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Get a hip-hop workout
Hip-hop dance is not just dancing to a tune; it is a culture that is spreading in the party life. The dance is so physically demanding that a 50 minute dance session is equivalent to hours spent at the gym.
Hip Hop really isn't a dance. It's a culture that involves four main components: graffiti, DJing, rapping and break dance, also called breaking.

"These are the things everyone should know if they do hip-hop, as a matter of respect to the art form. When we talk about hip-hop dance, we're talking about break dance," says Nicholas Gates, who conducts hip hop dance classes and has made it to the top 20 in the Fox TV show, So You Think You Can Dance. He's also been a backup dancer for the Black-Eyed Peas and other groups. "Over the past couple of years, dance instructors who teach hip-hop are actually teaching jazz dance set to a hip-hop beat, but that's not really what hip-hop is about. I try to provide an education about the history and background of hip-hop."

Hip-hop dance, or break dance, is all about popping and locking and transitioning from standing to the floor.

Christine Shannon, 27, has taken various kinds of dance classes since she was a kid. But hip-hop is her favourite. "A lot of dance forms emphasize that everyone look the same. But hip-hop has an individual aspect to it. A lot of it isn't just the technical stuff, it's the attitude."

You've probably seen its influences in videos from Janet Jackson to Britney Spears to Usher. It's very popular with the teenage set. But its popularity is growing among adults, too.

"I didn't realise it was so popular until we opened and people kept asking about an adult (hip-hop) class," says Kristy Kraemer, dance instructor and co-owner of a dance studio.

But it's not for the faint of heart-among mainstream dancing; it's probably the most physically demanding. "It's a workout," says Gates, who teaches at the Centre of Creative Arts in St Louis. "It's for every part of the body. We're talking about a dance where you have moves and spins on your head." Pamela Robinson, who co-owns the Dance 4 Life studio with Kraemer, says it's tougher than it looks. "In a 45-minute class, you get a better workout than in two hours at the gym. But you are having fun and not really thinking about it."

To get their dancers in top physical condition, instructors often have dancers doing pushups and crunches. In Gates' class, they work up to 50 at a time by the end of the session.

"Their bodies go through a transition," Gates says, "though, to be honest, most people come into this class in really good shape."

Gates lifts weights to build his strength for dancing and runs long distances to build his endurance.

"It sometimes feels like a contact sport to me," Gates says. "It's an intense style of dance." Despite how tough it is, Kraemer and Gates insist that just about anyone can do it.

"We have all ages and shapes and sizes," says Gates. Though most of the students are closer to 20 than to 60, instructors say they have had some older dancers. "We have a whole mix of people," says John "Cautious" Graves, who teaches at the St Louis Dancers Academy. Graves says the people in his adult class range in age from 27 to 47.

The mix of people is one of the things that draws many to the dance form.

"We have Jewish people, black people, Asians, Indians," says Gates. "It's like a rainbow. It's awesome to see so many different people from different backgrounds come together."

Hip-hop dance can be many things to many people. For some, it's a workout; for others, it's a connection to their culture. Katie Shuck, 26, says she started taking lessons because she was feeling old. " I wanted my body to learn to move in new ways."

For others, they have seen hip-hop in videos and in movies such as Save the Last Dance and You Got Served, and they want to check it out. "It's just something that I've wanted to learn," says Shannon. "It's such a high-energy type of dance."

Hip-hop dance began in the early '70s. Some say it started in the South Bronx; others say it started on the West Coast. "But they fused together and formed what is now hip hop," says Gates. Groups such as the Rock Steady Crew battled other groups on the dance floor, elevating the dance to an art form with now-classic moves such as the two-step and the head spin.

Break dance draws from many dance styles and incorporate elements of capoeira (pronounced CA-po-AIR-a), a Brazilian martial art. For Gates and many others, hip-hop is more than what you see on TV.

"Hip-hop has been sold and packaged so that the average kid doesn't really know it. It's not just girls in short skirts shaking their butts. Unfortunately, that's all you see on TV. It has a rich history, and it's such a beautiful art form."
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Posted on : 24/11/2005
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