Hip-hop breaks into Student Union


Dance has come a long way since the dawn of man. From cavemen getting freaky around a fire, to the first aperçu of Paris opera ballet, the styles that have evolved out of the early mores of dance culture are limited only by human imagination. UAA is an active member in these different breeds of dance, and the UAA Dance Club takes center stage in the dance life on campus.

However, there is another club at UAA that has been making strides to popularize its own medium: the UAA hip-hop dance club. Founded in 2010, the club’s membership has grown to roughly 20 dancers at each practice and, if a student walks through the Student Union at night on Tuesdays or Thursdays, they’ve probably seen this spectacle already.

“It originally started out as a group of friends who shared common interest, and we wanted to make our presence more legit on campus,” said club president Tye Ching.

And they’re not easy to miss. From the large mat laid out in the hallway resembling hardwood flooring, to the group of people “angry dancing” in front of the campus bookstore, to the musical accompaniment from several large boom boxes blasting Daft Punk remixes, the club definitely catches the eyes and ears of passing by students.

“We always keep a path for people to walk by,” Boyd Ching, a b-boy for the club, said in regards to the new, somewhat odd placement for the group’s practices.

Held twice a week, such practices focus on both learning the basics and honing these skills. Another feature of an average club practice is exhibition dances, and “battles,” wherein one or more people face off against another individual or group to display their skills and compete to see who is the most “ill sick” (best at dancing).

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The three most prominent forms of hip-hop dancing found at the UAA-based club are breaking, popping, and krumping. The first is probably one of the most well known to non-dancers. Popularized in the 70’s and 80’s, this straight-from-the-streets style focuses on four main components, known to “b-boys” and “b-girls” (male and female breakers) as “the four elements.”

The four elements of breaking are power moves, toprock, downrock, and freezes. Power moves consist of the “wow factor” maneuvers that are usually the determining factor of battles. They consist of elaborate spins, hooks, and flips, and are by far the most difficult part of any breaker’s routine, as they require the greatest physical strength and acrobatic ability. Often times these moves require a good deal of build-up, or momentum, to execute.
Toprock is traditionally the introduction moves to a routine, and is always performed while standing. Toprock is made up of a floor-sweeping series of steps, footwork that often identifies when breaking will occur. Downrock is what happens once the breaker gets on the floor, and is what takes place in between power moves. The downrock is kind of the basic bread and butter of a break routine, and involves both hands and feet to navigate the floor.

The last element, freezing, is generally a last effect that happens at the end of a routine. This move is identified by the breaker striking a pose, often times half in the air and half on the floor, and holding it for several seconds. The more difficult the position the breaker freezes in, the better the freeze is considered to be. Freezes can also be performed in the middle of a performance if it is performed at the same time as a musical pause.

Breakers make up over half of the hip-hop dance club at UAA, the remaining membership is inhabited by poppers and krumpers. Popping is generally done while standing, and consists of fluid movements of the body set to the beat of the music playing during the set. This style is also used in battles, and comprises many popular forms, especially the overdone “robot” dance maneuver, in which the dancer tries to emulate robotic movements. The degree of freedom offered by the popping style is immense, providing a good outlet for inspiration and improvisation.

The last style, krumping, is what Josh Washington, a member of the club, calls “angry dancing.” This style, popularized by rappers and the style of other aggressive battle dancers, allows for the release of emotions in the musical setting.

“You don’t have to be angry, but that’s what a lot of people associate with it, because it has that kind of feel,” Washington said.

This style is often one of the rawest and can incorporate elements from other styles into it.

The UAA hip-hop dance club is growing swiftly, with many members entering (and winning) competitions in town. Another focus of the club is the new dance workshops that are hosted for free with the goal of spreading the word and providing a more structured training opportunity.

Though what OJ Carino, club secretary, identifies as the most important things to the club, are the dancers themselves and recruitment of new members. “We just want everyone to feel welcome so we try to provide a positive atmosphere,” he said.

So, if a tentative club recruit has zero experience, they will still be welcome to get involved.

“All you need is the desire to learn,” said Washington.