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.
RH Certificate Program
This certificate is a study of Hip-hop and Street Dance technique and history as understood by Rennie Harris. This course is a reflection of Rennie Harris’ personal Hip-hop and Street Dance experience, which has been shaped and inspired by an eclectic array of choreographic, performance, and teaching experience in the field (see curriculum vitae). The overall approach to Street and Hip-hop dance technique and its history is inspired by Rennie Harris’ personal philosophy, theory, research and professional experience.
Participants will leave with a fundamental knowledge of Hip-hop and Street Dance technique and history rooted in a theoretical structure that springs from elements of the African Diaspora. The content of this certificate will cover Rennie Harris’ pedagogy including his format, philosophy, and approach to formally teaching Street Dance. The applicant will receive a basic geographic history of prominent Street Dance styles, their origins and terms as well as the names of their pioneers and innovators. This certificate will cover Harris’ theory of how the roots of Hip-hop stem from slavery in a lecture entitled “The Day Before Hip-hop.” Because these dance forms’ origins are steeped in the African-American community, this course will be taught through methods that reflect Rennie Harris’ experience. This course may deal with race, gender, privilege, and additional themes related to identity and our larger social context. Profanity may be used in order to contextualize Hip-hop culture. Harris will teach this course using the traditional African pedagogical method of storytelling.