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Safi Thomas

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The History and Structure of Hip Hop

Season 1 : Episode 15 | 14:54

[dropcap]S[/dropcap]afi Thomas speaks about the founding purpose and mission of the Hip Hop Dance Conservatory, unearths the parallel structures of ballet, modern and hip hop, and the discusses the importance of hip hop’s history in its future progress.

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Post by Drew Jacoby

Drew Jacoby, contemporary ballerina, has worked with Alonzo King, Complexions, Morphoses/The Wheeldon Company, Sylvie Guillem, Desmond Richardson, Lightfoot Leon, Mia Michaels, Dutch National Ballet, Lar Lubovitch, and Christopher Wheeldon. She is the founder of DancePulp. She joined Nederlands Dans Theater 1 in August 2012.

Comments (4)

  1. Joseph Houseal June 30, 2011 at 9:41 am

    Safi – fantastic work! Please put some dancing in the video. It would make your explanation so much more compelling. I should interview you for Ballet Review. I have traveled the world for the last 25+ years, in some very remote places…and everywhere – everywhere – the young men wanted to learn hip hop. In one village in Bhutan, they were devoted to hip hop, and had never heard any hip hop music, having no electricity or way to get music. On the same trip, I heard the CEO of an important US foundation badmouthing hip hop to the prime minister, sort of like a conversation crutch – something we can all agree on. I did a little correction without making a scene. Keep it up.

    • Safi Thomas October 6, 2011 at 11:59 am

      Thank you Joseph! Yes, hip-hop dance has spread worldwide and impacts so many people positively. The issue that arises is the one you mentioned. Where those who have no clear understanding of the art-form deride it. What they don’t realize is that the ubiquitous negative images of hip-hop are perpetuated by those outside of the art-form via mainstream media, the music industry, dance shows et al.

      I appreciate you taking the time to reeducate them. Many would disagree yet not articulate it.

  2. sarah s May 12, 2012 at 12:42 am

    DO NOT ATTEND ANY CLASS OR EVENT HELD BY THIS COMPANY. IT INCLUDES MIND CONTROL AND STREES POSITION TORTURE TECHNIQUES..I AM NOT KIDDING.

    My 17 year old daughter who is incredibly fit, active and healthy came out distraught after 3 hours of sheer hell and torture.

    The class consisted of a minimum of 10 minutes of actual so called ‘hip hop’ The first thing these poor children and young adults were forced to do were to stand with arms out stretched with flex palms up in a stress crucifix position for a full 20 minutes. There were 10 employees dressed in black who came round and whispered threats in her ears that if she dropped the position she would ‘let the team down’ and ‘fail’. They hadn’t even been split into teams. Over the 3 hours if you wanted to merely scratch your face or any sort of movement you had to raise your hand and ask permission. She was also made to squat for a full 10 minutes without movement with more whispered threats. No water breaks or bathroom breaks were allowed. She said she has never felt such pain in her life and she is an athlete and a swimmer, she is incredibly fit.

    One man gave a very long mind controlling speech littered with Biblical, Spiritual metaphors and kept picking her to answer bizarre and totally irrelevant questions. She came out with her mind completely confused.

    I will absolutely be taking this further with living social and the New York state of child, health and public services.

    Please do not put yourself or anyone else through this utterly ridiculous experience.

  3. Yvonne Chow May 14, 2012 at 4:15 pm

    Dear Sarah,

    Thank you for your comment. Allow us to reply to your concerns:

    “The class consisted of a minimum of 10 minutes of actual so called ‘hip hop’ The first thing these poor children and young adults were forced to do were to stand with arms out stretched with flex palms up in a stress crucifix position for a full 20 minutes.”

    Our Community class is centered on hip-hop dance and providing students with working knowledge in the foundational elements of Popping, Boogaloo, Locking, Rocking, Breaking, and Social Dance. The class contains 0.5 hours of meditation and flexibility training and 2.5 hours of Hip-Hop dance.

    As this is a community class, our doors and our technique are open to students of all ages, all races, and all genders. The majority of our students are adults while the minority are young adults and children.

    The first exercise you are speaking of is called Arms-Out which is a 10-minute meditative exercise borrowed from the martial art of Wushu. We squat for the last minute of the arms out exercise to warm up the lower body prior to stretching.

    Before dancing, we engage in this to understand that it is our mind that controls our body, and not the body that controls the mind. As dancers we must manipulate our body in a variety of ways, therefore it is important we understand that this starts from our thinking.

    “There were 10 employees dressed in black who came round and whispered threats in her ears that if she dropped the position she would ‘let the team down’ and ‘fail’. They hadn’t even been split into teams.”

    The objective of Community Class is to provide the student with a community of instructors so that they get help from multiple people throughout their learning process. What we explain in the beginning of each class is that each individual in the room is a part of the collective or team, and form the community of learners; hence the name Community Class.

    With regards to our attire, as professional ballet dancers must wear black leotards for their uniform, we too, wear a uniform that
    is color coded to our position within the conservatory.

    “Over the 3 hours if you wanted to merely scratch your face or any sort of movement you had to raise your hand and ask permission. She was also made to squat for a full 10 minutes without movement with more whispered threats. No water breaks or bathroom breaks were allowed.”

    During the latter half of the class we introduce 3 tips based off of dance heuristics (the way we learn how to dance) that are to aid the dancer in picking up movements efficiently and accurately. One of these tips is to raise our hand prior to any movement outside of the choreography (like your example of scratching your face). We do this to take ourselves out of the learning process so that we know the movement we just engaged in is not a part of the choreography. When we are not delineating our movements from the choreographer’s movements we may have blips in our memory or remember inaccurately.

    We have two 3-5 minute bathroom breaks, one after warm-up and the other after the first piece of choreography.

    “She said she has never felt such pain in her life and she is an athlete and a swimmer, she is incredibly fit. ”

    Our training module encompasses both general training and specificity training. So though one may be an athlete, the requirements of their specific sport most likely do not match the very unique art form of hip-hop dance. Your daughter probably used a different set of musculature and after the class experienced delayed onset muscle soreness. This is a normal sensation after having created micro-tears from muscle usage, that after a night’s sleep, will repair and rebuild with greater strength! This is how one is able to build their physical acuity, or readiness for the dance.

    “One man gave a very long mind controlling speech littered with Biblical, Spiritual metaphors and kept picking her to answer bizarre and totally irrelevant questions. She came out with her mind completely confused.”

    The Artistic Director speaks on a wide range of topics which are meant to broaden one’s perspective and help them realize their potential by drawing correlations to seemingly unrelated topics. As the mind controls the body, It is through this expansive worldview that the dance reads clearly on the body. We always encourage students to ask questions should there be any confusion and Instructors stay after class to make sure that we are available and accessible. :)

    We hope this has helped you gain more context and understanding of the experience we have provided to the NYC community for over 20 years. We invite you to sit in on a class to reassess your initial thoughts regarding our pedagogy and standards. Feel free to call or email me if you would like to speak further.

    My Very Best,

    Yvonne H. Chow
    Education Director
    H+ | The Hip-Hop Dance Conservatory
    H+ | Guided by Science. Powered by Soul.®
    y.chow@hdcny.org
    http://www.hdcny.org
    1(800)697-4698 ofc/fax

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