Blue Boy Entertainment's The Five & the Prophecy of Prana. Photo: Hugo Glendinning Dance UK explores... Hip Hop Dance

Date Mon 27 January 2014

Each month, Dance UK is investigating a different dance style for our e-newsletter, finding out about its technique, style and history. First up, it’s hip hop dance, which Boy Blue Entertainment artistic directors Kenrick ‘H2O’ Sandy and Michael ‘Mikey J’ Asante and work experience student and performer Kurtis Agyekum discuss in an interview with Dance UK’s Communications and Membership Officer Laura Dodge.

What is hip hop dance?

MA: You can’t say hip hop dance without asking ‘what is hip hop?’. It’s a whole culture – of self-expression, music and style – rather than just dance. It’s a way of life. Music plays a major role in how you might dance but there are so many forms of expression under the umbrella of hip hop – dance, DJing, graffiti, rap and knowledge. That’s why we call it a culture – it embodies so many things which are all big in their own way.

KA: I see hip hop as like a smartphone. It takes the history of other things such as maps, calculators and telephones, and draws on and learns from these. But the most important aspect is the fact it can communicate.

How did hip hop originate?

MA: This is a big debate – people thought it was influenced by capoeira but it has similarities to 1920s jazz and many other styles. Hip hop itself started in New York as a voice against oppression. It was a way for people to communicate through music. But they also wanted to have a good time and party!

KS: There’s a lot of discussion as to who started what. Street dance is a commercial term for any dance that originated on the streets. That could include hip hop. Equally it could include tap dancing.

Why do you think hip hop has become such a popular dance form?

MA: Hip hop music is an international phenomenon because anyone can get involved. Take Michael Jackson – he’s not strictly hip hop but he has the style. Hip hop doesn’t discriminate and people can connect with it. Other dance genres have specific vocabularies that you have to learn, whereas hip hop doesn’t. Each hip hop style has a foundation but there is room to make it unique.

KS: A hip hop or street dance group is like a family unit – it encourages self-esteem, discipline and expression. It inspires people.

What is it about hip hop that appeals to you?

MA: I love hip hop music as it has a great rhythm and energy to dance to. But actually I’m a classically trained singer and love all kinds of music. Hip hop is the style that works best for me as I feel like I don’t have to regurgitate anything. I can take inspiration and then make it my own. Hip hop is also a great way to connect with people from all walks of life.

What are the different styles of hip hop dance?

KS: There are so many and they haven’t been codified or formalised. There’s no Royal School of Hip Hop! Styles include breaking, locking, popping, animation, house, grooves, krump, turfing, bone crushing, waacking, freestyle, Voguing and others. Everything now is a remix that has grown and been adapted. Krump evolved from a dance style originally created to praise God and relieve stress in a positive way. I recommend to all hip hop dancers that they learn as much as possible so that they understand the different styles. But it’s important to be a master of one style.

What should people look out for when watching hip hop dance?

MA: You need to know what the different styles are so you can understand what is being performed, but you don’t need to know every move. For us, it’s all about precision, but there is nothing right or wrong. Self-expression is the most important thing. You should just appreciate the dance for what it is and enjoy it. It’s the most forward thinking style of today.

KA: If it’s good, you feel it. The smartphone is vibrating! Hip hop can make you feel excited, panicked, emotional, overwhelmed.

MA: How it makes you feel is the most important element – it’s powerful stuff.

What dance style would you like to see featured next in the 'Dance UK explores...' series? Email suggestions to laura@danceuk.org.