Importance to the field
Today, Hip-hop dance and culture has dispersed throughout the world, with classes, courses, and workshops being offered in academia, local studios, and community centers nationally and internationally. Unfortunately, the majority of these institutions are teaching a hybrid Hip-hop dance style void of the cultural specificity that comprises the form. Focused on the isolation technique of Jazz dance coupled with B-boy and B-girl gestures, attitude, and the swag of rappers and gangsters, this hybrid “studio Hip-hop” dismisses the cultural aesthetic, technique, philosophy, and history of Hip-hop dance. By extracting these particular cultural gestures, “studio Hip-hop” reinforces stereotypes of Black life, Black masculinity, and the thuggery associated with African-Americans. Additionally, “studio Hip-hop” emphasizes the performative nature of Hip-hop, which showcases an external meter rhythm. Participants lack the ability to access a complex, visceral rhythm internally through their hips and lower bodies.
Rennie Harris has been developing the Street Dance Teacher Certification Program for the last 40 years. Having spent the last 10 years offering courses in academia, Harris has developed a curriculum that functions within the academic institution while establishing a strong foundation for all Street Dance forms, also referred to as “styles.” The program goes beyond teaching dance steps, by fostering technically proficient teachers who are cultural ambassadors of the rich history and cultural lineage of the forms. As Hip-hop and Street Dance alike become global phenomena, it is imperative to create a training program that establishes a strong foundation in technique, musicality, improvisation, and the historical context that informs the genre. The program will serve as a model for future teacher training programs within the field of Street Dance.