Sunday, November 29, 2009

Ways to Stay Fit - Maintaining That Hip Hop Body

In one of my earlier posts, I explained the importance of physical fitness in hip hop dance. Today, I would like to share with you a few tips that can help you to stay in shape, which will in turn help you to move forward in dance.

The first step to becoming physically fit is to correct your eating habits. A common misconception is that workout and exercise alone can make you fit. The truth of the matter is that proper eating habits can help you more than exercise would. What you should try to do is stay away from saturated fats and trans-fats. A build-up of these fats can cause plaques to form in blood vessels, which results in less distribution of oxygen to cells via blood. This in turn provides insufficient energy for the body, and as I have said before, hip hop requires a lot of energy.

The next step in maintaining that hip hop body is to exercise every day. This doesn’t mean running on a treadmill for hours and pushing 100-pound weights every day. It simply means that some form of a work out is necessary. Half an hour of dance practice daily is enough to stay in shape.

All in all, the key to staying physically fit is proper eating patterns and daily exercise. You’d be surprised at the results if you haven’t already been following these rules. If you wish to add a few pointers, feel free to comment below.

Never Give Up!

This message goes out to everyone. Whatever your passion is, whether it’s dancing, playing an instrument, playing a sport, etc., don’t be so quick to quit when it begins to get tough. There is no doubt that you will regret it in the future. If you keep pushing and pushing, you are bound to succeed. Perseverance is the key to all your endeavours.

I understand that sometimes you may feel frustrated when you can’t accomplish something, but trust me when I say that it is all worth it when you succeed. For example, a few years ago I was attempting to master a technique called “the windmill”. This was a very hard task. I spent days after days, months after months practicing this one move, but I wasn’t getting anywhere with it. I began to get frustrated and thought that I wasn’t so cut out for dance, but something kept pushing me to keep trying. Eventually, I was able to master the move, and now I am so glad that I didn’t give up.

So again, to all you dancers, musicians, athletes, or scholars out there, never give up in whatever your attempt to do. Always put your best effort into whatever you do, and if you still are unable to accomplish your goal, do not get discouraged. Your passions define who you are, and it would be a shame to throw them away.

Penny for Your Thoughts?

For all my fellow dancers out there, I would like to ask you a question. What motivates you to dance? In most cases there is something that stimulates or inspires the person to indulge in their passion, and I would like to hear your opinions. What is it that keeps you dancing? Is it the rush that comes along with dance competitions, or the dream of one day becoming a dance instructor? Or is it the fact that you can show off your remarkable talent to all your friends? What inspires you?

In my case, I would say that the number one thing that motivates me to dance is the distant hope that I will one day make it big as a professional choreographer. As of now, my role model is Misha Gabriel, who is living out the dream that I so deeply desire. For those who have read my earlier posts, you probably recall that I chose Misha for my weekly choice of my favourite dancer. Misha is a well-known choreographer living in Las Angeles who is renowned for his amazing ability to put together remarkable dance routines (mostly hip hop). He has choreographed dances for a number of pop and hip hop legends such as Justin Timberlake, Usher, and Michael Jackson himself. To one day be as successful as Misha Gabriel would be a dream come true. This dream is the factor that motivates me the most to keep dancing.

So, what drives you to keep dancing? I would love to hear your thoughts. Feel free to respond in the comment box below.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Styles of Hip Hop Dance


Tutting is the name given to the abstract dance style that utilizes the body's ability to create geometric positions and movements predominantly by fixing our joints and limbs into right angles. It is performed with little attention to the musical rhythm, typically by altering positions in a stop-and-go fashion. Although tutting is currently a prevalent style in many dance routines, it is not considered to be a major part of hip hop. It is instead seen as a branch of popping and waving.

Tutting gained popularity during the early 1980's. Within the popping community, dancers woould use the tutting poses while performing routines. One would "hit" one position and then move immediately on the the next, similar to the robot popping routine, only slightly faster. These movements made use of the wrists, elbows, and shoulders to create the desired right angle.

This is a technique that I deeply desire to master. In my opinion, it is one of the most difficult styles to work on. It is does not necessarily require a lot of energy, but it requires much coordination and control of your body. People who are flexible are generally the best at tutting. Honestly, I feel that it is one of those techniques that you either get or you don’t. Some people are talented enough to pick it up easily, and others can work on it for ages (such as myself) and never master it. For months now I have been watching this tutorial to try to learn how to tut, but it just isn’t working out. I hope to one day develop my skills to the point where I can tut because in my opinion, it is one of the most entertaining styles of hip hop when done correctly.

To see an example of how basic tutting looks like, click here.

Benefits of Dancing

After dancing for 7 years now, I have come to realize that there are many benefits that come with dancing, besides enjoyment. I can honestly say that dancing has made me a healthier person, physically and mentally. I don’t know how I could live without it.

Firstly, hip hop dancing greatly helps me to stay in shape. I practice for at least half an hour every day, and by the end of those thirty minutes I am exhausted. I believe that it is a great form of exercise because not only is it an effective way to stay in shape, but it is also very enjoyable. Without it, I would not be as fit as I am now.

It addition to that, dancing is has also helped me mentally and emotionally over the years. I use hip hop as a mechanism to control my temper. I cannot speak for everyone, but personally, I believe that dancing is a good way to reduce stress and anger. My daily thirty minutes of practice really helps me to blow off steam for anything that has caused me stress throughout the day. By the time I finish practicing, I feel relaxed and able to move on with my day. If you haven’t already been using dance as a mechanism to relieve stress, I deeply recommend it. It may sound odd to some of you, but trust me, it works.

Dancing is also something that has boosted my self-esteem over the years. Prior to my attachment to hip hop, I felt out of place. I didn’t have a special talent for anything in particular. I couldn’t play an instrument, I couldn’t sing, and I was never outstanding in any sport in particular. I felt like I was good for nothing. Then, when I took my first hip hop lesson, my instructor was astonished at my abilities at such a young age. I continued to work on my techniques, and after my first performance at a school talent show, people began to recognize me for my gift. At last, I felt like I belonged.

All in all, dancing has been very beneficial to me throughout my life. If you haven’t yet tried it out, I suggest that you do. If hip hop isn’t your thing, then try jazz or tap or lyrical if you’d like. After experiencing life with it and life without it I can honestly say that it will make a big difference in your life.


Here’s another celebrity that I deeply envy and admire at the same time. He is known to be one of the best dancers in our generation and has been compared to Michael Jackson himself. His music videos have won countless awards simply because they feature him dancing. I am speaking of none other than Usher Raymond, the renowned musician who has also been crowned as the king of hip hop.

Usher Raymond IV (born October 14, 1978), who performs under the stage name Usher, is an American recording artist and actor. He rose to fame in the 1990s, releasing the album My Way in 1997 and 8701 in 2001. His success continued with Confessions (2004), which has sold over ten million copies in the United States. To date, he has sold over 40 million albums worldwide and has won five Grammy Awards. In 2008, Usher was ranked as the 21st most successful Hot 100 Singles Artist of all-time by Billboard magazine. He ranked higher than any other artist of his generation.

Usher has always been a favourite of mine. In fact, his hit single “Yeah was the first song that I ever performed to in front of an audience. After watching the music video, I was inspired to dance just like him, and I mimicked his moves in my performance. I have always been a big fan of his style, which is much like Michael Jackson’s. He takes a different approach to hip hop dancing, which is traditionally energetic and powerful. When he dances, it is smooth and slick; it is not as energetic but it is just as entertaining. His style is very unique, which is what I like to see in dancers. I hope that one day I can reach his level.

If you wish to see a video featuring a number of Usher dance routines, click here.

Hip Hop and Fitness

Generally, dancing is for everyone. There are no restrictions that can stop anyone from being a successful dancer. However, one thing must be said. Although some people may disagree with this statement, I believe that it is the honest truth: To be a successful dancer, physical fitness is very important, especially in hip hop. This does not mean that obese people cannot dance. It simply means that to reach your highest potential, it is best to maintain the average weight for your height. The reason for this is simply because hip hop dancing is based on fast and highly energetic movements. These movements would be very difficult to articulate if you are overweight, and frankly the routine can look very messy. However, if you are overweight, don’t let this discourage you. It simply means that you must put in extra work and train harder to master the techniques.

My above statement works the other way as well. If you are underweight and practice bad eating habits, it is likely that you will not have enough energy to keep up with the routines. Hip hop is very exhausting, and if you do not get the energy that you need from food, then it is very difficult to practice.

Basically, to sum it up, physical fitness plays an important role in hip hop dancing. If you have bad eating habits it will be difficult to become a successful dancer, even if you are not necessarily overweight. Again, do not let my words discourage you. This is just a pointer to help you to achieve your goals if you wish to become a dancer. If you disagree with any of my opinions or wish to add anything, feel free to comment below.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

How to Become a Professional Dancer

After my last post, I realized that some of you may be interested in what the necessary steps are to become a professional dancer, so I decided to post a guide.

Firstly, it is important to know that strict discipline is the key to success in any form of dance, since it demands hours of daily practice. Competition for jobs is tremendous and many talented dancers have to turn to other careers to make a living.

Step 1 - Now that you are most likely a teenager with years of difficult practice behind you, decide if you really want to devote your life to dance. Be honest with yourself. If the answer is yes, take a few steps to make certain you are on a level playing field with other dancers.

Step 2 - Make sure you're attending a dance school that is giving you excellent training in the form of dance you are studying. Compare it with other dance schools in your area by arranging for several interviews.

Step 3 - Ask for information from each school about how students can prepare for and obtain professional auditions with national dance companies. A good school should have some connections.

Step 4 - Remember that there are always local events at which dancers appear. These will give you practice performing before the public.

Step 5 - Consider that a full-time college education immediately after high school might work against you if you put off trying to get those all-important professional auditions when you are 18. If you wait until you graduate from college, you will be competing with younger dancers who have been concentrating on their dancing.

Step 6 - Work toward a bachelor's degree if you decide you want to teach dance in a school or university setting. Click here for a list of accredited colleges offering dance programs.

So there you have it—a basic guide to becoming a professional dancer. Follow the general direction that the guide suggests and you will have a better chance at becoming an accomplished dancer. If you have any questions, feel free to ask them in the comment box below.

My Future Ambitions

My dream job is to be a professional dancer. I have been dancing for about seven years now, and I am sure that I would enjoy doing it for the rest of my life. When I grow up, I hope to have a profession that I will enjoy, and dancing allows me to enjoy life to the fullest.

Although this goal seems impossible to accomplish, I’m still doing all I can to achieve it. For example, I practice dance every day for at least half an hour in the hopes of improving my techniques. Every so often, I try to branch out and learn different styles so that I know a little bit of everything. In addition, I am a part of my school dance team (Dynamic), and I am enrolled in a senior level competitive class at a nearby dance studio. Some would think that being on two separate dance teams at once would be hectic, but that’s just how passionate I am about hip hop. I hope that my endeavours will one day lead to success.

Talk about Synchronization!

Hello fellow hip-hoppers! Today I was browsing the internet and I happened to come across a video that blew my mind! Click here to check it out (You might want to skip the first minute and a half of the video, until they start the actual performance). The moment I finished watching the video, I knew that I had to blog about it. In all honestly, it was one of the greatest performances I have ever seen.

Performed by the JabbaWockeez, it is a perfect representation of how a proper group routine should look like. In one of my earlier posts, I mentioned what the general criteria of a perfect performance are. A good dance crew is able to capitalize on energy, articulation, synchronization, and expression, and I believe that the JabbaWockeez succeeded in doing this.

Although they were highly energetic and articulated every movement, what particularly caught my attention was the flawless synchronization of the group. It was like my eyes were playing tricks on me! Even though the routine was very complex, each group member was able to stay in sync with each other, which astounded me. For those who have read my earlier blogs you would probably recall me mentioning the fact that the JabbaWockeez were known for their marvellous ability to stay in sync with each other so well. This video proves that statement without a doubt.

If you have chosen to watch the video, I would love to hear about your thoughts on it. Furthermore, if you would like to share what you think is the greatest hip hop performance, feel free to comment.

Solo vs. Group

Do you prefer to dance alone, or as a team?

After dancing for 7 years, I have learned that the required skills to flourish in a solo performance differ greatly from those needed to do well in a group performance. There are many different benefits that come with dancing in a group, or going solo. It is an important thing to think about when planning a performance. The dancer has to look at what his/her strengths and weaknesses are, and compare them to the necessary skills required for a solo performance or a group performance.

If you like to freestyle and don’t do much choreography, going solo is better for you. This way you don’t have to find a compromise between the style of the group and your own personal style. Also, you do not have to worry about the performance of the other members of the group—you would just have to focus on yourself. There would be no one to hold you back from your full potential, or no one to push you to try to meet theirs. In this way, a solo performance can be more comfortable than a group performance. However, with a solo performance comes added pressure. As you would be the only one on stage, all eyes would be on you, watching your every move. Basically, a mistake made in a solo performance would be more noticeable than one made in a group performance.

The good thing about a group performance is that it looks a lot more impressive than a solo performance when it is done well. If each group member is able to master the routine it will look a lot more exciting than a solo performance. This, however, is very difficult to accomplish. For the group-routine to be good, synchronization is key. This is an area that a lot of dance teams struggle with, and it is the key reason why group performances are more difficult than solos.

So, which one do you prefer? Do you like to dance on your own or in a group? Please leave your comments below. I would really like to hear your opinions.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Freestyle vs. Choreography

Are you a freestyler or a routine-based dancer?

Hip Hop dancers can be separated into two different categories: freestylers and routine-dancers. Which category do you fit in?

Freestylers: “freestyle” in hip hop terms basically means improvisational dancing. This means that when the dancer performs, he or she does not prepare a routine for the performance. Most of the time, dancers who are self-taught tend to prefer freestyling. Usually, they do not use the regular 8-count rule that choreographers employ. They tend to find their own way of keeping track of the beat and staying in sync with the rhythm. Freestylers simply follow their gut and dance without thinking about what their next move is going to be. In this way, it is not a very professional way to dance, however it is just as entertaining as a choreographed dance. Most hip hop dancers like to think of freestyling as “dancing from the heart”.

All freestylers are distinguished. They each have their own distinct style that is personal to them. Sure, many free-styled performances may look similar, but each one includes the dancer’s unique touch, which is what I really like about freestyling. In a way, it can be seen as the dancer’s identity—something like their very own fingerprint on hip hop.

Routine-dancers: Routine dancers tend to be those who began dancing at studios and took professional classes. They learn how to dance by the 8-count rule and depend on it to stay on beat. Routine dances are very structured and take time to put together. They are usually prepared months before the actual performance, as opposed to freestyling which is prepared on the spot. Routine dancing is considered to be the more professional side of hip hop dance. The benefit of developing a routine before hand is that it relieves pressure on the dancer. In freestyle, the dancer can suddenly freeze up or run out moves (this has happened to me a number of times, and is quite embarrassing). There is a lot of pressure on the dancer not to be repetitive and to think of creative moves to impress the crowd, on the spot. Fixed routines take that pressure away. Basically, as long as the dancer practices the choreography, there is no need to worry.

Personally, I prefer freestyling to routine-dancing. I find that I have more fun improvising than taking months to establish a routine. Furthermore, I have always found freestyling to be very impressive. It requires a considerable amount of skill to put together a dance while you’re already dancing.

Does this mean that I believe that choreographed dancing is less important? Certainly not! In fact, my dance team and I are currently in the process of developing a routine for ourselves. I greatly value both forms of dancing, and believe that it’s important to know how to do both. In my opinion, to be a good dancer, one has to be sufficient in both freestyling, and routine-dancing.

So, what about you? Do you prefer to freestyle, or do you prefer choreographed dancing? Feel free to comment if you want to express your preference. I would really like to hear your opinion.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Justin Timberlake

Every girl wants him, and very guy wants to be him. While having the music industry in a choke-hold, this talented singer has been able to take up dancing as well. Performing in a number of his music videos and concerts, Justin Timberlake has won the hearts of many hip hop dancers around such as myself.

Justin Randall Timberlake was born on January 31, 1981, in the city of Memphis, Tennessee. Most popular for his singing, Justin Timberlake is known to be one of the most successful musicians of all time. He got his big break when he appeared as a contestant of Star Search, and went on to star in the Disney Channel television series The New Mickey Mouse Club. Soon after, he and four others formed the world renowned boy band, ‘N Sync. Selling over 55 million albums in total, this boy band was extremely successful. In 2005, the group broke up due to creative differences. Nevertheless, Timberlake was still active in the music industry, more than any of the other former ‘N Sync members. He produced a number of music videos, most of which featured himself dancing. Today, Timberlake remains active in pop-culture, making guest appearances here and there and occasionally being featured on the songs of other musicians.

I have been a fan of Justin Timberlake for quite a while. I have always admired (and envied) him for his amazing talent for dancing and singing, which are two of my favourite hobbies. I have learned a lot from him over the years by observing his dance routines in his music videos. His articulation and style are flawless, and after all these years he continues to astonish me. Justin Timberlake has always been an inspiration to me, and always will be.

To catch a glimpse of JT in action, check out this video.

My Dance Team - Dynamic

Hello again fellow hip-hoppers! I have chosen to keep a bi-weekly log about the progress of the current dance crew that I am on, for those of you who are interested. The team name was originally “Dyversity”, but we found out that a dance crew with the same name already exists. For this reason, we have changed our crew name to “Dynamic”.

It has been around 2 weeks now since we originally formed the group, and I am proud to say that we have already made a lot of progress. We have already found two competitive events that we can participate in for the upcoming year and have started our choreographed performance for each.

In my last blog post about Dynamic, I explained that our choreography would be done to Walking on the Moon by “the Dream”. Personally, I liked the feel of this song and I thought that the choreography had great potential. However, the rest of the crew preferred a “harder” beat, so we switched our song to Forever by “Drake” and have started a whole new routine. So far, we have completed 4 counts of eight (around an eighth of the entire routine), which is outstanding for only one week of practice.

Judging from these first four counts of eight, I think that the routine is going to be astounding. The only problem is that the choreography is pretty complex and it might take a while to perfect it. Also, this year our first competition is earlier than usual (in January), so we are going to have practice a whole lot in the next few months. Wish us luck!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Dr. Phil Assignment Overview

A few days ago, all the students in my English class participated in an exciting assignment for the novel that we are currently reading called Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley. The assignment was done in groups of four and our task was to choose three students to take on the roles of certain characters in the story while the last student takes on the role of Dr. Phil. The students who took on the roles of the characters of the book were to communicate their issues with each other and try to resolve them while Dr. Phil acts as a mediator and an advisor. In this way, the assignment greatly resembled an actual episode of Dr. Phil.

This was a very enjoyable assignment, as each of the characters in the novel are passionate in their feelings and each have deep-seated conflicts with one another. For anyone who has read the novel, you know what I’m talking about. For this reason, it was very entertaining to act these characters out. I was assigned the role of Victor Frankenstein, the protagonist in the story. Dr. Frankenstein is the man who creates the monster of the novel and ends up miserable because of it. This character was particularly fun to act out as he passionately hated the monster. It was fun to express this feeling of deep loathing while in character.

All in all, I believe that this assignment was very effective, as it allowed us to show our creative side and was actually fun to do. We all know how rare it is to come across an assignment that helps us to learn while having fun at the same time, and I can honestly say that this was one of those assignments.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

My Very Own Guide to Performing

There are many different factors that affect how well a hip hop dancer performs. Some of these factors include: energy, articulation, facial and body expression, and synchronization. These aspects of dance can either make or break your performance. Judges base their decisions on these very factors, and if even one is not used properly, the performance will be considered amateurish. The most simple of dances can look much better than a highly complex dance if these factors are utilized properly.

Energy: Hip Hop is known to be a dance based on high-energy. If the dance is not done energetically, then it is not done properly. Without energy the performance looks dull and unattractive. This factor is arguably the most important factor that affects a performance.

Articulation: This factor is also very important to a performance. Without proper articulation, the dance looks sloppy and unprofessional. Proper articulation includes good posture, definitive movements, and smooth transitions between moves. Furthermore, for a performance to look dynamic and interesting, the dancer should work on proper levelling. Judges really take this factor into consideration when marking.

Expression: Facial and body expression add flavour to any performance. Without an expression to match the song and mood of the dance, the performance may look awkward or again, dull. (This has always been a challenge to me. Many people have informed me that this is the area in which I have to work on most). Dancers must be careful to look straight while they dance, not up or at the floor.

Synchronization: This factor addresses two separate aspects of dance: synchronization with the music, and synchronization with each other. Team synchronization is very crucial to a performance where there is more than one dancer. It involves the dancers all moving at a uniform tempo and articulating each movement at the same time. The more dancers there are, the more important team synchronization becomes.

Synchronization with the music affects both a team performance, and a solo performance. Rhythm synchronization involves dancing on the beat and staying in tune with the steady tempo of the song. It mainly helps to emphasize each technique, and makes the performance look flashy and distinct. If this factor is utilized correctly, it will give the competing dancer(s) that extra edge to win the hearts of their judges.

Other factors that affect the look and style of a performance include the costumes chosen, the music chosen, props, and so on.

So, follow these criteria and you will be sure to have a memorable performance. Readers, if you see something that I have missed, please feel free to comment below.

Tribute to M.J

In my opinion, Michael Jackson was one of the greatest dancers of all time. Even before his untimely death he was an inspiration to me. I remember back when I was 7 years old I would spend countless hours practicing his signature move, the moonwalk. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched online tutorials just to master the move. I have always thought that his style of dancing was exceptionally unique. He created his own style of dance that will be practiced for years, which is an outstanding achievement. The energy and passion that he put into his dancing made each and every one of his performances exceptionally entertaining. All in all, I truly believe that he was one of the greatest dancers of all time.

The thing that I really like about Michael Jackson’s dancing is that its style cannot be labelled. It is not hip hop, jazz, lyrical, tap, ballet, or any other type of dance. It is simply unique and on its own. Nevertheless, over the years hip hop has adopted several of his moves. His style is incorporated in many of the hip hop routines that we see today. In fact, my dance team, Dyversity, is planning on orienting our choreographed performance towards M.J’s style. Each of us have been inspired by his dancing and consider this year’s performance to be our very own tribute to his life.

Congratz to Me!

Today, I am very proud to say that I have made the cut on my high school dance team. The team is called “Dyversity” and this is the second year that I have been a part of it. Last year, we were extremely successful in the two competitions that we performed in, taking first place in our category and scoring the top marks during the entire event for both competitions. We also won scholarship money for the school’s dance program due to our exceptional performance. This year I hope to be just as successful as last year, and possibly expand on my styles of dancing.

Last year, I really enjoyed dancing with Dyversity. I have learned more about dance from the other members of team than I have learned from the 3 years I spent at a professional dance studio. The members of the team are extremely skilled individuals and they have helped me to learn new styles of dancing with ease. Over the course of the year, these dancers have become like a family to me. We have all dealt with the stress of competition and celebrated our victories as a team, which has brought us all together. For this reason, I am really excited to be a part of the team for the second year in a row. I have high hopes for Dyversity. For anyone reading this, wish us luck!