Winston Jean Charles

Winston Jean Charles

Master the moves, look and style of street dance with tips from the hip hop instructor from London's famous Pineapple dance studio.

The lowdown on hip hop

If you go back to the early stages of the hip hop movement in the 1970's, it was considered to be very aggressive and explicit in terms of the lyrics. That is because it started as a very angry form of expression. It was a group of youths in the ghettos of New York bursting to get out, wanting to express themselves and they wanted to hold on to a culture that they rightly felt was theirs. Hence the profanity within the lyrics, but like anything, it has evolved since then.

Dance styles

  • Break-dancing or breaking involves the dance elements of toprock, downrock, freezes and power moves. In the early days of djing an instrumental break was incorporated into songs to allow a showcase of improvised breakdance steps.
  • Popping is the technique of quickly contracting and relaxing muscles to cause a jerk in the dancer's body, referred to as a pop or a hit.
  • Locking relies on fast and distinct arm and hand movements combined with more relaxed hips and legs. Movements are tightly synced with the music.
  • Krumping is characterised by free, expressive, and highly energetic moves involving the arms, head, legs, chest and feet.
  • Street dance is often performed in 'battles', with dancers trying to outperform other dancers in front of a crowd.

Hip hop is a whole movement for a young generation, but it's a dance style for everyone. It doesn't matter if you are male or female, young or old, the whole movement of hip hop is to express yourself, and this is why the youth of the day are drawn to it.

The skills

Dance is about expression, but you can also build other skills. It improves co-ordination, fitness, body conditioning and it encourages you to be confident because you have take on a certain attitude depending on the style of dance.

Hip hop challenges you in that sense because you have to portray the culture and the attitude. Even if you don't know the hip hop style of dancing and you step into your first class, you'll get the style from the teacher. The teacher will show you the steps, break it down for you and show you how to add on top of that your own style or an attitude.

Work as a team

There is a saying in hip hop "It's not about you, it's about everybody." A good dancer shares their skills with others. You pull together as a team and work to motivate others around you.

You just get a buzz every time you finish a routine. Each week you practice and get the hang of the steps and your confidence grows. You can then take that confidence and apply it into other areas of your life.

Hip hop styles

Another reason why hip hop is so popular is that it has so many different styles. There's old school and new school hip hop.

Old school uses styles such as 'locking', 'popping' and 'breaking', and new school takes the form of lyrical hip hop, where the teacher choreographs to the lyrics of the words.

'Krumping' is quite an aggressive form of hip hop dance style which is very new right now, and you've got 'house' which focuses mainly on leg work.

The hip hop look

Hip hop is not just about the culture, it's about the music, the style and it's about the fashion. You don't have to follow the fashion, but if you're in to it, you tend to feel more part of it. The hip hop look stems from America and is based upon that whole baggy look - a pair of trainers, a cool trendy peek cap, sweatbands around your wrists and silver jewellery. It's about dressing comfortably.

Top hip hop artists

Michael Jackson was a big influence in hip hop in terms of the visual style of his dancing and he also pioneered the music video. My other favourite artists include: Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, James Brown, Parliament and George Clinton. These guys are the pioneers and the backbones of hip hop.

Get involved!

When trying something new, just remember three things:

  • Find out the pioneer of what you're looking to learn about.
  • Find out the history.
  • Find out the basic moves.

Once you understand a subject, everything else will follow.

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