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From Pointe to Popping: Taking My First Hip-Hop Class as an Ex-Ballet Student

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Mass Amherst chapter.

On most days from the ages of three to 16, you could find me at my ballet studio. As a Boston Ballet School student, my schedule was filled with technique classes, pointe work, and weekly instruction of character dance. In the summertime, I would get a taste of some other types of dance: modern, jazz, musical theater, you name it. But the one style of dance I never tried until this semester was hip-hop. 

As someone who loves dancing, I’ve spent a lot of time watching famous hip-hop choreographers on YouTube and dancers performing combos on TikTok. After many years away from the dance studio, I decided to sign up for DANCE 197P: Introduction to Hip-Hop in my final semester at UMass.

I knew that taking this class would be a challenge for me. As excited as I was for it, I had been on a dance class hiatus for a while. On top of that, hip-hop is the antithesis of ballet in many ways. As formal as many ballet movements can be, hip-hop movements can be just as informal. Although I knew that my ballet training would be somewhat helpful, I realized I would have to pick up a lot of new techniques and focus on movement aspects that my body was unfamiliar with.

I’m very lucky to have a knowledgeable and talented hip-hop instructor. He emphasized the importance of learning the history of hip-hop and where its various moves originated from. I went from being eight years old and writing down French words and the story of Louis XIV as the Sun King in my ballet notebook to being 22 and taking notes on the South Bronx, the Black and Latino experience, and the MOPTOP crew.

Street Dancing In The Park B&W 3
Anna Thetard / Her Campus

As I progressed through my first hip-hop classes, I began to see overlaps between ballet and hip-hop. We stood in second position, warmed up with stretching and splits, paid attention to how our head and upper body flowed with our legs, and used terms like upstage leg and plié. I also began to notice the freedoms I had in hip-hop and how I could customize steps to make them my own. I realized how many hip-hop movements could happen in just eight counts and how instead of focusing on my turn-out or pointed feet, I needed to focus on my breathing and keeping my mind sharp to hit the next move on time. I’ve found myself taking more moments to catch my breath and reach for my water bottle in hip-hop class than I have in my ballet classes.

Although I am new to the world of hip-hop dance, I can see just how much athleticism and skill it takes to be a good hip-hop dancer. From doing push-ups and isolations during warmups to learning new combinations each class, I am loving the challenges that my body and mind get to face. More than anything, I am loving just how much fun I’m having dancing to popular music and being back in a dance studio again.

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Vera Gold

U Mass Amherst '23

Vera is a senior communication major at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She is the Facebook Coordinator of her chapter and loves writing about digital media, beauty, and entertainment.