Get Groovy Reflection: Is Teaching More About My Subject Or My Student?

A little more than a week ago, I completed one of the most ambitious goals I’ve ever set for myself—the production of an online dance course. This course is a culmination of the saturated learning experiences during my short time as a teacher. Releasing the Get Groovy course got me thinking about the journey that brought me to this point in my pedagogical career and so, I wanted to share a little bit about it today.

531059_131535140304800_283081253_nI remember when I was an undergraduate at Penn State, I would always ask my mentor, Kikora Franklin, if I could teach her Hiphop class. At that time, not many people around me wanted to train in Hiphop the way I wanted to. So, I figured that if I was able to teach a class, I could force people to train with me the way I wanted to train (selfishness at its finest lol)!

Once I got to Ohio State, I believe, to an extent, I brought that mindset to my first group of students. The most important aspect of my classroom was the material being taught rather than the people who I was teaching it to.

One day, near the end of my first semester, I was too tired to do a lot of drills and stuff. So, I just taught a combination that I learned from a Hiphop convention: a little challenging, but to great music and really fun. The class ate the combo up! There were still mess-ups and people had to fight to get the material, but up to that point, I had never seen a group of students so alive in a classroom! I had started to grow accustomed to feeling as though I was talking to a brick wall, “We’re going to do jumping jacks, high knees, and then push ups, we ready?!”…

…crickets…

But, this time, I could see the energy exuding out of students’ eyes as they smiled, half-fived each other, and moved with joy to the song. That moment showed me the value of extracting Hiphop’s message– peace, love, unity, and having fun— and instilling it within a classroom setting. Simply teaching the physical components of dance would never be enough for me from then on. So, I decided that I would use my teaching of dance as a tool to help students construct a deeper connection within themselves and with the others around them.

Since then, I believe that my classroom has changed tremendously for the better. I have made a number of great relationships with students and I know they have connected with each other beyond the classroom– which is ultimately what it’s all about. I’m excited and nervous for every new semester because I love facing the challenge of guiding a group of strangers to gain a sense of a familial bond with one another through Hiphop dance. There are just very few things that satisfy me more than seeing that growth over a short 15-week period.

So, although Get Groovy is an online course where connecting with students is more difficult, I tried my best to create an experience that allows students to not only gain a skill-set, but to also grasp an understanding of how that skill-set can be used to make a better life for themselves and the people around them.

This week is the Get Groovy Launch Week! So, if you’re interested in the course, this week is the time to get it considering it’s 80% off if you click this link: (Get Groovy Launch Week Coupon Link).

Also be sure to follow me on Twitter, Instagram, and Youtube @Cue4christ and Facebook @Cue Arnold. Blessings!

SYTYCD Reflection: You’re White & You Don’t Do Hiphop…You Must Be A Stage Dancer

So You Think You Can Dance has strutted its way back onto the mainstream airway’s stage for another Summer of dramatic and duet-filled dancing. The shows 12th season premiered Monday, June 1st, bringing back much of the same, but also incorporating a huge new twist! (Don’t get fooled by the exclamation point, I’m really not that excited about it. It was purely for affect…did it work?-no?…okay). During this first episode we see the usual gamut of dancers: virtuosic movers to the embarrassments who we truly tune-in to see. However, this year, SYTYCD thought it would be entertaining to make each auditionee label themselves as a street dancer or a stage dancer as they walked into the theater.

Now I think the idea of Street vs Stage could be hot: having a structure where the fiery hips of ballroom would compete for votes over the eloquent torso of ballet…then switching it up to force the contemporary dancer to put on taps while the Hiphopper fits into some tights and slippers…

I don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty interesting to me. Why? Because then we would actually see dance forms that were originated in the street compared to genres that were created for the stage! But, in true mainstream fashion, the creative experts of SYTYCD had to shallow it out…so in true Quilan fashion…I’m going to rant about it!

For one, what is a “stage” dance anyways?! According to thefreedictionary.com, stage dancing is considered to be, “A show involving artistic dancing.” You can also take stage dancing to mean a dance that is staged, or choreographed. Neither of these definitions discriminate against any dance form. Therefore, stage dance can be considered to be any and all dances that end up being performed on stage…duh. On top of this, most dances were not created for the stage anyways. Modern dance is an exception (which obviously is not a part of the show), but even ballet was created for the aristocratic courts of Europe before it transferred to the stage…so Nigel…what does it mean to be a stage dancer?

Anyways, even when I let that aspect go because this is a television show and shallow, arbitrary, and ignorant things must be done in order to create entertainment…there’s still this fact about who is included within these categories of street and stage that I just can’t shake.

I cannot say this for sure, but from my assessment of Season 12’s first episode, this is how the teams breakdown in terms of SYTYCD dance genres:

Stage: Contemporary, Ballet, Ballroom, Jazz, Tap/Clogging

Street: Hiphop

???: Bollywood (my guess would be that they would be put in stage, but just a biased guess)

I have a huge problem with this. If you have watched SYTYCD in the past (and I refer to this in a previous blog post: The Technical Dancer) you have heard Nigel, and maybe others, consider Hiphoppers to be the non-trained dancers. So, essentially, this season is not about stage versus street. It’s about the untrained versus everyone else. This is interesting to me because I cannot get past the cultural segregation that is happening here. Tap, ballroom, and jazz all have roots within the same place that Hiphop comes from. Yet, they’re separated from Hiphop…why? Good question. I don’t have the answer. I only can question, more so, why the form that most dominantly represents stereotypical African-American culture gets isolated in a structure that contains multiple forms that originate from the greater African-American tradition…?

Then, to put the cherry on top of all that…the show brings in Jason Derulo to represent that isolated dance form…blows my mind! You have two legends within the greater dance world in Nigel Lythgoe and Paula Abdul sharing their knowledge of dance to the contestants and the SYTYCD audience. Next to them is Jason….frikin’…Derulo…whose training consists of 5,6,7,8’s in the studio and a lot of washed-up, hand-me-down, pop-music versions of Hiphop styles. It’s a huge slap in the face, not only to Hiphop, but to African-American culture and to dance as a whole. One of the most influential art forms of our time is being disrespected on national television because of, dare I say, its main demographic and the culture that demographic represents.

I have always appreciated the platform that SYTYCD has given dance and Hiphop. A lot of deserving Hiphop dancers have been able to transcend into the mainstream eye because of that show. For my own personal interests, I would probably even audition again given the chance in order to obtain the benefits for myself. But, I cannot sit idly by and keep quiet while I watch Hiphop and the people within it subliminally get degraded for all of the world to see through the art form that I love.

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Blessings.