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Fort Wayne Hip-Hop Dance: Anything But Routine

By Sean Smith

Fort Wayne Reader


When I was eight years old I saw the movies Breakin', Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo, and Beat Street and quickly became determined to learn and recreate the moves I had seen in those films. My cousin and I would take a sheet of cardboard to the local grocery store and lay it down on the linoleum floor next to the video games and vending machines where mothers left their children while shopping. We would try and cram as many moves together as we could, while also trying to impress one another with something new we had thought up to try, before our parents were done picking up everything they needed. Things sure have changed since those days and it's been a change for the better.

Fort Wayne Hip-Hop Dance, located at 4722 Parnell Avenue , has been teaching youth from ages five-up since first opening on May 1st of 2006. Joshua 'Glide' Rowlett and his wife, Amber 'Pringlz' Rowlett own and operate the business and have two other instructors on staff, Jocelyn 'Evil-Lynn' Eckhout and Andre 'Popula' Kiner. Each of them instructs a different type of dance. 'Glide' teaches Breakin', 'Pringlz' teaches Poppin', 'Evil-Lynn' teaches Lockin', and 'Popula' teaches Rhythm and also serves as a substitute Poppin' instructor.

Classes meet once a week and are offered for three different age groups: 5-10, 11-17 and 18-up. Open practice sessions on Saturdays are also available along with numerous workshops and documentary viewings throughout the semesters.

'Glide' says the studio came about as a way to bring control back to the Hip-Hop community. He explains, "It was more so a solution to a problem than it was an actual idea. One of the biggest problems with Hip-Hop today is the people who are part of this culture don't control the business aspect of it. Most people know the business of rap is controlled by corporations, but overlook who's controlling the dance business of Hip-Hop. We can say that the dance forms of Hip-Hop are being raped just as much as the music of Hip-Hop. You have many dance studios that claim to teach Hip-Hop, but can't tell you one thing about the history of Hip-Hop, let alone the actual dance forms. They basically choreograph steps to Hip-Hop music and then teach those steps to the students. Therefore, the students are not learning an actual dance style of Hip-Hop, but more a choreographed routine of steps. This gives the student no freedom of expression and does not teach one how to dance, but instead binds the creativity of the dancer and their relationship to music. We at Fort Wayne Hip-Hop Dance focus on teaching the foundation of each particular style and then showing one how to express themselves with that foundation. We basically show you the sidewalk and let you walk down that sidewalk however you feel."

And just how long after walking down that sidewalk will you master any certain style of dance? "In our opinion, it's impossible to master any dance form," admits 'Glide', "Dance is the relationship between the human body and music. Therefore, you can only strengthen that relationship. All art is a constant learning process just as life is."

Seeing the students learn and pass on that knowledge is the most fulfilling aspect of teaching. "Our students have an understanding of each particular movement they learn in class. Everything from its creator, terminology and how it has evolved," 'Glide' says. "But most importantly, to watch one of our younger students teach another about the history of the dance style he or she is learning. That gives the future of our dance forms a bright hope, knowing that the history and the founders of our dance forms will not be forgotten."

Something else not forgotten at the studio is the other aspects of the Hip-Hop community, such as art and music.

"Five local artists did the murals on the walls inside of the studio. All of it was done with a spray can. Since we are a Hip-Hop dance studio, we wanted to represent some of the other elements of the culture of Hip-Hop," says 'Glide', proudly. "We strive to teach the history and knowledge of the entire culture, not only the dance forms of Hip-Hop."

When asked if the studio will continue to feature live Hip-Hop shows, such as the Sub-Surface CD release party, 'Glide' answers in the affirmative. "Very much so! This is another thing which makes us different than these so-called Hip-Hop dance instructors. We are actually part of the Hip-Hop culture and we want our students to experience the other elements of it. Every one of our students gets in free to every show that takes place here."

What does the future hold for Fort Wayne Hip-Hop Dance? A second studio? Perhaps. "As of right now, we're focused on only one location," confides 'Glide', "Yet, who knows what will happen if we continue to grow at the rate we are."

As of right now there are 60 students, but the long-term goal is more than three times that. "We want to reach at least 100 students by July," says 'Glide', "Long term, we want to reach a total of 200 students. Another goal is to eventually bring in the founders and pioneers of each dance style we teach. So the students will be able to meet face to face with the creators of the moves they are learning and gain knowledge directly from the source."

Anyone interested in more information pertaining to classes or enrollment, feel free to call (260) 471-7535 or contact the studio on-line at: www.myspace.com/fortwaynehiphopdance

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