By Lesley Mealor / Edited by Samantha Bellerose, B.Ed, Dip.Dance (Performing Arts)
Helping your child improve at a skill you may not be familiar with can feel like a daunting task. I know I would be lost if I was asked to help anyone improve in, say, chess! But when it comes to assisting your dancing son or daughter with their hip-hop dance skills, there are plenty of easy and fun ways to level up their abilities from home!
In order to help your child improve in hip hop, you can encourage practicing at home, study hip hop dancers online and on social media, and record your dancer performing choreography to analyze what skills they could improve on.
If you haven’t yet been able to sit in on one of your child’s hip hop classes, that might be a helpful first step in understanding what it will take to help them improve. Until then, catch up by reading our article on What To Expect From Your Child’s First Hip Hop Class!
- Encourage Practicing at Home
- Create a Dedicated Practice Space
- Games For Developing Personal Style
- Exercises For Practicing The Basics
Encourage Practicing at Home
If your dancer is struggling to improve in hip hop class, it’s important for them to remember that learning to dance doesn’t stop when you leave the studio.
Practicing at home is one of the best ways to make sure that dancers come to class each week ready to progress.
Practicing hip hop at home doesn’t have to be boring or tedious, though. If you are committed to helping your child work on their skills, you can make practice time something to look forward to by creating a dedicated practice space, playing games that help develop a personal style, and working on the rudiments of hip hop.
Create a Dedicated Practice Space
Your home studio space can be anything from a full-blown dance studio with floors, mirrors, and lighting, or something simple like a corner of a bedroom or bonus room. Just like your child probably has a dedicated space to do their homework, they should have a special place to practice dance. Check out our resources on creating a home dance studio space here!
Games For Developing Personal Style
One of the key elements of being a great hip hop dancer is developing your own personal style. Some people, kids included, seem to have a natural swag, but most folks need to experiment to find their own unique way of moving. To help develop a flair all their own, check out these exercises and games to practice!
Exercises For Practicing The Basics
Just like learning the piano or memorizing the multiplication tables, beginner hip-hop skills take a lot of practice to really get them into the body. Muscle memory will eventually take over as skills become more natural, but in order to get to that point, repetition is key. Luckily, there are some ways to make these basic exercises fun that will pay off in the end! Check them out here!
1. Study Hip Hop Dancers Online and On Social Media
We live in a world where inspiration of all kinds can be found by a swipe, a tap, or a click, and hip hop is no exception. One of the best ways to learn is by studying others.
By analyzing what makes a great hip-hop dancer so great, dancers can absorb that information, and go back and apply it to their own practice sessions.
While current hip-hop dancers will show you what is happening now in the industry, it’s also imperative that young dancers go back in time and study the early pioneers of hip hop and funk styles.
Because hip hop’s history is relatively young (1973 is said to be the year hip hop truly began!), there is still easily accessible footage of what original hip hop and funk-style dances looked like. Here are a few OG videos highlighting some of the greats!
2. Breaking, or BBoying
This clip is from the cult classic movie “Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo”, featuring popular break dancers from the 1980s. Break dancing was the original form of hip hop dance that emerged from the hip hop culture of the early 1970s and is characterized by athletic and power moves, as well as intricate footwork. Featured in “Breakin 2: Electric Boogaloo” are dancers Shabba Doo, Lucinda Dickey, and Michael Chambers.
The Lockers were one of the first street dance groups, formed by Don “Campbellock” Campbell in the early 1970s. Locking involves “freezing” after a fast movement, holding the position, and then quickly moving into the next move. Locking also includes athletic and acrobatic moves, as seen in the clip.
4. Social Dances
The origin of social dances in hip hop goes all the way back to James Brown, who popularized such dances as the Funky Chicken, the Mashed Potato, and the Boogaloo, which influenced Don Campbell of The Lockers. Social dances continue to influence hip hop, and the clip above shows the evolution of some of the most popular social dances in the genre.
More current hip-hop dancers can be found easily via social media. Some of my favorites to watch and learn from are KidaTheGreat, sisters Norah, Yarah, and Rosa who are collectively billed as Let It Happen, Les Twins, and Zack Jot. Check them out and find your own favorites!
A Note About TikTok Dances
Keep in mind that viral TikTok dances, for the most part, are not considered hip hop (although you will see real hip hop dancers doing TikTok videos using real hip hop vernacular). Be sure to be discerning with what styles of hip hop and funk dances you and your child are watching to help them improve. Our hip hop resource page has tons of information about the different, legitimate styles of hip hop and funk styles.
5. Learn More About Hip Hop’s Origins
If your dancer is more of a reader, you can also find lots of information online about the history of hip hop. While hip-hop teachers can sometimes add in a bit of dance history to their classes, most of the time will be spent dancing, so it is important to do some homework after class. For Dance Parent 101’s concise history of the origins of hip hop, head over here.
6. Record Your Dancer and Watch The Video
Dancers of all ages, levels and genres can benefit from an honest look at themselves doing choreography. What we see in the mirror or feel in our bodies can sometimes not translate to what is actually happening.
Perhaps your dancer really thinks they are dancing full out with precision and energy, but in reality, they’re only giving 80%. By filming themselves and watching the video, they may notice different things than when they are simply watching in the mirror.
Practice Without Video
The best way to approach this task is to use choreography from class, whether that is a recital dance or a combo they learned for fun. First, have your dancer practice a few times without the camera, just to get any nerves out before filming.
Video Your Dancer
Then, when they feel ready, it’s showtime! Play the music and record them dancing on your phone. Pro-tip – you will need to play the music from another device, as most phones won’t allow you to record video AND play music.
Analyze the Video
After the recording session is over, sit down with your dancer and take a look at the video. Depending on how media-friendly your family is, this might be the first time your child has seen themselves dancing on video! Sit through the first viewing without talking or analyzing, and simply enjoy the performance.
In the next few viewings, you can choose to focus on one or two things within the video that might be able to be improved. Is your dancer with the music? Are they hitting all the movements with energy and attack, or do they lose steam quickly? Do they look like they are having fun or do they look miserable?
Those ideas for things to look out for are easily noticed by even the most inexperienced viewer, so don’t worry if you don’t have any hip-hop skills yourself. They are also easily remediable – if your dancer is behind the music, next time you can help them stay on the beat by using a metronome (pro tip – simply Google “metronome” and one comes right up!) If they are not attacking their steps with energy, it might be time for some family cardio exercise to build stamina. If they look miserable, have a chat about why.
Improving your child’s hip-hop skills doesn’t have to feel like work with these tips to help you! From an easy afternoon of watching dancers on YouTube to find inspiration, to focused time spent practicing the basics at home, you can rest assured that you will see results in the classroom and on the stage in no time!