1995 was the year I took my first, formal dance class after spending most of my time as a B-Boy and Street Dancer. Less than 10 years prior, I had walked into the exact same studio to pick up a friends’ sister and was offered a chance to partake in this glorious practice. I had A.) Zero money and B.) Zero idea. But I knew I wanted ‘in’. So I found a way.
Pliés Man. They’re serious.
Aside from my ‘school of hard knocks’ street dance experience (which is the only way to learn Hip Hop, in my opinion), I was gifted with the opportunity to train in the classical styles of ballet, jazz and tap at a local studio that my fellow B-Boys practiced at every Monday. All I had to do was keep the studio tidy-clean. Spic-and-span-shiny. And I did. That place was fucking immaculate and you could eat your dinner off the floors as early as 4:00pm any day of the week. I spent so much time at the dance studio because I didn’t want to be at home. Ask me about how you can clean mirrors or floors and I’ll probably be able to give you 40 examples. Trust.
Ballet school changed my life. What’s this? Boys just as important as girls… in BALLET? Yes, I will do this. And I did. Worked hard for just an inkling of acceptance amongst well-trained ‘rinas’ and soon came to accept and appreciate the demi plié. The digital strength that accompanies a proper degagé. The two conflicting stories of porte des bras while executing a rond de jambe sequence. And JUMPS… those glorious jumps. How they accompany each other to work through and perform a class and how that translates to communicating Mr. Balanchine’s intention of Serenade, Concerto Barocco or the tale of the Steadfast Tin Soldier and his Paper Doll on stage. Some of my most favorite ballets.
Ballet is everything and I wouldn’t change one bit of my training other than to have started earlier.
Hip Hop is simply Ballet… upside-down
I was a breakdancer and gymnast long before I ever stepped-foot into a real dance studio. My skull had met many basement and garage floor learning to execute ‘power-moves’. Every weekend was likely spent in a teenage dance club (yes, we had those in the 90s before iStuff and drugs took popularity), or in a practice session at one of my crew-members homes after school on the weekdays. We danced. Hard. Before I was ‘taught’ what dance was. I paid attention and applied myself.
Ballet is Hip Hop upside-down and Hip Hop is Ballet in reverse. Think about it.
The technique is nearly the same and gravity is acting on your body in an opposite manner. What a foot is in ballet class is simply a hand in a b-boy session. Hips are shoulders and shoulders are hips. Core is core. Alignment is alignment regardless of the fact that your tailbone is pointing to the north or south pole. A pirouette on demi-pointe is merely a headspin, a 90 or 2000. I know this and I’ve done ’em all and had gotten fairly decent at each.
Respect and understand your body
You only have one. Listen to it. Respect it. It’s communicating with you whether you like it or not, young dancer. Understand the difference between “oh, this sucks” pain and “something bad is about to happen” pain. The sucky stuff, you can fight through. Suck it up, buttercup. It’s the process. But the “I’m about to break something’ pain…” you need to understand that it’s okay to back-off, let your director know and hang in the wings. You’ll heal. This performance is not your end-all-be-all. There are plenty of those and you haven’t reached your peak yet.
It’s 100% okay to take breaks when necessary. Understand your physical being and cherish it because its the only one you’re ever gonna get, baby, and I advise you to accept that now before you have to take glucosamine tablets on a daily basis like I do just to make sure I can get up and down stairs after age 40 without pain.