Tag Archives: choreography

“Negus” Dance Film

Negus- noun: Kingship, royalty.

Inspired by the works of artists such as Kendrick Lamar and Kehinde Wiley, I wanted to explore different levels of identity and representation of the black male in the United States. “Negus” is a Hip-hop work that asks African-American males, where do we come from, who are we now, what values do we uphold, what obstacles do we face in this society, and how do we overcome them?

In asking these questions, “Negus” seeks to use Hip-hop as a way to portray the humanity of the black male figure. In doing so, it directly opposes the commercial rap world– a primary source for the portrayal of the stereotypical black man–and delves deeply into some complications about certain aspects of the African-American experience.

“Negus” premiered at Urban Art Space in Columbus, OH in January of 2016. This film both captures the essence of the original work and completely wrecks it simultaneously. Within the film aspects of controversy between who we are and who we could/should be are portrayed as well as lighter themes such as rhythm, fun, etc. I hope this helps give you a way into viewing the film and I hope you enjoy!

The b(AA)ttle

This project explores the impact of many commercial rap songs on our society in regards to the representation of blackness in America.

It also combats the use of glorifying criminalization within rap songs as a way to silence the productive voices of blackness and black people in this country.

Enjoy!

Commercial Hiphop Dance as the New Face of Reverse Minstrelsy?

This post is pretty long, so if you’re more in for a shorter read, start at the asterisks below.
Yoooo…I’m headed into my last year as a graduate student at Ohio State! I am pumped, but the idea of delving into the professional world after years of anticipation is tripping me up. As the time approaches for me to graduate, I’ve been thinking a lot about where it is I want to reside and what exactly it is I want to do. Just a year ago that would have been an easy answer- Los Angeles, California to become a commercial Hiphop dancer. However, with the education I’ve been receiving in school, the answer is becoming less clear. I’ve been fortunate enough to find a value in delving deeply into the culture and the history of Hiphop in order to inform my dance, my creativity, and my life. Reflecting on the benefit of swimming within a sea of Hiphop knowledge, I now question whether I want to stand on the shore and simply let my feet get wet through dancing in the commercial world.

For right now, though, I still feel as though I owe it to myself to try out the mainstream scene before I put judgment on it. However, my skepticism about the mainstream culture has encouraged me to take a more critical look at it. I’ve found that my desire to gain cultural, historical, and social knowledge through dance is not the only thing holding me back from fledging fully into my once romanticized dream. I’ve now come to question whether the mainstream Hiphop dance culture represents themes that I even want to support. What I mean is that a massive amount of commercial dancers express themselves through movement by imitating and assimilating a certain rap culture that I cannot get down with.

Since 1979 with Rapper’s Delight by the Sugar Hill Gang, the musical branch of Hiphop culture has been popularized by the commercial world to the general American population more than any other element. With this massive explosion came a popularity of Hiphop that was never dreamed of by the founders of the culture. However, what also came was the general notion that Hiphop is music rather than a culture. Just last night, I was in conversation with a roommate of mine at the Bates Dance Festival and he asked me, “What is Hiphop?” And being me, I challenged him, “What do you think Hiphop is?” He went to say he believes Hiphop is a construction of certain sequencing and sounds that create beats…aka music.

From around mid-80’s to late-90’s (also considered the Golden Age of Hiphop), Hiphop musical artists were controlling a lot of the content that was being produced. As a result there were a vast array of styles and messages, good and bad, that Hiphop artists were portraying to the world; therefore, they were representing the true, complex nature of the culture itself through music.

Throughout the 21st century however, music corporations have stripped that power from the artists and have taken it upon themselves to repackage and redefine what Hiphop represents. Now, it’s to the point where too many Hip-Pop songs (mainstream Hiphop music) represent mainstream hegemonic themes—sex, drugs, violence, materialism, money— behind the mask of a stereotype of colored people.

(sigh)

*******************

I have always admired— and continue to do so— the commercial Hiphop dance scene for its intricate and virtuosic aesthetic. Again, as I think about entering into this world soon myself, I have taken a closer look at the culture and what it represents. What I have concluded is disturbing to me…and it is, in many ways, that the mainstream Hiphop dance scene, because of a certain ignorance of its choreographers and dancers, is a system conducive to the act of reverse minstrelsy.

(Gasp!) Now let me explain…

I’m not going to go deeply into the history, but ultimately minstrelsy was the act of white performers entertaining audiences through the dancing/mocking of African-American stereotypes during the 19th century. One way they did this was to paint their faces black and exaggerate typical facial features of the African-American such as the lips and the eyes. Eventually, in order to be recognized for their performance abilities and to take ownership of a degrading system, African-American themselves went under the blackface and participated in minstrel shows as well. Essentially, African-Americans imitated an imitation in order to get recognized for their craft- an act that I’ll call reverse minstrelsy.

Over a century later, as I mentioned above, American corporations are continuing this feeding of negative stereotypes of African-Americans to the masses through mainstream Hiphop music and music videos. However, this blame doesn’t simply belong to the money-hungry industries… it’s also on all the rappers who subjugate themselves to this role in their quest for the American dream. (It’s also the fault of the consumer who supports the music as well but I’ll leave that alone for now). These rappers are supporting this fallacious portrayal of African-Americans in order to be recognized for their craft and to support their family, which to me, falls under this definition of reverse minstrelsy.

Last of all, I blame the Hiphop dance community. As artists, we have a duty to be knowledgeable about the art and the culture behind the art. Why? Because if you knew the history of Hiphop culture and the African-American history behind that, I doubt you would be so eager to embody movement that imitates the lyrics that degrades the integrity of African-American people.

I specifically want to call-out all of the Hiphop choreographers who use these songs in their work, whether it be choreography in class or a dance video. With the dancers, one may argue that, especially with this generation, it’s just not that deep. Students simply come in to have fun, move, listen to hot beats, get their stank face on, and be out. But, Hiphop choreographers …we’re consciously listening to this music over and over again in order to replicate these songs in movement form; therefore, we’re engraining these negative messages into our soul, not only by listening, but by embodying. Then we go out and spread these messages, like a disease, to massive amounts of students as we teach all over the world. Then, to top it all off, we go and record this choreography for the world to see again and again online. But we don’t stop by simply recording the combination. Nah, that’s too easy. We have to go out and appropriate the themes within these songs by flashing our own fancy materialistic possessions, and dressing like we’re about to rob a bank…

What. the. hell, man. To me, we– as dancers, choreographers, and artists– cannot continue to consciously or unconsciously, imitate a false, negative imitation of what it means to be black in America. We need to realize the power and influence we have as we represent the future of Hiphop in America and do-away with this reverse minstrelsy mentality.

If you want to see a few examples of what I’m discussing here, click the links below:

1. U Mad- Ian Eastwood

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=THS7Ii1dhsI

  1. Bitch Better Have My Money- Tricia Miranda

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qQraeOG-3L8

  1. I Don’t Fuck With You- Janelle Ginestra

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SGzVbHZjRgc

Moment of Silent Screams [Video]


I am in the midst of creating a stage concert work called “From Within. And Back Again” that focuses on conventions in life that help to spark ones soul. Whether it be an overwhelming joy, anger, or sorrow, there are moments in life where our spirits feel as though they want to burst beyond our physical bodies. During these moments, I experience the limits of my flesh-self while simultaneously feeling the existential and boundless nature of my inner being. For me, it’s quite an amazing phenomenon that brings up many questions, and therefore, pushes me to make a dance about it.

Out of this larger work spawns “Moment of Silent Screams” as the recent emphasis on the injustices of police brutality have created a restlessness within my soul. This video is a result of my observations over the past month mixed with my desire to something. This is how I raise my voice in disgust against the systematic injustices that have been going on in our country.

I hope you empathize with the words, the movement, and/or the music that creates this work and it inspires you to have a conversation about these issues with others in your community. Blessings.

“All In My Head” Choreography (Artist: Tori Kelly)

Hey y’all!

So this is my last video of the semester, I feel like it has been an amazing journey at OSU so far and I wanted to cap it off by going back to what I love to naturally do choreographically- create videos that highlight the dance using my own movement voice.

This small work was simply inspired by Tori Kelly’s voice and power within her music. From the moment I heard it, I knew I would eventually make something up to it. It’s funny because just a few years ago, Adele had just come out, and I remember my frustration because I felt like I was not versatile enough as a dancer to do justice to her songs. Now, I believe that I can dance and choreograph to anything my imagination desires, which is perfect timing considering I am exploring my choreographic voice at school. So this work is a testament to the hard work, love, and support that has nourished my growth and brought me to this point!

I hope you all enjoy and take in the beauty that is this song. Blessings.

First Mark

Hey y’all,

“First Mark” is my first dance film project created here at Ohio State University. We were required to choreograph 2 movements and film the movements from 22 angles. Using our clips, we used our creativity to tell our own story.

The title represents the last name of the dancer, Mel Mark, and my first step into making a difference in the dance field here at OSU.

Special thanks to the dancer, Mel Mark. Freshman dance major at OSU.

Movement Lifestyle Tour Contest

movement-lifestyleMovement Lifestyle Tour Contest

Movement Lifestyle (ML) is pretty much a monopoly within the Hiphop agency business over in Los Angeles. They have contracts with a lot of the top mainstream Hiphop choreographers and dancers that exist on the west coast. However, it is much more than an agency. It literally is a movement. The company’s members seem to be a community more than anything else. They dance in each others’ videos, vouch for each other to obtain professional jobs, teach at each others’ workshops, etc. The company is only a few years old, and yet it is currently one of the biggest known names within the Hiphop industry.

Many of the dancers within the ML company, I happen to be a devout follower of online and, therefore, am constantly following the activities and influence of the ML company. Recently, over the past two years, the leaders of ML have chosen to go on tour throughout the major cities in the country with some of their top dancers/choreographers to hold Hiphop workshops during certain weekends multiple times a year. From what I know, these workshops have almost always sold out and are very expensive. Hence why, as much as I would love to learn from these people, I just cannot ever go.

HOWEVER! From the gates of heaven, an opportunity has presented itself through the company that would allow me to go to a workshop for free. ML is hosting a video contest with a theme of “What Moves You?” And so, I decided to submit a video describing to them why I wanted to go to the event and what I feel moves me.

Whether or not I actually win the contest, it has been good for me to get another opportunity to try and articulate what it is I want to do for the field of dance. And at the same time, I was able to use some new editing techniques that I have discovered through my film studies class. So all in all, my education is having good practical use. Yay me!

So the link is posted. Check it out. It took me hours to make, so I figured that I should make good use of the video even if I don’t win. Wish me luck!

Ian Eastwood Choreography

4849878401_8ac495934eIan Eastwood Choreography

It is amazing to see this guy grow. I don’t know him personally, but I feel like I do in a way. I have been following his work for three years now, and the growth that he has shown as a mover and a choreographer is amazing. I’m very excited to see where he goes in his career and what explorations he taps into as he becomes more infamous in the dance culture.