AMUSE: Hip Hop: A way of life

Tara Flockhart

Like jazz, tap or ballet, hip-hop is a genre of dance that has developed into not only a form of expression but also a way of life.

Although the hip-hop lifestyle is often portrayed by the media as being fixated on scantily clad women gyrating themselves around men using explicit language, rappers sporting grills or the ever-popular “bling-bling,” students in the ISU Hip Hop Dance Club are trying to shatter those television stereotypes by bringing the true hip-hop culture to Iowa State.

“People need to realize that it’s more than shakin’ your booty,” said Jon Paul, senior in journalism and mass communication and member of the hip-hop club for one year.

The ISU Hip Hop Dance Club, also known as Dub H, was started in 2002 with fewer than 30 members. Since then, the club has grown to more than 300 students. Adviser Jan Duffy, adjunct instructor of accounting, said in the last five years, she has seen many more students involved and the club is getting a lot of requests from other organizations asking them to perform.

“I think [the hip-hop club] is doing a lot more and has a lot bigger presence,” Duffy said. “They’re really spreading their arms around the community.”

The club has become an activity where members can interact and make friends, but for some, there is an underlying tone of something much more important.

“[The hip-hop club] tries to show an appreciation of this genre of music and this culture through the art of dance. It’s not just about the music; it’s a way of life for a lot of people,” said Kenan Peters, senior in agricultural studies and member of Dub H for three years.

Members of Dub H counteract hip-hop stereotypes in mainstream media, as well as challenge stereotypes on campus.

“Hip-hop in general is misunderstood. The club challenges the stereotype in that there are many different types of people in the club. I was the typical fraternity guy, but the club has everything from fraternity men to ballet dancers,” Paul said. “It can be enjoyed by everyone.”

Dub H members come from several different backgrounds and are involved in various clubs and organizations on campus.

“People in the club don’t have to worry about looking cool when they dance – they’re just there to dance,” said Nicholas Murphy, senior in kinesiology, president of Dub H and member for three years. “Many people are on the same level, whether that’s advanced or having no experience at all.”

Thomas Johns, junior in industrial technology, says the hip-hop club is a great organization that welcomes everyone at all skill levels.

“There’s a lot of talent in the club and lot of people are really good at what they do, whether it’s choreographing or technical dance,” Johns said.

As the hip-hop club has grown, so has the audience it reaches. Seth Inyang, senior in mechanical engineering, enjoys going to see the shows.

“[The hip-hop club] is an inspiration because I think it’s cool when people go outside of what they normally do. It’s inspired me to do some things, like starting my own clothing line. It’s completely outside of my major, but I figured, ‘Why not?'” Inyang said.

Peters said for the members of the hip-hop club, whether amateurs or pros, dancing is a form of expression and an outlet for a variety of emotions. For many, their experiences fuel their desire to move.

“Dancing is something I can do whether it’s been a good day or a bad day. I just want to dance,” Peters said.

Nick Curtis, member of Dub H for five years and one of its founding members, said many members use the club as a way to broaden their horizons as dancers and choreographers, a way to get in shape, or as another form of expression. For some, it is a stepping stone for those who eventually want to move on to do more with their dancing potential.

Steven Flagg, member of Dub H for three years, has choreographed six dances throughout his tenure in the club. After choreographing his last dance this fall, Flagg will be joining the Monsters of Hip-Hop Tour, a 13-city tour with 13 choreographers that travels around the country and hosts workshops.

Flagg has also worked with Alicia Keys on her performance at the 2002 Iowa State Fair and with Wade Robson of “The Wade Robson Project,” who has choreographed for artists such as Britney Spears and *NSYNC.

Peters and Curtis have both utilized their choreography skills to choreograph for events and dance studios in the surrounding area.

Peters has been a hip-hop choreographer for Behn’s Centre of Dance in Boone for the past two years and choreographed for the Big Hair Ball in Des Moines in 2005 and 2007.

Curtis has used his skills to choreograph for Gretta Misean’s Studio of Dance in Ankeny as well as explore new dance styles during his summer in New York City.

On Tuesday, the two collaborated in a four-hour hip-hop workshop (two dances, two hours each) in hopes of bringing a more raw form of hip-hop to the dance community. The workshop was $5 per person, and at the time of the interview, the choreographers were expecting between 200 to 300 students.

While the mainstream media today heavily influence the views of hip-hop culture, members of Dub H are changing the perceptions of the stereotypes.

“Originally, I joined [the hip-hop club] for fun. But since then, dancing has become more than something I just do. It’s become something I absolutely love,” Paul said.

The hip-hop club holds two performances each year in which members perform dances choreographed by other students. Prior to the shows, open workshops are held where all students are welcome, followed by rehearsals scheduled for individual dances until the time of the performance. The first open workshop will be held Sept. 4 at 8:30 p.m. in the Forker Building.