As a mother of two boys, ages 7 and 8, one thing I know for sure is that boys are definitely active! While sports are a great avenue to channel their energy productively, I have found that the activities are also competitive and potentially damaging to self-esteem without constant parental guidance and motivation. I have watched some children on the sidelines of football games who get discouraged quickly if they are not the fastest, most agile players. Youth sports are wonderful, but some children may find them difficult until they have a better sense of body awareness and movement.
I taught dance for many years in a very structured environment. Typically, a few male students would inevitably drop out around the second or third grade due to the peer pressure of being a male dancer. However, with more television shows bringing to light the value of dance in boys’ lives and more male singers dancing in music videos, one style of dance seems to be above the peer pressure of the “male dancer” stigma. Hip-hop classes for “boys only” are becoming popular and are one of the only dance classes that recreation centers can implement easily.
No Tights, No Dance Clothes
One of the best aspects of hip-hop class is its non-dance appeal. Parents and young boys are typically afraid dancers will have to wear tights and dance clothes like the male dancers on television. However, hip-hop is geared to the non-dancer. Street clothes are acceptable attire, as are hats and other “security blankets” boys may need to feel more comfortable. In a dance studio, hip-hop shoes are typically required to keep uniformity and protect the dance floor from the dirt on regular shoes, but these are not required in a recreation center.
Another aspect of hip-hop that boys enjoy is the ability to move in their own unique style; there’s no pressure to get the steps perfect. In the class my boys are in, one of the best parts is when the teacher allows some impromptu dance time. The boys stand in a circle and clap, then each one enters the circle and shows off his best hip-hop moves. This encourages the boys because they have their peers cheering them on, smiling and clapping while they dance in their own style. This is something they would never have in youth sports unless they were one of the best players. But here, everyone is competing against themselves rather than each other. Each week, they think about what new move they are going to bring to the circle, and they practice the moves at home, waiting for their day to shine.
In talking with other parents, some like how the teacher keeps them moving for an entire hour. They say it looks like an aerobics class for boys. They love that the teacher has them learn new moves together, and although they are corrected on faulty footwork, they are exploring movement with music while learning discipline and getting exercise.
A Typical Class
At Victoria’s School of Dance in Brandon, Fla., the instructor, Christine Manchesi, begins with a warm-up that includes some boxing moves, groovy hand waves and body movements, and, of course, the “bad-boy” walk and head-nodding every boy signs up for. This allows the boys to immediately begin learning the hip-hop moves without feeling like they are doing a typical dance-class warm-up. This usually lasts about 20 minutes.
Next, she lines the boys up and sends them across the room in groups of three to perform some hip-hop steps together. They really enjoy this part because they can see other boys’ moves and learn from them. Typically, this takes about 15 minutes.
Then they come to the center of the room to learn a short routine. This helps with spatial awareness so they don’t hit each other while dancing; it also helps their memory and musicality, as they start across the floor after counting “5-6-7-8.” This lasts about 20 minutes.
During the final part of class, the boys either play with movement when the teacher asks them to do robot moves, floor moves and footwork, or they stand in the circle and show off their dance moves. Keeping the boys’ attention and helping them feel masculine is important to ensure they are comfortable and their interest in the class is maintained.
Hop To It
If you’re still not sold on whether the class will be popular, the proof is in the numbers–the class at Victoria’s started with six boys and has grown to more than 13. With large recreation areas available, I have seen classes grow to more than 25.
This class can be implemented using a punch card that charges $15 per class, or a monthly fee of $55. The boys at Victoria’s will be dancing in the school’s annual recital, but recreation centers can use dance battles or perform at sports tournaments to drum up interest. Once these boys start dancing, people certainly start watching!
The best part about this class is all you need is a teacher, music and a room. There’s no special equipment or expensive gear for kids, just a smile and a welcoming environment for them to get an hour of exercise.
For more information about how to start a boys’ hip-hop class or obtain a video of Manchesi’s class, available for $10, contact Victoria’s at (813) 671-1126.
Kati Trammel is an advertising and public relations specialist in Lakeland, Fla. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.