Lyrical Hip Hop

By Levinson, Lauren | Dance Spirit, May/June 2009 | Go to article overview

Lyrical Hip Hop


Levinson, Lauren, Dance Spirit


THIS DANCE STYLE IS STORMING THE CONVENTION SCENE AND THE SMALL SCREEN! WAMT TO KNOW MORE? REAN ON!

"Put emotion behind it!: Tabitha and Napoleon D'umo say to a room of Monsters of Hip Hop convention-goers. The D'umos are in the midst of teaching a lyrical hip-hop combination to "Apologize." by OneRepublic. Eighteen-year-old L.A.native Aimee Winston, who assists teachers like the D'umos, Kevin Maher and Tony Testa, concentrates on learning the steps. However, the D'umos instruct her to stop thinking and start feeling. The choreography, a mix of robotic isolations, hard stops, dramatic collapses and floppy bounces, is tailored to bring the song's message (it's too late for forgiveness) to life.

"When 1 put myself in the song and dance out how it makes me feel, my musicality and overall performance is better!" says Aimee, who credits lyrical hip hop with helping her become more animated so she's not just moving for movement's sake.

For dancers like Aimee who want to do commercial work, lyrical hip hop is a must. And jazz and ballet dancers find it to be a smoother transition to hip hop. Lyrical hip hop's contemporary roots are closer to their training than street dance. Plus, they're more familiar with its pretty melodies than rough rap beats.

You may have seen lyrical hip hop on shows like "So You Think You Can Dance" or "America's Best Dance Crew." Still not sure what it is? DS has got the exclusive, all-access breakdown of this popular style!

HIP HOP VS. LYRICAL HIP HOP

I LIKE TO MOVE IT, MOVE IT!

When you're trying to identify a lyrical hiphop routine, look for hip-hop choreography sprinkled with contemporary-inspired steps that tell a story to the lyrics of a song (usually a slow one with a strong beat).

"You're not going to see hitting, locking or buck style in lyrical hip hop," Napoleon says. Expect isolations (especially of the chest), slow, fluid movements (like gliding and body waves) and contemporary-inspired turns (but not pirouettes). There's popping, but not the hard-hitting kind. Dancers are meant to look like they're unwinding, unraveling and floating.

GIVE ME A BEAT!

Both hip-hop and lyrical hip-hop dancers are extremely musical, but they interpret the beat differently. Hip-hop dancers hit the beat (one, two, stop). Lyrical hip-hop dancers ride through the beat while still accenting it (one, two-ooo).

"In hip hop, if you were dancing with a partner, you would punch and stop at his face," "ABDC" judge Shane Sparks explains. "But in lyrical hip hop, you would punch and go past his face. Lyrical hip hop contains movements across measures." And the nuances and smooth melodies of slower R&B songs and ballads are the perfect tunes for the style.

ONCE UPON A TIME

There has always been story-telling in hip hop. "People assume that the only emotions in hip hop are anger and aggression," led Forman, NYC popping teacher, says. "But street dance was also about hardship, and this came out through the moves."

What makes lyrical hip hop unique is that there has to be a story. (In hip hop it's acceptable to have one or not.) And these -*unies go beyond the emoting you might see dancers do during a contemporary routine. Lyrical hip-hop dancers take it to another level by actually playing characters. "A guy walking down the street snapping his fingers isn't dramatic enough to be considered Lyrical hip hop," Tony Testa, commercial guru and convention teacher, explains. "But a guy walking down the street trying to get the girl is\ " Learning how to dance out stones to the extreme can help those looking to release their technique and take their showmanship to the next level.

its Boots

Perhaps the first time you heard "lyrical hip hop" was on Season 4 of "SYTYCD." Mark Kanemura and Chelsie Hightower had just performed a routine about a workaholic and his neglected girlfriend choreographed by the D'umos to Leona Lewis' "Bleeding Love. …

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