Unlike popular belief, hip-hop is not a new form of expression. It has however, created a new form of interaction, for many all over the world. It has particularly given a means of communication to a class and generation that has not had a voice. Although having a stereotypical image, hip-hop encourages different genders, races and ages of people to participate, with no rules to discriminate.
This weeks reading by April Henderson, ‘Dancing Between Islands: Hip Hop and the Samoan Diaspora’, explores the origin and forms of hip-hop, particularly looking at its activity on Polynesian Islands. Hip-hop originated in New York in the 70’s and is made up of four main elements which represent different aspects of the culture; breaking, DJing, graffiti and MCing. Henderson explores Samoan dancer, Sugar Pop, whose successful career allowed for the international recognition of hip-hop. Incorporating aspects of his Samoan culture, Sugar Pop travelled all over the world teaching and developing hip-hop on a global scale.
Hip-hop often has a negative reputation due to its popularity in ‘the hood’ and similar low-economic areas. Its presence in such areas is due a form of recognition for those who want to be heard but haven’t had a chance or opportunity to speak out. Many styles and lyrics of hip-hop are inspired by the social and economic inequalities faced by these people. Although they are often critisied for their crude and somewhat offensive language and material, it speaks a truth of what many have experience.
Nevertheless, it is not only these groups that are ‘hip hopping’. Most dance schools incorporate hip-hip into their repertoire of dance categories now days with competitions awarding the best b-boys and b-girls. Shows such as “So You Think You Can Dance” often combine different genres of dance and music, including hip-hop, to create original and new performances. This idea of hybridity, has allowed hip-hop to continue to develop and grow as a means of communicating to different groups, cultures and people. Unlike many styles of dance, hip-hops freedom to personalise its features has given this culture no limits, ensuring its longevity.
Nappytabs choreographers, Tabitha and Napoleon D’umo are regular and popular choreographers on So You Think You Can Dance. The two specialise in lyrical hip-hop a form of dance that combines classical dance techniques from jazz and ballet with hip-hop to tell a story through movement. Judge Adam Shankman believes that the pair has successfully shown that, “hip-hop [has] completely become a really legitimate beautiful genre in and of its own and you can tell such beautiful and heart breaking stories.” (“The Top 16 Perform” So You Think You Can Dance, season 4)