Exposing children to hip hop music and dance can deepen their cultural appreciation for all the performing arts. Hip hop is especially relevant to the youth of today, as more and more young people are being raised in urban areas. Hip hop is recognized as a powerful means of self-expression and a positive outlet for inner city youth.
Pass On the Movement
Call and response is commonly found in hip hop dance. Dancers stand in a circle and respond to the movements of previous dancers or challenge others performing next. Have Student A perform a gesture as he moves across the circle toward Student B, passing off the gesture with eye contact. Then Student A assumes B's position. Student B moves across the circle performing the gesture. Halfway across, Student B switches to her own gesture and passes it off to Student C. The game continues until each student has performed a gesture and passed on one of their own.
Use a familiar movement, such as a handshake, to introduce hip hop dance. Have children work in pairs to choreograph a handshake series about two 8-counts long. Hip hop dance is often thought of as a conversation between individuals or groups. Children should develop a nonverbal conversation utilizing their handshake routine that they can perform for the class or their parents.
Hip hop dance often tells a story and expresses ideas through nonverbal communication. Make cards with an emotion written on each. Also list some examples of ways the emotion can be expressed without making a sound. For example, grief might be expressed by hanging the head down, rounding the shoulders and cupping the face with the hands. Have children pick a card and perform the emotion while the group guesses which emotion is being acted out.
Break Dance Vocabulary
Give children a vocabulary list of breakdance moves. The list might include moves such as backspins, top rock and turtles. Have children guess what the move might look like, based on the name. Afterward, find examples of the moves being performed on a video hosting website, such as YouTube or Vimeo. See if the children were able to accurately guess what the moves were based only on the name.
Evolution of Hip Hop
Hip hop has roots dating back to slavery. Explain to the students that music was a way slaves could communicate with each other by encoding lyrics with double meanings. Create a playlist of songs that show the evolution from work songs and spirituals to funk and hip hop. The playlist might include work songs like "Pickin' Cotton All Day Long" and jazz songs like "Don't Worry 'Bout Me." Have children discuss what life might have been like when these songs were written and what messages they convey.
Amelia Wolff has been a freelance writer since 2008. She currently lives in Appleton, Wisc. Her work can be found in several publications throughout the Fox Cities, including "Women" magazine. Her full-length original play "Odell and Myrna" was produced in 2008 by the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, where Wolff holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English.