Log in Newsletter

Hip Hop And You Don’t Stop… Fayetteville Dance Studios Are Thumping With Hip Hop Dance Classes

There was a time when dance class meant uncomfortable shoes, silly outfits and hours of rehearsing to “Swan Lake” or “Singin’ in the Rain.”

But, like a lot of things, dance class isn’t at all what it used to be.

In studios all over Fayetteville, hip-hop dance classes are packing in eager students of all ages. And it’s no passing fad.

“We’ve been doing the hip-hop since we opened,” says Tara Herringdine, owner of Cumberland Dance Academy. “We only had one hip-hop class then, but now we have seven.”

It’s evidence that hip-hop, as some say, is the new jazz: a uniquely American creation that serves as the soundtrack to a whole new culture.

“It’s something they can relate to more than any other type of dance,” says Karen Hall, owner of The Dance Connection. “They can see things in movies and music videos and mimic what they saw in class. They don’t have to go to a ballet to see professionals doing what they’ve learned.”

It’s not just for the MTV set, either. Students as young as 5 years old have been getting in on the action.

Some parents are a little nervous about it at first, especially with the younger kids,” says Herringdine. “I try to let them know that there are boundaries in the moves we teach. There’s nothing vulgar, and the music is edited if it needs to be. It’s not a free for all.”

Most parents eventually come around – some even sign up for the classes themselves.

“Sometimes we have parents who take the hip-hop class while their little ones are in ballet,” says Hall. “It appeals to all ages.”

Classes are typically broken into age groups so that the tiny dancers and the advanced adults each are comfortable in their own setting

“It’s a lot like other dance classes,” says Raquel Berry, an instructor at The Dance Connection. “They warm up from head to toe to loosen up their muscles, then do some cardio to get the heart pumping. Then we work on specific moves and put them together.”

Hall says part of the appeal is that hip-hop dancing is less structured than ballet or jazz.

“They don’t have to memorize every little thing perfectly,” she says. “They get to improvise a little.”

Herringdine agrees.

“When you tell them to freestyle, they just let the music move them,” she says. “It’s amazing to see the stuff they come up with. And that’s when the shy ones really come out of their shell.”

It may seem that jazz and ballet have fallen out of favor, but both remain popular and serve to complement the hip-hop course.

“They still need to have that foundation,” says Berry. “There’s no substitute for the technical things they learn in ballet and jazz. It helps them a lot later on. Hip-hop is a mix of every dance, so the more they’ve done when they get to hip-hop, the better.”

Julie Bensimon, a sixth grader at East Hoke Middle School, is a good example of that. She’s been taking hip-hop classes for six years after laying a foundation in ballet and jazz when she was just a toddler. She goes to The Dance Connection three nights a week.

“I just love to dance,” she says. “In the hip-hop classes, you can be loose and have more fun. But I’m glad I took the other classes too.”

On the higher end of the age range is Therren Scriven, a sophomore at Methodist University. She’s been going to dance class since the third grade, and hip-hop classes for the past four years.

“With most dance classes, you just try to get better and doing the same basic things,” she says. “But with hip-hop there’s always something new to learn. And it’s fun. It never gets boring.”

You might think that a college student with some hip-hop classes under her belt would be eager to show off in Fayetteville’s nightspots. But not this one.

“I think that was my mom’s plan, why she put me in dance classes so young,” she says, laughing. “To get it out of my system in class so I wouldn’t be hanging out in the clubs.”

Lia Tremblay has written about many aspects of Fayetteville for CityView Magazine.