Monday, June 16, 2003

Hip-hop to an energetic workout

By Llee Sivitz
Enquirer contributor

Hip-hop dance is a growing trend in the fitness craze. Marc Jennings teaches a class at the Contemporary Dance Theatre in College Hill Town Hall.
(Michael E. Keating photo)
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Contemporary Dance Theater hip-hop instructor Marc Jennings will never call it a workout. But it is.

"I have to disagree with the fitness workout (label). Here you're working a lot more than just your muscles. I'm here to teach you how to dance."

According to Jennings, hip-hop dancing is rooted in the "swing time" of the 1930s. During the mid-'60s and early '70s it gained popularity as a free-flowing street style and later diversified into moves such as locking, popping and waving.

Today there are two camps of hip-hop students. Those who want to do hip-hop on the dance floor of their favorite clubs take the classes to learn new moves. Others do it to get a workout that's fun and to help them forget they are working out at all.

Pamela Breitbeil, 25, of Western Hills is in the latter category. She dances hip-hop only in Jenning's class, and she takes ballet. "It's aerobic ... like a dance class that doesn't stop. I like the speed that he goes. In a lot of technique classes they will stop and correct you. He doesn't give you a chance to think about what you are doing; you just have to do it."

I can attest to that. As I try to follow along with the first routine in his class I find that it comes too fast to remember, but with repetition I start to get the feel of it, noting my growing "cool factor."

The "break dance" moves, however, are a little tricky. I no sooner throw myself to the floor, kicking my legs out in front of me, when I see Jennings has already gone on to five more moves.

When I ask 25-year-old hip-hop student Jennifer Flick of East Walnut Hills why she takes the class, she responds, "Girl, so I can incorporate some new moves at the club!"

She says she has been intrigued with hip-hop most of her life and is always working to improve her repertoire. "Taking a class is a little bit harder (than dancing at a club) because it's so much to get down in a certain amount of time. It's a workout for me in the sense that I sweat and get my heart rate up, but it isn't like going to a gym and knowing I have to do this, this and this."

1980s MTV was the impetus that hurled hip-hop dancing into the mainstream. As choreographers figured out how to convey these dance moves to their music video stars, the ability to teach hip-hop was born.

Hip-hop dancing is occasionally associated with what Jennings calls "negative hip-hop." But he says that is not its true spirit. "It's about having a good time. If you can't have a good time, then you've got the wrong idea about hip-hop."

There's one thing for certain. When you see someone with good hip-hop moves, you can't help but think, "I wish I could dance like that."

Try these moves

Instructor Marc Jenning explains these hip-hop moves:

Popping - Tensing your muscles and doing a move

Locking - In the middle of a move, pause, stop and point

Electric Boogie - Tension with popping. Your body is waving and popping at the same time and you pop it back to the position where it was before.

King Tut - An Egyptian dance move, elbows and wrists bent at 90 degrees, head turned

Freezing - Pop and freeze, but make a smile or expression when you freeze, and then go back to popping.

Harlem Shake - Shake your shoulders and then pause and brush off your shoulders, with attitude

Where to learn

Local dance studios that offer hip-hop classes:

Contemporary Dance Theater, 1805 Larch Ave., College Hill, 591-1222

Dance Company, 5185 Sandy Lane Dr., Fairfield, 896-9916

Kids First Sports Center, 7900 E. Kemper Road, Sycamore Township,361-0037

Miracle Dance Theatre, 4927 Glenway Ave., Price Hill, (921-0700

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