Tag Archives: hiphop

Get Groovy Reflection: Is Teaching More About My Subject Or My Student?

A little more than a week ago, I completed one of the most ambitious goals I’ve ever set for myself—the production of an online dance course. This course is a culmination of the saturated learning experiences during my short time as a teacher. Releasing the Get Groovy course got me thinking about the journey that brought me to this point in my pedagogical career and so, I wanted to share a little bit about it today.

531059_131535140304800_283081253_nI remember when I was an undergraduate at Penn State, I would always ask my mentor, Kikora Franklin, if I could teach her Hiphop class. At that time, not many people around me wanted to train in Hiphop the way I wanted to. So, I figured that if I was able to teach a class, I could force people to train with me the way I wanted to train (selfishness at its finest lol)!

Once I got to Ohio State, I believe, to an extent, I brought that mindset to my first group of students. The most important aspect of my classroom was the material being taught rather than the people who I was teaching it to.

One day, near the end of my first semester, I was too tired to do a lot of drills and stuff. So, I just taught a combination that I learned from a Hiphop convention: a little challenging, but to great music and really fun. The class ate the combo up! There were still mess-ups and people had to fight to get the material, but up to that point, I had never seen a group of students so alive in a classroom! I had started to grow accustomed to feeling as though I was talking to a brick wall, “We’re going to do jumping jacks, high knees, and then push ups, we ready?!”…

…crickets…

But, this time, I could see the energy exuding out of students’ eyes as they smiled, half-fived each other, and moved with joy to the song. That moment showed me the value of extracting Hiphop’s message– peace, love, unity, and having fun— and instilling it within a classroom setting. Simply teaching the physical components of dance would never be enough for me from then on. So, I decided that I would use my teaching of dance as a tool to help students construct a deeper connection within themselves and with the others around them.

Since then, I believe that my classroom has changed tremendously for the better. I have made a number of great relationships with students and I know they have connected with each other beyond the classroom– which is ultimately what it’s all about. I’m excited and nervous for every new semester because I love facing the challenge of guiding a group of strangers to gain a sense of a familial bond with one another through Hiphop dance. There are just very few things that satisfy me more than seeing that growth over a short 15-week period.

So, although Get Groovy is an online course where connecting with students is more difficult, I tried my best to create an experience that allows students to not only gain a skill-set, but to also grasp an understanding of how that skill-set can be used to make a better life for themselves and the people around them.

This week is the Get Groovy Launch Week! So, if you’re interested in the course, this week is the time to get it considering it’s 80% off if you click this link: (Get Groovy Launch Week Coupon Link).

Also be sure to follow me on Twitter, Instagram, and Youtube @Cue4christ and Facebook @Cue Arnold. Blessings!

The Technical Dancer: Perception of Beauty through the World of Dance

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After a few years of teaching Hiphop dance, I’ve come to realize how complex the form is. I constantly push myself to find creative ways to break down the fundamentals of Hiphop dance, and I can tell you that transferring the basics to the average student is a difficult thing to do. I’ve found that there are many complicated body patterns within something even as “simple” as grooving to music!

I’ve gathered a new appreciation for all of the dope Hiphop dancers who haven’t had a day of formal training in their lives, yet contain this kinesthetic awareness that allows them to move with such virtuosity! From bboying, to popping, to waacking and more…Hiphop dance is tough! There are so many subtle nuances within each style that these dancers constantly train to maintain and improve. There is a word that people use in ballet and contemporary to describe the execution of fundamentals within their own dance forms…technique.

Yet, I rarely hear the word technique used to describe Hiphop dance. Instead, I hear quotes like, “[We’re] putting together the sort of untrained world of Hiphop with the formally trained…”- Nigel Lythgoe (Director of the television series: So You Think You Can Dance).

Thinking this may just be one person’s bias, I did a little research. First, I typed in “Dance Technique” in google and received these images…
"Technique"

Mostly all of them were in sync with Nigel’s description: long legs and arms, lean bodies, straight lines, pointed feet, flexible muscles, etc. You may think I’m generalizing, but seriously, look for yourself in the pages of google and see what you find. In the same SYTYCD interview, Nigel is asked, “How long does it take for you to tell that this person is great [at dance], or this person is not very good?” and he responds with, “You can basically tell very very quickly…you notice that legs aren’t straight or toes aren’t pointed or the lack of technique is noticed pretty soon.” So, in educating the masses of America (and the world!) about dance, certain leaders– and I would argue many leaders– of the community are instilling an idea of beauty through movement based off of euro-centric ideals. All that is to say, apparently, we Hiphop dancers are untrained, and without technique…ouch.

Yet, that very thought was what I based my value as a dancer on in the beginning of my career. Training within academia, I constantly take classes with bodies that do not look like my own; and, therefore, it is hard not feel frustration at the fact that I am a muscle-bound, flat-footed mover. I have injured myself trying to force myself into splits, faced embarrassment as teachers tried to get me to do something that my body literally won’t do, and wreathed in frustration because, no matter my efforts, I felt as though I was not living up to the idea of a technical, beautiful, mover.

So, this got me thinking…if a Hiphop dancer does not have technique, then what do we have? I did a little more research and typed in, “the antonym of technique”:

Ignorant. Impotence. Inability. Incompetence. Ineptitude. Lack.

…………yea.

In the movie Malcolm X (1992), there is a scene where Malcolm’s mentor in jail is showing Malcolm the definition of black and white in the dictionary during the 1960’s. The definition of “white” had words such as innocent, pure, and harmless while “black” had words like forbidding, foul, wicked and others that exuded negativity and evil. Now, maybe I’m reaching too far…but maybe I’m just connecting dots…why are dance genres that derive from European’s sense of beauty the ones that get the claim of being professional, scholarly, and specialized (synonyms of technical)?

Many people before me have said this, but with this post I’m just here to repeat it: Hiphop dance, as well as every other dance genre that derives from the African tradition, is a technical form. I’m sick and tired of leaders in the industry inferring that the movement that I identify with is inferior to any other. Technical ideas such as groundedness, broken lines, SWAG, isolations, undulations, release, flexed feet, and many more all have value and are technicalities in dance that many “technical dancers” don’t have.

So, to end, I just encourage you to question anyone who talks about a mover having or not having technique. Maybe it won’t do a thing, but I believe that the more we question, the more we become aware, and the less conventions will exist that separate the value of peoples in our nation and in our world.

Hiphop Lesson #1: Empower Yourself while Encouraging Your Community

Ain’t a way around it no more, I am the greatest
A lotta niggas sat on the throne, I am the latest
I am the bravest, go toe to toe with the giants

I ain’t afraid of you niggas, I’ll end up fading you niggas

We all kings
Kings of ourselves first and foremost
While the people debate who’s the king of this rap game
Here comes lil’ ol’ Jermaine
With every ounce of strength in his veins
To snatch the crown from whoever y’all think has it
But rather than place it on his head as soon as he grabs it
Poof, boom, paow, it’s like magic
With a flash and a BANG the crown disintegrates
And falls to the Earth from which it came
It’s done

Ain’t gonna be no more kings” J. Cole Fire Squad, Forest Hills Drive

Maaaaan, I’m fascinated by Hiphop! Over this past week I shared a lecture from Youtube by KRS-One called “40 Years of Hiphop” with my dance classes at The Ohio State University (Buckeyes National Champs say what!?) in order to get them exploring the question of “What is Hiphop?”

In pondering the question myself, I have gained insight to a powerful characteristic of the culture. Hiphop culture contains a paradox that emphasizes self-empowerment and peer-encouragement simultaneously through the form of art and competition. In other words, Hiphop allows the opportunity for an individual to be confident enough to claim that they are the best while also being selfless enough to claim that their peers are the best as well.

This brings up the question of, what is it to be the best? I would say that to be THE best means to be YOUR best. Hiphop culture in the form of bboying, emceeing, djayin, and graffiti writing offers an artistic format in which individuals are encouraged to show their best selves. Speaking from personal experience, whenever I am dancing within a battle, I am going out with the mindset that I am the best dancer out there! Nobody can touch me- I am better than you, you, you, and you! Before you claim me as being pretentious, let me remind you that I desire for my competition to show me their dance with the same mentality!

Why you may ask? Because ultimately, I am Hiphop, and Hiphop is me. But Hiphop is not just me, it is also anyone else who claims that they’re Hiphop. So, therefore, by both of us expressing our best selves through dance, Hiphop is at its best. If both my competition and I consider each other as whack, we ultimately devalue ourselves, and therefore, Hiphop. However, if both my competition and I find empowerment in being our best self, while encouraging the other to be their best self, we both leave as individuals with more value than when we came into the space.

When you look at the quote above, you see this same paradox in the rap element. J. Cole released his album a few months ago and with that release, claims that he is the greatest emcee alive! If you’re agreeing or disagreeing with that statement, you’re missing the point. Now I have to admit, I cannot claim that J. Cole is doing anything more than simply laying out some hot, yet narcissistic lyrics; however, for the sake of this post, lets say he is being intentional. Now J. Cole, being Hiphop and having a Hiphop mindset, is the greatest because he said so! As a fellow Hiphop artist, I say that he is right. Not necessarily because I believe J. Cole’s talent beats all others, but because I believe he, through his album, is contributing his best self to the Hiphop collective.

Hiphop is not the only culture that shares this mindset. As a Christian, I know that Christianity also contributes to this idea of being your best while encouraging others’ to be theirs in order to fulfill the body of Christ. The thing that fascinates me about this concept in regards to Hiphop is people’s perception of the culture. I am generalizing when I say this, but I do not believe many people think that Hiphop culture touches upon anything deeper than money, women, materialistic pleasures, drugs, guns, and partying (Thanks mainstream media!!!). Yet, Hiphop’s foundation also lies in the concept of power to the individual and responsibility to one’s community, amongst many other things. So what is Hiphop? Hopefully, you’ve gathered that it is deeper and more complex than you ever imagined!

The Mental Dance Class: 5 Tips 4 the Heady Dancer

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Over the past few days I have been listening to a podcast series called “The Overwhelmed Brain” by Paul Colaianni. The episodes consist of interviews that discuss ways in which people develop their minds in order to achieve their definition of success. I found the podcast in a general attempt to find multiple sources that could counter-act the crippling, negative, voices that run through my mind on a daily basis, cuz, ya know, one person can only take but so much after a while before it’s just time to be like, SHUT UP! (If only it were that easy!)

Anyways, as I’ve journeyed through the podcast, this idea of control keeps coming up within the interviews. All of these successful people keep mentioning how we need to control our feelings rather than having our feelings control us. And when they say control, what I think they mean is to control your negative thoughts and beat-them-up with positive ones; therefore, not allowing your negative thoughts to overwhelm what your meant to do, whether that be a daily agenda or your life’s purpose.

So I got to thinking about how, like life, dancers allow themselves to get taken out of a positive class experience because their thoughts just get in the way… I don’t know about y’all, but there are plenty of times when I’m giving that full effort, and then the burden of the world just hits me as I can’t accomplish something the way I want to accomplish it…

Messing up the Hiphop combo, like the very beginning of the combo, like within the first 12-counts, so that for the next minute you’re screwing it ALL up! And then, it’s always perfect when that happens after you just got chosen to be in the select group of 3 cuz you was JUST killin’ it the whole class!

…fail.

For those of us who get wrapped up in the thoughts of our mind a little too much, here are some things that I’ve gathered over the past few days that might help:

1. Prepare

If you know that you’re a person who has a tendency to get down on yourself in class, recognize that fact before you arrive at the door, and then leave it there as you walk in. Whether it’s bumping to your favorite songs, listening to a positive speaker, looking at an inspiring quote, speaking with a friend, or whatever, find your own way to get yourself positive and mentally ready for class before you even enter the space.

2. Talk to Yourself…Out Loud

This sounds kind of weird, but in this dope book called the bible it says that death and life are in the power of the tongue. Meaning, the words that come out of your mouth are insanely influential, especially to yourself. Even if you don’t believe in scripture, there are studies (that you can find yourself cuz I don’t feel like looking them up, but there HAS to be studies)…nah there may not be studies, but there are intelligent people (i.e: Tony Robbins in The Edge) who say that speaking out loud an incantation is like listening to the hook of a song– it gets stuck in your brain. So, therefore, all the negativity doesn’t have room to reside in the space between your ears.

3. Smile, Holler, Clap, Support

One of the main things that I have been hearing in the podcast is that your posture and your expressions are indicative of your mood. If you are sulking and look like you ’bout to hit someone cuz you didn’t hit that triple-pirouette for the fourth time in-a-row, then it’s pretty obvious you’re mental state is getting down on yourself. In opposition, smiling, applauding, hollering at someone in support (at least in a Hiphop class, I ain’t ever seen no Ballet class where people are yelling at each other, but by all means try it!) are all conventions that make it hard for negative thoughts to take you down.

4. Go with a Friend

This is probably one of the most obvious, and commonly used, methods to create a positive class experience (until that friend start killin it and you getting all jealous cuz you messing up). But seriously, having someone there who cares about you beyond your abilities in class is probably one of the most powerful tools to foster a positive mindset. We all know that being in a room with plenty of talented people can be intimidating, so having someone you can ask a million questions to, joke with, support, and show love to, can be a crucial remedy to those negative thoughts that ruin the way in which you experience class.

5. Be Thankful
(That you’re not as bad as the person next to you……..I’m playing!)

You can look at this as an internal-external process too, but I’m specifically referring to showing thanks. After each class, go up to the teacher/choreographer and just thank them for their effort, time, and instruction. As humans, we’re all about connecting with one another, and making others feel good simply makes us feel good. So, no matter what kind of class it was for you personally, end it on a good note by being grateful because honestly, it is a blessing to have the money to take class and the health to dance, amongst plenty of other things.

I encourage you to think of plenty other ways to create a positive learning environment for yourself in class, but I hope at least one of these tips prove to be a good starting point for you. Thanks for reading, blessings!

MFA Project: Episode 1: Pilot

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Over the holidays I’ve been processing about my MFA project that I have to create in order to, for a lack of better words, establish my legitimacy as a graduate student in dance at The Ohio State University and show how artfully intellectual I am which I’m clearly doing by writing this long-behind sentence…

I’ve recently had to write a third-draft, five-page proposal for my committee to look over, and hopefully approve. Now if you know me, you know that I am not a writer. I don’t like it, never have. However, since I love Hiphop and want to make a case for how important it is to academia and American culture, I have found that I must painfully accept this art-form, and all its wrath, if I’m going to convince the academic gurus of how the dance-form-from-the-streets is legitimate in the institution.

Foundationbboybook
Foundation by Joseph Schloss

So there are two problems with me and this monstrous obstacle called my MFA proposal. One, I am way too heady for my own good. Every time I want to make a statement, I contradict myself ten-times over until I find myself, an hour later, with a digital blank page and the blink-blink of the cursor staring at me. Two, as if being heady isn’t enough, the documentation of Hiphop dance is, to say the least, scarce. The one book that I have found and read that delves deeply into the physicality and culture of Hiphop dance is a book called, “Foundation” by Joseph Schloss (It’s actually pretty dope so if you’re into the bboying scene you should check it out).  But ultimately, the field could use some more writers, not named Quilan Arnold, who are into the Hiphop dance scene.

Electric Boogaloos: (Left to Right) Mr. Wiggles, Popping Pete, Boogaloo Sam, Skeet, Suga Pop
Electric Boogaloos: (Left to Right) Mr. Wiggles, Popping Pete, Boogaloo Sam, Skeet, Suga Pop

Although there isn’t much written documentation, there are a few OG’s (Original Gangster’s… slang for old heads, also known as founders if we were speaking formally) in the game who are talking about Hiphop dance history and culture through video mediums such as Youtube (which is nice because I’d rather listen than read for my research). But, these OG’s are getting interviewed informally by students who have a thirsty knowledge for Hiphop dance. I, who have been in the game for all but five years, have to formally write a paper for faculty in an academic setting. No offense to the OG’s, but they can talk to me when they have to start defining terms and what-not (Which hopefully happens because I want to talk to founding Hiphop dancers as a part of my project! #swag).

Anyways, so after all of the thinking, stating, contradicting, and frustration, something like this has conjured up: “The evolution of Hiphop dance learning styles has fostered a culture within the academic and professional environments that marginalizes the importance of sharing knowledge through improvisational movement; thus, the essence of Hiphop dance, in expression of individuality, has deteriorated as the form has transferred from the streets to the studio.”

I’ll get into that statement in the next post… #cliffhanger #youwasntready

Shout out to my pops @ haroldarnold.com. He’s helped me so much in this whole process and he, along with the rest of my family, is such a big reason for the blessings I am living in today. Love you!

The V-Spot: Lightness in Hiphop Dance

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As I have worked on my composition skills in the graduate level, I have had moments where I realize I am uncomfortable as I move- but I’m never uncomfortable when I’m moving…unless…unless I feel a sense of vulnerability. That feeling creeps and consumes my soul in few instances: when I am ill-prepared to present, performing to no music, or…wait for it…dancing with my arms above my head. What?! Craziness right?

I don’t know. Both arms in the air, fully giving yourself to whatever comes, that is a scary feeling. I tremble at the thought. There is something about realizing you have nothing to hide behind while a multitude of people are staring at you, expecting from you. A part of it is a personal vendetta; however, I feel as though a part of it is the Hiphop culture I look up to so much.

Hiphop dance was birthed out of the ghetto. It started out as an escape from drugs, violence, gangs and an oppressed lifestyle. The aggression and anger that stemmed from these aspects of urban life within the Bronx, New York were positively directed through this art form. That is to say, the emotional connotations that came with living life in the urban community became ingrained within the essence of Hiphop dance from its birth. Breakers would battle each other instead of shooting each other; yet, while moving to the breakbeat, these dancers would attack each other with the same magnitude of emotion that they would have if they were in a gang drive by…

…and so the lineage has been passed down. Within many styles of Hiphop there maintains a through line of an aggressive, yet cool, nature; displaying strong and direct movement with play between timing and flow. All of which resembles the nuances an urban youth must maintain to survive within the ghettos during the beginnings of the Hiphop era. The moment one displayed an accepting effort quality (light, sustained, indirect, and free) in life was the moment they decided to give up living. Therefore, emotions like vulnerability did not have much acceptance within the overall Hiphop community, including the dance.

I feel as though there is a cultural connotation in regards to the resistance against having both arms in the air while dancing in a typical Hiphop aesthetic and exuding Laban’s accepting effort qualities. I feel weak, naked, and transparent- diminishing my ability to feel confident and “swagged out” like Hiphop has taught me to be. I question whether I have seen anyone breakthrough this conflict that I personally struggle with, and what mindset they are in to accomplish that defiance. I wonder if styles like voguing and whacking would allow me to be more comfortable, and why that may be. Many questions to continue to explore- perfect reason to be in graduate school.

“All In My Head” Choreography (Artist: Tori Kelly)

Hey y’all!

So this is my last video of the semester, I feel like it has been an amazing journey at OSU so far and I wanted to cap it off by going back to what I love to naturally do choreographically- create videos that highlight the dance using my own movement voice.

This small work was simply inspired by Tori Kelly’s voice and power within her music. From the moment I heard it, I knew I would eventually make something up to it. It’s funny because just a few years ago, Adele had just come out, and I remember my frustration because I felt like I was not versatile enough as a dancer to do justice to her songs. Now, I believe that I can dance and choreograph to anything my imagination desires, which is perfect timing considering I am exploring my choreographic voice at school. So this work is a testament to the hard work, love, and support that has nourished my growth and brought me to this point!

I hope you all enjoy and take in the beauty that is this song. Blessings.

Movement Lifestyle Tour Contest

movement-lifestyleMovement Lifestyle Tour Contest

Movement Lifestyle (ML) is pretty much a monopoly within the Hiphop agency business over in Los Angeles. They have contracts with a lot of the top mainstream Hiphop choreographers and dancers that exist on the west coast. However, it is much more than an agency. It literally is a movement. The company’s members seem to be a community more than anything else. They dance in each others’ videos, vouch for each other to obtain professional jobs, teach at each others’ workshops, etc. The company is only a few years old, and yet it is currently one of the biggest known names within the Hiphop industry.

Many of the dancers within the ML company, I happen to be a devout follower of online and, therefore, am constantly following the activities and influence of the ML company. Recently, over the past two years, the leaders of ML have chosen to go on tour throughout the major cities in the country with some of their top dancers/choreographers to hold Hiphop workshops during certain weekends multiple times a year. From what I know, these workshops have almost always sold out and are very expensive. Hence why, as much as I would love to learn from these people, I just cannot ever go.

HOWEVER! From the gates of heaven, an opportunity has presented itself through the company that would allow me to go to a workshop for free. ML is hosting a video contest with a theme of “What Moves You?” And so, I decided to submit a video describing to them why I wanted to go to the event and what I feel moves me.

Whether or not I actually win the contest, it has been good for me to get another opportunity to try and articulate what it is I want to do for the field of dance. And at the same time, I was able to use some new editing techniques that I have discovered through my film studies class. So all in all, my education is having good practical use. Yay me!

So the link is posted. Check it out. It took me hours to make, so I figured that I should make good use of the video even if I don’t win. Wish me luck!