Taking a (Two) Step Back from Trends: Grounding History in Hip Hop Dance Classes
Understanding the Roots: Exploring Hip Hop Culture and History
Hip hop culture is a vibrant and influential movement deeply rooted in black history, which in turn is an integral part of American history. By delving into the origins and evolution of hip hop, we gain a greater appreciation for its significance and the need to preserve its cultural heritage. In this blog post, we will explore the rich history of hip hop and its connection to African diasporic movements, as well as the rise of hip hop dance classes and the importance of incorporating historical context into the curriculum.
Welcome to Beyond the StEPS
The Dope Acronym:
To begin, let's delve into the meaning behind the word "dope" as an acronym. Originating as a colloquial term to describe something cool or fresh, "dope" has transcended geographical boundaries and become deeply ingrained in hip hop culture. Educator and artist Aysha creatively reimagined the word, turning it into a representation of her approach as an educator and facilitator. For her, "dope" stands for dismantling oppression and pushing education. It emphasizes the active practice of effecting change rather than being a mere descriptor.
The Evolution of Hip Hop Dance Classes:
Hip hop dance classes have undergone a remarkable transformation over the years. Initially, these classes were not widely available, particularly in areas outside of the West Coast and Northern regions. However, as the popularity of hip hop grew, so did the demand for hip hop dance education. What started as a movement primarily expressed through social dances, created and remixed by young people in various metropolitan areas, soon found its way into the commercial scene, especially through music videos in the 80s.
The Appeal of Hip Hop Dance:
The energetic and captivating nature of hip hop dance challenged traditional Western norms of body movement, encouraging individuals to express themselves in new and dynamic ways. It provided a counter-narrative that celebrated grounded movements, bending knees, and leaning in—a reflection of the lived experiences within African diasporic communities. The catchy and infectious nature of hip hop dance attracted people from diverse backgrounds, regardless of whether they initially thought they wanted to participate.
Commercialization and the Rise of Hip Hop Dance Classes:
With the commercialization of hip hop music and the popularity of music videos in the 90s and early 2000s, dancers performing hip hop movements became integral to these productions. This led to an increased demand for hip hop dance classes, particularly in dance studios. These studios, as businesses, recognized the appeal and profitability of offering hip hop dance classes. As a result, the trend of including hip hop in dance curriculums grew exponentially.
The Challenges of Appropriation and Historical Neglect:
However, the rapid growth and commercialization of hip hop dance also brought challenges. Many programs were implemented without proper regard for the culture and historical foundations of hip hop. The historical context and contributions of black and brown communities were often overlooked. This oversight perpetuated a narrative that disregarded the significance of the creators and originators of hip hop culture. Moreover, the devaluation of black and brown history and culture has been a longstanding systemic issue in society.
Incorporating Historical Context:
To address these challenges, it is crucial to incorporate historical context into hip hop dance education. Just as other dance forms credit their pioneers and founders, hip hop dance should recognize and celebrate the trailblazers and originators. By acknowledging the rich history of hip hop and its cultural roots, we can provide a more enriching and respectful experience for students. Learning alongside historical grounding enhances the overall understanding and appreciation of hip hop dance.
Understanding the history of hip hop culture is essential for preserving its heritage and acknowledging the contributions of black and brown communities. Hip hop dance classes have evolved from a marginalized offering to a popular and highly requested genre
Beyond the StEPS Homework from Aysha:
Step 1: Self-Reflection and Readiness
The first step is to ask yourself if you are willing and ready to make changes in your teaching to better reflect the history and pedagogy of hip-hop culture. Take the time to sit and wait for an honest answer, not just a performative one. If you're not yet willing and ready, continue asking yourself this question until you reach a point where you are.
Step 2: Utilize Online Resources and Reach Out
Take advantage of the World Wide Web and the wealth of information available. Use search engines to look up sources, such as books and documentaries like "Rooted" by Manso Durden. Reach out to experts and pioneers in hip-hop culture through social media platforms and direct messaging. Introduce yourself, express your desire for information, and ask for guidance. Remember, it may take time for some individuals to respond, but don't hesitate to utilize this agency and connect with people who can point you in the right direction.
Step 3: Embrace Grace and Take Action
Give yourself the grace to understand that you don't have to reinvent the wheel. Initially, you may feel overwhelmed by the amount of information available, but don't let that discourage you. Instead, identify one or two small changes you can make in your teaching practice. Consider inviting a guest who possesses deeper knowledge to share their expertise and de-center yourself as the sole authority figure. Additionally, change one classroom ritual to better reflect hip-hop culture, such as incorporating announcements about relevant resources or sharing new facts during warm-ups. Remember, these small, accessible, and digestible adjustments can make a significant impact in your teaching.
By following these three steps—self-reflection and readiness, utilizing online resources and reaching out, and embracing grace while taking action—you can begin to better integrate hip-hop culture and history into your teaching practice, fostering a more inclusive and authentic experience for your students.
To get in touch with Aysha, you can visit her website, ayshaupchurch.com, or find her on social media platforms with the handle @AyshaDances. She welcomes inquiries, consultations, and workshops with studios, as well as participation in conventions. Aysha is passionate about assisting others in identifying sustainable changes they can make in their teaching practices to honor the contributions of those who have influenced her own development. Feel free to reach out to her for support and guidance in this regard.