I would never have considered taking hip hop classes if they had not become the Thursday, lunch-time offering at our gym. Although I enjoyed the movie “Honey,” I didn’t think hip hop was really dancing, more of a series of gyrations with a few visual tricks thrown in. However, my friend Dee was excited to try the class and I allowed myself to be drug along. I struggled through the first class, but eventually developed a surprising appetite for the dance style.
My strong ballet background often inhibits, rather than assists in, dancing hip hop. Ballet is composed of named steps that are nearly universal, but hip hop is a series of free-moving, nameless forms. In ballet class, the instructor rattles off a series of moves: tombe, pas-de-bouree, glissade, grand jete, and we all know exactly what must be done, without demonstration. Hip hop requires the teacher to demonstrate and the student to copy. While that is difficult enough, the student then has to remember the forms without any accompanying association, like a name. For me, ballet is more of a mental exercise, while hip hop relies on muscle memory. The transition is difficult, but I gamely accept the challenge. (I suppose the generation that grew up watching hip hop on TV more easily remembers the moves because they are familiar and can be associated with a witnessed performance.)
While most of hip hop’s moves are nameless, the command to “pop” is repeated over and over again. It is a short, jerky movement of the head, shoulders, hips, and/or legs. I find it comforting that the motion is named, but have a great deal of trouble with execution. After years of smoothing my motions to fit ballet’s graceful manner, “popping” does not come naturally. Neither do any of the other jerky, funky motions common to hip hop. I do my best, but alternate between looking like a stiff robot or someone in the throes of a spasm. When I catch glimpses of myself in the mirror, I can’t help but smile at my lame attempt.
Dancing is like acting; one assumes a character. I’ve got the aloof ballet attitude down pat. I find it easy to slip into the cool, detached, elegant demeanor of a ballerina. The hip hop attitude, though, is raw, sexy, and confident. As an old, married lady, this is not a persona I often adopt. I do my best, but, in my failure to fully commit, the end result is quite silly. Again, my image causes me to smirk and roll my eyes.
Last night’s CDT class was Hip Hop III, taught by Matt. Matt also teaches the hip hop class (about level II) I began taking at our fitness center. Having enjoyed his class there (eye-rolling and spastic robot aside), I risked complete humiliation by taking the most advanced hip hop class presented by CDT. Matt brought out an entirely new ensemble of moves, but I managed to remember and execute most of them. My mind was nearly full to overflowing by the time we had learned the extent of the choreography. The end is still fuzzy, but I can recall most of the combination. As usual, my attitude faded in and out; sometimes I was fully committed, and then, suddenly, I’d just be this goofball standing there, waiting for the next move. (Usually, this was when I was supposed to be “popping.”) I tried not to roll my eyes at my blanks and spasms, but it was of no avail. All in all, the class was highly challenging, both mentally and physically. I was glad for the air conditioners pumping cool air into the basement classroom. I’m doing my best to remember the routine, because we’re adding on next week. Maybe I can persuade Matt to help me with the fuzzy parts when I see him for our regular Thursday class.
By the way, the friend who convinced me to try the fitness center class in the first place no longer attends. She says it wasn’t enough of a workout. What *snap* eh *pop* ver *snap*!