When Will the Ghetto’s Creation “Infest” the “Pristine” Fabric of the Institution?

I want to tell y’all a story ‘cuz Hip-hop showed me something…

I remember witnessing 20-plus students in my classroom allow fear and insecurity to inhibit them from comforting and helping a couple of vulnerable students. See, I had given the class a task:

 

  1. Create a circle
  2. One person at a time: go into the circle, dance, and continue dancing until everyone is in the middle of the circle
  3. Once everyone is in the middle, one person at a time, exit back to the edge of the circle in the order in which you entered

 

I ask if everyone understands. They say they do. I ask if anyone has questions. They say they don’t. I play the music. And the aura of the room stiffens. I’ve never felt so much tension in a room before as people looked to their-left-and-their-right in an awkward attempt to say, “anyone but me is going to enter that circle first!” Finally, after about a minute or so, this brave female enters the space. Kicking her knees and legs in a frivolously rhythmic pattern, she overcomes the tension in order to share herself with her classmates. After her, one, two, three more students sequentially come to the middle in order to connect physically and spiritually with this first energetic soul. We’re on a roll! But not really. Because almost two minutes later those same 4 students are dancing and exerting themselves in the middle of the circle as their fellow students simply watch like an audience at a golf tournament.

My patience quickly turned into a gamut of dramatic emotion. I snap the music off and frustratingly spill out, “It’s interesting to me how we can have these four people overcome their insecurities in order to do what most of us could not do (go into the middle of the circle) and tire themselves out in the process; yet, instead of joining them, thus putting an end to their exhaustion and vulnerability, we’d rather stand here and watch them continuously suffer…”

I believe all dance forms allow the opportunity for practitioners to apply their experience with dance to the challenges and achievements of life. However, I have rarely felt any Eurocentric dance form make me look at my culture, my worldview, and my society quite like Hip-hop dance has. I think it’s because Hip-hop is not just a dance, but also a convoluted and complex culture that spawns the arts such as dance, visual art, music, fashion, and poetry. As I reflect on that mentioned teaching experience, I fascinate at Hip-hop’s ability to reveal ourselves to ourselves. The way in which we think and behave in society was transferred into a fairly simple, yet clearly complicated exercise.

Despite this, rarely is Hip-hop embedded into the foundational Eurocentric structure of dance departments throughout America. The stigmatization of Hip-hop as a recreational and commercial fad has blinded institutions to see Hip-hop as a useful, powerful, and educational tool that can be beneficial for dance majors as well as elective students. As a result, students are graduating into the professional world without valuable Hip-hop lessons that would not only inform the way in which they move, but also the way in which they tap into their potential as thinkers and social beings.

I’ve been so blessed to be here at Ohio State as it has allowed me to see how important Hip-hop dance is to critiquing our flaws and displaying our potential as citizens in America. As I prepare to graduate I am nothing but excited to see how else this Hip-hop dance form can change lives, communities, and societies for the better.

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2 thoughts on “When Will the Ghetto’s Creation “Infest” the “Pristine” Fabric of the Institution?”

  1. ” I have rarely felt any Eurocentric dance form make me look at my culture, my worldview, and my society quite like Hip-hop dance has. ”
    I couldn’t agree with this statement, As I look into other “cultural” dances outside of the Eurocentric fabric I grow more to appreciate the community complexity of the movement. My question is how did you eventually get students to dance? What was your process after you had your teaching moment?
    Also keep up the good work in showing how Hip Hop can be as important as other styles.

    1. Hey Jazelynn! I appreciate you not agreeing with that statement. I do believe there is a lot about ones own culture and worldview that can be gained from Eurocentric dance forms. I was simply talking about for me personally. Hip-hop has been the way for me to connect with my own self more than any other Eurocentric form, but Eurocentric forms are overwhelmingly offered more in higher education dance programs. So, I just wish the form that I can find myself and my history through was offered as well.

      I got my students to dance by stopping the music and scolding them, ha! I went on a little rant about how we in this community would rather sit on the sidelines and watch people go through something rather than getting in there and figuring out how we can help, and that’s a shame to me. After I was done I put the music on and people started getting passed their inhibition in order to dance!

      Thanks so much for the encouragement!

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