When I was five, I wanted to be a ballerina. When I was eight, I wanted to be a tap dancer. When I was thirteen, I wanted to be a volleyball player, and the list goes on. I wanted to try everything. Thankfully, my parents raised me to dare to experience new things yet also remain dedicated to one thing at a time. Through those experiences, I was led to try hip-hop dance in tenth grade. Just like hip-hop dance began in the streets of New York, I learned to dance from friends and within dance battle wins and losses. It was before Hip-Hop Dance classes were available, so I studied videos I found online and trained with the best dancers I knew. We practiced in parking lots and warehouses, just like the movies, but with less drama. Of all the different sports and dance styles I tried, this was the one that stuck.
The unique thing about my experience with hip-hop dance is that I was determined to refine my dance style with grace and elegance. I was not one to bump and grind on the dance floor, and I was not going to change my moral values just to fit in the typical hip-hop mold. Instead, I found hip-hop dance moves that expressed skill and attitude with what matched my beliefs and I became a stronger dancer because of it.
I continued to learn hip-hop dance through high school and college and eventually joined a competitive dance crew. I discovered that hip-hop dance was an avenue to tell stories. When I had a difficult day and could not find the words to express what I was feeling, I would dance. When I was ecstatic and overwhelmed with joy, I would dance.
Hip-hop dance allowed me to create a language of movement all my own. It offered me the strength and conditioning I needed to excel in other styles, while also giving me the freedom of movement to express my own style. In my opinion, while technique and conditioning within hip-hop are very important, the greatest gift of all is the ability for someone to express themselves through their unique style in hip-hop dance.
I grew up in the South where I valued elegance and grace, and I would not sacrifice those values in effort to learn a new style of dance. Instead, I discovered my own unique style of hip-hop, which I enjoy teaching and sharing, while maintaining traditional techniques of popping, locking, breaking, and mainstream hip-hop. Every dancer deserves to discover their language of dance and hip-hop is one of the rare avenues which offer that experience.