It’s late Sunday morning, and I’m sitting in a parking lot in a seemingly industrial area of Boulder. At first look, there is nothing extraordinary about my surroundings. But the pumping bass sending reverberations up my spine is indicative that things are not as they seem.
The source is a small sectioned-off portion of a warehouse with “to be life” painted vertically in bold letters. Upon entering, I see a little over a dozen teenaged faces, smiling, sweating, having fun.
Poynton, who was born in Spain but grew up in Longmont, remembers falling in love with dance as a kid after seeing its capacity to captivate audiences. Citing Marcel Marceau and Gene Kelly as early influences, Poynton defines dance as a conduit for self-expression. “It’s the body’s natural reaction to emotions,” Poynton says.
Poynton and his dancers are preparing for the Prelude Urban Dance Competition, a national competition that stops in Denver this Saturday, January 18. Competitions like Prelude bring attention to the Colorado urban dance scene, he says, giving locals a chance to mingle with outside dancers. But the competition also puts some constraints on hip-hop, potentially stripping defining elements of the form, like its improvisational nature.
Commercializing hip-hop often requires more structure. Choreography may be set, formations organized and musicality made uniform. Some dancers, like Storyboard P, refuse to perform choreography. But Poynton doesn’t see the situation as being so black and white.
“I think that hip-hop dance and freestyle are synonymous, but I also think choreographed movement is just a part of dance in general,” rationalizes Poynton. According to Poynton, improvisation is “the seed” of his choreography, maintaining the authenticity of freestyle in the process.
The commercialization of hip-hop dance has made it possible for dancers to make at least a part-time living. Christa Lewis, a Prelude judge and hip-hop dancer, is thankful to pay some of her bills with her passion through teaching, choreographing and performing in commercials, music videos and live shows. (She also works in a Denver coffee shop.)
After a three-year stint in Los Angeles, Lewis is now heavily involved in the Colorado urban dance scene and committed to giving hip-hop more exposure. She hopes Prelude can do that on a local and national level. Lewis’s enthusiasm for dance runs deep and, as a self-described, “tall, lanky white girl,” she wants to spread the message that hip-hop is about inclusivity rather than exclusivity.
For these dancers, bringing hip-hop from the streets to the stage isn’t an attempt to change the dance form or disregard its roots. Hip-hop began as a movement for at-risk youth to break away from their troubled lives, Lewis says. “When you dance you forget about what's going on in the world and feel free.” She strives to keep that sense of freedom at the heart of urban dance.
Amanda Suk, a contemporary hip-hop dancer in Los Angeles, has competed in competitions like Prelude. She clarifies that the only parameter imposed during competitions is a time limit. Within that frame, troupes can be as creative as they wish. Overall, she finds hip-hop competitions to be too subjective, but still finds value in them beyond a first-, second- or third-place finish.
“At the end of the day, competitions achieve a platform for us to showcase our work,” Suk says. “It brings people of all different ages and walks of life under one roof to celebrate music and movement.”
Prelude Colorado Urban Dance Competition is hosted by Hype 303 Urban Dance Company and will be held at the Theater at Colorado Heights University on Saturday, January 18. The competition begins at 6 p.m. For ticket information, visit PreludeDanceCompetition.com.
Stephanie Wolf is a former professional ballet dancer and a freelance journalist based in Denver reporting mostly on the arts.
Essay on Hip Hop Dance
979 Words4 Pages
Hip hop dance was important to African American culture because it allowed them to create their own culture, their own music their own style. When watching Flex is Kings, there are many young men in a video demonstrating what hip hop dance culture has evolved to in the 21st century. They are a contemporary urban dance movement. One can see the emotion and the “seriousness” in their movements. Hip hop dance is these people’s lives’(“Flex Is Kings”). Flex is a type of street dance, sometimes is called “bone breaking” due to their moves looking like a person either has no bones or that they are literally breaking them to create the skin cringing dances they create(“Flexing”). Dancers such as Storyboard P have mastered the art of flexing. He…show more content…
Hip hop has a very long history and the way that rappers and dj’s changed throughout history has greatly impacted hip hop dance. Hip hop began in South Bronx, New York. Hip hop splits into four different categories: rap music, turntablism, breaking, and graffiti. Rap music, turntablism and breaking impact dance more so than graffiti. The turntablist as well as breaking brought about the different dance moves created in the 1970s. DJ Kool Herc began hip hop right in his apartment on 1520 Sedgewick Avenue. Rap music was created at street parties, and Herc constructed an outline for hip hop music and culture by adding onto the Jamaican tradition of improvised ‘toasting’, reggae musicians who sings and “toasts” to the instrumental rhythm, boastful ballad and speech above music (“Hip Hop”).
Herc also added onto “break-beat deejaying” in which he made it so that beats were isolated and repeated for long periods of time throughout the night. With the new kind of rap music and beat changes dance groups such as the break-boys and the break-girls (“Hip Hop”). They learned to execute breaking to the beats of the music that hip hop was creating.
DJ Herc’s parties became so popular that he started to move them outside, where there was more room to accommodate more people. These parties became an outlet for teenagers at this time; they were able to dance and release, as Storyboard P mentioned, revealing who they are.