2 Tips for Hip-Hop Teachers | Stance and Style

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.

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October 2014 | 2 Tips for Hip-Hop Teachers | Battles and Nae Naes

Shows can be more fun if the audience gets involved in the action. So how about holding a hip-hop battle at your next recital? The fun starts with a great emcee to keep the audience engaged and motivated. When there’s a break for a costume change, have the emcee ask for two volunteers from the audience to take part in a hip-hop dance contest onstage. The emcee should have one or two simple steps prepared to show the participants, such as the Dougie or the Nae Nae (see below); or simply have them freestyle.

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September 2014 | 2 Tips for Hip-Hop Teachers | Partnering

Partner work in hip-hop can be utilized in many creative ways. Partnering can be done so that the two dancers never come in contact with one another. One way is shadowing, where one partner dances closely behind the other. Isolations, sharp movements, waves, and tuts that are matched by both dancers are simple and effective forms of partner work.

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August 2014 | 2 Tips for Hip-Hop Teachers | Connect the Dots

One of the biggest challenges I face, especially with younger kids, is helping dancers maintain proper spacing during class and in their routines. Many kids have a tendency to lose track of spacing and end up dancing on top of each other. Using colored rubber dots on the floor helps tremendously. The dots assist me in many basic hip-hop steps.

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July 2014 | 2 Tips for Hip-Hop Teachers | Holiday Helpers

For the last week of classes before holiday break, I recommend letting the kids come to class in hip-hop holiday-themed clothing. We have three rooms of classes running per hour, and each class learns a short holiday hip-hop routine. Make the steps easy and repetitive—for example, slides and freestyle poses—so the students don’t stress about remembering. Most of all, make the steps funky and fun.

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May-June 2014 | 2 Tips for Hip-Hop Teachers | Cross-Touch and Moon Walk

Here’s how to teach a cross-touch with a two-point turn: starting on the right foot, have students cross the right foot over the left on 1 and step out on the left on 2. The left foot crosses over on 3, stepping out on the right on 4; repeat the right foot crossover on 5, stepping out on the left on 6.

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February 2014 | 2 Tips for Hip-Hop Teachers | Let’s Tut

For the basic tut, start with both arms straight out to your sides in a flat second position at shoulder height, straight wrists, palms facing down, fingers together. Bend the arms up at the elbow and down at the wrists into 90-degree angles. Return to straight arms, then reverse the tut by bending the arms down at the elbow and up at the wrists. Palms always remain facing the floor. Return and repeat, shooting for perfect 90-degree angles at the shoulders, elbows, and wrists.

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November 2013 | 2 Tips for Hip-Hop Teachers | Build a Foundation

Sometimes hip-hop steps are right, but how they’re being done is wrong. If the foundations (such as popping and locking) and technique (such as isolations and contractions) are lacking, the steps will never look right or funky. Students need to connect with the music and translate it through movement.

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October 2013 | 2 Tips for Hip-Hop Teachers | Building Endurance

Dancers must have endurance to keep movement looking strong, clean, and sharp from the beginning to the end, especially important in hip-hop battles. To improve dancers’ stamina, incorporate hip-hop movement into aerobic interval training, and keep the dancers moving for at least an entire song, repeating simple steps. Remember to work levels too.

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August 2013 | 2 Tips for Hip-Hop Teachers | Focus on Foundations

As hip-hop is evolving, I see more urban styles that convey emotion. Lyrical hip-hop, which combines the nuances of lyrical dance with the vocabulary and foundational movements of hip-hop, is more interpretive than standard hip-hop. There are still isolations, gliding, smooth movement, and waves, but they are more fluid and less hard-hitting. And, as in lyrical dance, emphasis is placed on storytelling and conveying emotion. But stay true to the foundations of hip-hop or else call it lyrical.

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July 2013 | 2 Tips for Hip-Hop Teachers | Muscle Memory

Clean, strong arms are imperative for me in hip-hop routines. Some dancers lack the technical training to understand correct arm placement. Try this: line the dancers up with their backs against the walls or mirrors, both arms against the wall at shoulder level and bent at a 90-degree angle. (You can also use elements and poses from your choreography that apply.) The goal is to increase muscle memory so they can nail the pose without the wall there. The wall helps with placement, preventing the dancers from having wild arms and moving beyond the pose.

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May-June 2013 | 2 Tips for Hip-Hop Teachers | Dressing the Part

Clothing that complements the hip-hop style and makes students feel comfortable is important; if they don’t feel comfortable, they won’t dance to their full potential. Loose-fitting clothes and materials that move well against the skin accentuate many styles of hip-hop. Popping always looks better in sweatpants or a polyester warm-up suit. Many boogaloo-style poppers wear dress slacks instead of jeans because the slacks move well with popping leg movements. Long sleeves add flow to popping and waving.

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March-April 2013 | 2 Tips for Hip-Hop Teachers | Slides

To teach what looks like a knee slide, have students crouch with feet shoulder-width apart and put the left hand on the floor. They push off, transferring the weight to the left arm as they slide on the side of the left calf around the supporting arm. As the slide begins, the torso remains lifted and away from the supporting arm. The right leg remains parallel to the left, held off the floor in somewhat of a side attitude, foot flexed.

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February 2013 | 2 Tips for Hip-Hop Teachers | The Shoulder Bounce

There are many variations on this simple and fun hip-hop move. As you step with the right foot, pop the shoulders up-down (count 1&) and repeat while stepping on the left foot (2&), continuing through 8 counts. Then have the dancers reverse the shoulder movement (pop down-up) as they step, and try it stepping backward as well. Now step it up by alternating shoulders right-left (1&2&3&, etc.) while stepping right-left on 1-2-3, etc.

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October 2012 | 2 Tips for Hip-Hop Teachers | Watch and Learn

Homework! Understand the history and the styles. Studying old films is a great way to pick up moves and understand where they came from. Wild Style, a movie about hip-hop pioneers, is a must. Beat Street motivated me to breakdance and battle. Breakin’ is more of a commercial film but has some great popping—Turbo and Ozone rocked it out! The Freshest Kids, one of my favorites on hip-hop history, is an essential hip-hop tool.

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