With a mix of anxiousness and excitement, I walked into UNLV’s Student Wellness and Recreation Center on Feb. 19 to take part in the first installment of The Exchange, a monthly dance workshop taught by the JabbaWockeeZ. Although I’ve been taking dance classes my whole life, I have little experience with hip-hop and definitely no idea what it takes to dance like the hip-hop crew who rose to fame as the Season 1 winners of MTV’s America’s Best Dance Crew. Would I be able to keep up with intricate movements and BBoy techniques that the JabbaWockeeZ have become known for, or would I make a complete fool of myself?
I felt intimidated when I stood behind members of an elementary-school-age dance crew who traveled from Sacramento, Calif., to take class from their break dancing idols. But my self-consciousness would soon disappear.
I decided to be adventurous and enroll in BBoy fundamentals. (Other class options included groove basics, beat mapping, music and movement and isolation techniques.) In this class I found myself in a sectioned-off portion of a basketball court, laughing as I crawled around on the ground attempting the “Six-Step,” a BBoy move in which your feet make a complete circle around your body while alternating your hands on the ground to keep balance. As I looked around the intimate six-student class, with students ranging in age from about 8 to 30, I could see that at least I wasn’t alone in my struggles. The young hip-hop prodigies from Sacramento caught on easily, while some of the others (me included) had to keep trying.
We all got a taste of the true spirit of break dancing when Rainen, the crew member known for his marathon head spins, explained that break dancing began as way for inner-city youth to turn their negative situations into positive ones, and encouraged us to get into a circle and “vibe-out” in a friendly dance battle. It was apparent through this exercise that whether laughing at our inadequacies or happily conquering new moves, the only thing we all had in common was the smiles on our faces.
Although I learned some basic movements in the workshop, break dancing is a form of freestyle movement in which dancers must inject their own personal style. Since it takes a lot of time and practice to cultivate this style, one session didn’t transform me into a precisely smooth and musically inclined JabbaWockee, but it sure was a great way to start and a lot of fun to try.