Hip-Hop Hoopla

Hip-hop—yes, it is all the rage. Just ask any young dancer. But where can you learn to pop ’n’ lock, Harlem shake, and do the Crip Walk in Westchester? Almost every local dance studio offers hip-hop classes—but which is the best? Sleepy Hollow Performing Artists, according to the scores of dancers we spoke to. Here we take a spin with Debralyn Press, the artistic director at Sleepy Hollow, who has trained with the Boston Ballet and at the Tisch School at NYU.

Q: Describe hip-hop dance.
I used to dance with rock ’n’ roll bands in the eighties; that was ‘hip-hop,’ but it was really jazz dance. It is a very American dance form, but today it’s become a mix of African jazz, contemporary dance, ballet, and Brazilian martial arts.

Q: Describe a typical hip-hop class.
First we stretch, then do isolation exercises, then crunches and push-ups. Then for forty-five minutes to one hour it’s choreography. We sweat a lot. Hip-hop is a real cardio experience. And as for what to wear? I let my students wear sneakers and baggy clothes. Many wear hats.

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Q: Do hip-hop dancers need to be technically trained?
I’m a big believer in technique—especially if you want to dance professionally. Hip-hop is now a necessity if you want to work professionally. Look at In the Heights and Rent; there’s a lot of hip-hop on Broadway and in professional venues.

Q: Has hip-hop attracted more guys to dance?
Absolutely. I have a whole bunch of males at my studio. I brought them in with break-dance, but eventually they learned that their break-dancing and hip-hop would get better with jazz and ballet. Hip-hop opens doors for males because it can be a more macho style.

Q: What do you think about the hip-hop programs here in Westchester?
Too often, it’s not real hip-hop. I see ballet dancers shaking their butts a little bit. Someone may have all the training in the world but that doesn’t make them a hip-hop dancer.

Q: Where else in Westchester would you recommend taking hip-hop?
: I just went to see Dina Giordano’s school, City Center Dance of White Plains. They have authentic hip-hop.

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