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Too groove, the Hip-Hop
You are fed up with severe dance lessons without taste or colours, tired with endless and pleasureless aerobic courses ? You are right on the mood for a hip-hop therapy : definitively, a dance in the move, for pleasure and wealth.
Text and photos by Jean-François Vibert
"I used to practice modern-jazz dance... What an old-fashioned music, such as Flashdance, and the girls' look with their fluorescent tights, Marie explains, being a 26-years-old fair woman working in an office in Paris.
One day, I saw men having great fun with their ghetto blaster in Les Halles. The following day, I subscribed for hip-hop lessons with a friend of mine and for two years on now, we have never missed a course !"
Where does it come from ? the hip-hop is everywhere in the streets, in clips, in movies and now in dancing schools along with tap courses, jazz and tango... it took 15 years for the dancing officials to welcome the hip-hop in their family. Because it was born in the streets, in the black ghettos of new York city by the end of the 70s.
It reached Europe by the 80s. Since then, the movement increased with variations : break, sol, hype, slow-motion, electric-boogie...
The best way of smurfing : "Dance companies are looking for hip-hop specialists, Lionel explains, being a teacher at the Studio Harmonic. Many professional dancers now take break lessons, because that's what is needed for television'. 'It is not always easy to find the right place, Anne-Cécile tells. I tried nearly all the Parisian schools, and even the Gymnase Club ! Nothing against cardio-training, but concerning the hip-hop, it would be the same as if Veronique and Davina were rapping...
Therefore, try several courses before subscribing. Once this is done, try to be assiduous, once or twice a week, and in a few months, you'll master the basis of smurf dancing and moon walk...

The Beginner's Movements
A hip-hop lesson always begins by a bit of warming up, then classical movements. A small demo by Laure, a teacher at the Espace Vit'Halles and Steffy, an American woman who teaches at the Centre de Danse du Marais.
The Warming Up : progressive stretching during 15 to 30 minutes... Beware : avoid sudden movements, it must not hurt !

The Smurf : the 'wave' starts from the wrist and goes through the arm, then the shoulders to the other hand. Try to split the gesture.

The Break Dance : it's a work on the ground. Most of the movements are very difficult and require an intensive practice.

The Moonwalk : some manage to do it on their first day, others never do.

The Hype : it's the hip-hop's last evolution and mixes African influences with jazz and funk. You can see it in many Television clips...

The Locking and the popin : those two work together, and are quick movements of the fists and fingers which show different directions.

The Baby Freeze : sudden stop of the dancer in curious and spectacular positions, for instance on his head with his feet tangles. It's not that hard !

The Top Equipment
According to Caroline, who has been dancing foe six months, 'you can dance the hip-hop with a destroyed Tee-shirt, jogging pants and old tennis shoes.' It has to be in the move !
Tennis shoes : to easy the ankles' movements, the shoes must not cover it and to minimise the shocks, a good sole.

The most important : good knee pads to help with the work on the ground.

The rest is up to you : short, jogging pants or baggy ones... Big sizes will increase the coolness of the movements.

Why is it Good for You ?
its variety of styles constitutes what is good in terms of physical exercises. Each kind of movement develops a specific quality. Balance, suppleness and the sense of space will come first and then the musculature...
The Fun : rhythm and loud music is cool... You can be yourself, which is not usually possible...

Suppleness : the lessons start with warming ups and stretching because some movements require suppleness

Stamina : it depends on the lessons but they usually are quite intense, and require a bottle of water.

Musculature : mostly abdominals and the upper part of the body.

Space Right/Left Handedness : co-ordination for instance when you are smurfing.

Balance : for instance in moonwalking, when you must go from a stand on the end of your feet to your heels.

Will : it sometimes has to be strong but the conviviality really helps a lot.
Conviviality : be sure you will make new friends...

Good Disks
No rules. You can even dance on techno (well, supposedly). But it goes better with real hip-hop music, funk, rhythm and blues, rap, new jack...
Zap : the best-off album is a must. Rather old school funk.

Brandy : the new album 'Say never say' is really enjoyed by girls, as Mohamed explains.

Good in general : Pac, Snoop Doggy Dog, Naughty by nature, Ice-T, Ice-Cube, Heavy-D, Queen pen...

Easier : Willy Smith, notorious Big...

French : NTM, Minister Amer, Secteur A...

And : Michael Jackson ('History'), Janet jackson, Sugar-Hill-Gang and James Brown !

How Sexy is the Hip-Hop Fashion !
Far from being androgynous, the fashion is really sexy. Trellis, baggy pants... are the rule, but with a tight T-shirt it changes the whole look ! it allows the navel to be seen and it is often implemented by a ring...
The Labels to enter the hip-hop tribe : Fubu, King Soul, South Pole, Maurice Malone, Dready and Home-Boy...

Lady soul : the year's sensation, the girls from all social environments are unanimous.

Where to take Lessons ?
Great schools are available for 70 to 100F per lesson and there are many independent teachers. In the suburbs, the dance is authentic, with a mixture of dance and martial arts. In the province, dancing school and fitness centres also provide for hip-hop lessons.
Espace Vit'Halles : Very technical courses with Laure, a young but really good top-dance teacher, and also Champion of France in hip-hop. 48, Rue Rambuteau, 75003 Paris. Tel :
Centrale de Danse du Marais : The american teacher Steffy proposes Hype and Break. The fair Steffy is also the author of the first hip-hop video lesson in French (Warren Vision). Another teacher, tina, proposes hip-hop-street-funk. 41, Rue du temple, 75004 Paris. Tel :
Academie d'Art Choregraphique : A very nice place near the Place Blanche. Mohamed's lessons ( are close to the old school's roots. 4 bis, Cité Véron, 75018 Paris. Tel :
Studio Harmonic : Lionel Amadoté is passionate and will surely take you with him. In December, Mr Freeze, a famous Franco-American dancer will be back. 5, Passages de Taillandiers, 75011 Paris. Tel :
Moovin (Everywhere in France) : This Moovin group (100 schools in France) provides for ragger-jam courses (an exclusivity in Europe), which is an Afro-Jamaican version of the hip-hop.
47, Rue de Javel, 75015 Paris. Tel :

Like all anti-conformist communities, the hip-hop world has generated its own language, which often comes from American language... but not only.
Smurf : a European term to designate the wave. The first dancers wore white gloves in order to be more visual.

Ghetto-blaster : huge radio-CD-tape portable with an integrated bass box which makes the 'ghetto explode'.

Groove : when the music makes your feet move themselves. Probably what jazzmen called the swing. By extension, a musical style between funk, dances and soul music.

Capoeira : a Brazilian dance which was a kind of practice to a fight invented by slaves. Some of the movements were integrated into the hip-hop.

A Challenge : anybody can participate. In the middle of a circle one can do his free-style in other words, create without limits.

The Bougaloo : a style based on movements of the pelvis, a rather old school way with jerky movements an the rhythm.

The Pop : a very spectacular and rather virile style based on violent muscular lockings.

The Tetris : also called the Egyptian. This is a play with the arms in rhythm, alone or not, in order to draw figures.

The Hype and Top Dance : composed of all the hip-hop movements which are executed while standing up. These are the most common teachings in schools.

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© Jean François VIBERT - Journalist and photographer - Paris -
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