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MC Hammer Meets the Greeks

When rhythm and the beats of a song overwhelm the body, it creates a form of dance. Anyone has the ability to move, whether it be tapping a foot on the tile floor or spinning in circles in a field of grass. According to dictionary.com, dance is “a successive group of rhythmical steps or bodily motions, or both, usually executed to music”. All forms of dance are used for a sole purpose: to express emotion. Emotions are felt daily by every person. Everyone rides through life on a sentimental roller coaster, constantly fluctuating between hills and rapid drops. Dance allows these feelings to be expressed, telling a story through the movement. Slow, heavy movements can be used to convey sorrow; quick, sharp movements indicate jealously or anger; and soft, slow movements communicates peacefulness. All styles of dance have a meaning, expressing deep emotions and obstacles in life through movement. Some artists use dance as a method of rebelling against the strict rules of society, creating new styles such as modern and hip-hop. In Greece, Isadora Duncan fabricated modern to revolt against the stern mold of ballet. Following her revolution were the Americans who used street dancing to go against exceedingly technical forms of dance, producing hip-hop. Although modern branches from poised ballet and hip-hop was created on the streets, both are used to express the inner thoughts and emotions of the dancers.

Modern dance, created in the 1900s, is the first professional form of dance to allow free expression of emotion and movement. Ballet was the only style of dance performed in theaters at the time, demonstrating that dancers must be petite and perform rigid, emotionless routines. Isadora Duncan desired an innovative form of dance where people of different shapes were accepted and the moves allowed the body to be liberated. Choreography incorporates elements of daily life into the moves. Simplicity is the basis of modern dance. Moves tend to be fluid, opposing the rigid style of ballet. Attitude—standing with one leg in the air with the knee bent—and prancing—a form of jumping with high knees and rolling through the balls of the feet when landing—are common steps in a modern piece. Triplets are frequently used when switching formations, as the music is usually in three counts. Dancers are free to invent new movements, and established modern steps are loose with no specific technique required. Modern dance uses these abstract movements to express the ideas of the choreographer.

Although hip-hop is also a style of dance in defiance of exacting structure, the history and movements greatly differ from modern. In the decade of hippies and disco, African Americans in the Bronx during the 1970s created their own form of dance. First starting in the streets, dancers perform to hip-hop music and rap. The music has strong beats, in counts of four. Famous hip-hop dancers include MC Hammer, Michael Jackson (a break-dancer), and rappers such as Jay-Z and Eminem. Along with a new dance style, new vocabulary arose such as the jerk, stanky leg, baby freeze, and popping. Choreography usually includes six steps on the ground, shoulder stands with the feet in the air, and isolations with movement in only a single part of the body. With these steps, hip-hop demonstrates the mood of the performer, typically expressing anger through hard, sharp movements. Even though it may appear to be an emotionless street dance, the moves tell the story of the struggling and hardships to make it on the streets.

As different as modern and hip-hop appear, both are forms of movement that convey feelings and communicate a story. Each style of dance faced hardships before being recognized as an “official” form of dance, defying social norms in the beginning. Modern dance and hip-hop alike created a new definition for the dancer, obliterating the idea that all performers must be thin and graceful. Both of these methods of movement use the body to transmit a message. The sharp angles and hits in hip-hop demonstrate anger and frustration. Abstract movements in modern force the audience to analyze the moves, deciphering the story and emotions for themselves. All choreography has a hidden meaning, waiting for the observer to interpret.

Through diverse techniques and styles, modern and hip-hop express the emotions of the dancer and choreographer through the body. Each developing from its own history of rebellion, the two types of dance use different methods to convey the same meanings in movement. Performers communicate messages similar to artists. As artists use a canvas to share their art and thoughts with the world, dancers use their bodies as a form of art. The body is a blank canvas, waiting to be displayed to the human population through movement and music. From the poppers on the streets breaking out in hip-hop to the abstract thinking contemporary dancers on a stage, all dancing has a deeper meaning and tells the story of a culture and the people. The performer conveys a message to the onlooker, a message that is waiting to be interpreted. Dance—a secret language waiting to be deciphered.





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