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House Fundamentals: Discovering the Dance

Some where out there, in the intangible universe, there's this really vague idea of what House Dance is.  We know we can do a lot of different movements, we know we will drive OOoo's and Ahh's when we do tricks but really, What exactly is House Dance?  We know what Breaking is and Popping, Locking.  We know Vogue and Waacking ... What is it then?  This obscurity when it comes to this one particular genre that we call House Dance?  Yes, it's Freestyle/Free-Spirit, etc.  And yes, it draws on many different forms of dance.  But can you do whatever you want to do in the dance and call it House Dance?  No.  Absolutely not and a lot of my elders will agree with me on this ...

First of all, let's take a moment to talk about the origins of the term House Dance.  If you read our previous blog on the Pioneers of Freestyle Dance, you'll notice how this was a steady progression.  There was a particular sound that started in Chicago at a Club called The Warehouse.  This music broke through very specific clubs here in NYC in the early 1980's.  Prior to this time, people were already doing "Freestyle" dance, based on their various inspirations/activities (Breaking, Martial Arts, Tap, etc.)  The music evolved and the dance evolved with it.  We we're always free styling but as times changed and new dances and cultures arose, we incorporated them into the dance.  We became more fluid in our movements, we incorporated all of our inspirations and we evolved our rhythms & syncopation.   We never called it House Dance, we we were just Freestyle dancing to "Club Music.".  But times have changed, this history was rarely documented in detail, these movements were taught globally with out much attention to the origins and hence, there is a new generation that hears a music and labels a dance after it.  So here we are.

So getting to my point, these are the factors that I use to determine if a person is dancing house:

 

1. Integrate Rhythm & Syncopation:  This isn't about running one step after another.  Listen to the music!!  That is your guide. If what your body is doing (no matter how fantastic it may seem) does not follow the music, then you are not dancing.  

 

2. Integrate Level Exchanges: Use all of your space.  Be mindful of your space but use it all.  I've seen some good footwork lately, coupled with horrible floor work and vice versa.  A good House set would make a balanced use of all of your extremities in a fluid way that makes sense to the music.  There are many different levels to utilize in your movement.  I see a lot of  Footwork and Floor work but what about Aerial Sky Moves besides basic tumbles: Kicks, Spins and Splits can be incorporated into your dance to make great use of your space and keep your dance interesting.

 

3. Integrate Fundamental Movements:  Footwork, Floor work and Creativity that can be drawn from practically any genre of dance and/or inspiration.  

Now here's the key:

  • It has to make sense in the movement.
  • It has to be Fluid.
  • Any particular style that you incorporate, should  breakup the eight count and then switch to something else.  I can't stress this enough.  I see so many dancers doing eight and sixteen counts of hip-hop, breaking, African, etc.  Then guess what?  You're breaking or dancing Hip Hop, African ... You're not dancing House.  You can however, give me a four count of one style followed by a six count of another style followed by two count of something else, etc.  Make sense to the music, be fluid and tie it all together, FEEL IT, show me that you feel it ... then yes, that's HOUSE!

 

One of the most important things to do in this dance is to know yourself in the movement.  It's not like a lot of other types of dance where you can find a good teacher, practice hard and develop good technique.  You've got to immerse yourself in this dance to really understand it and grow.  Take a waacking class, take a footwork class, take a martial arts class, hip hop, etc  Take them all ... Then come see Bravo and myself at the Loft Practice and we'll help you put it all together to develop your own style. Your dance should tell a story, it should tell me about who you are.  You have to become well rounded and you have to acquire an extensive vocabulary in the movement along with many layers of conscious and subconscious understanding to really grow in this dance we now call HOUSE ...

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