Author Archives: sherrildodds

Late Learning In Popular Dance

I turned 49 two days ago and in many ways I feel nothing like a 49-year old. Yet I’ve started learning a new dance form and it makes me feel distinctly middle-aged. Although I have dabbled in a number of hip hop styles over the past six  years, last October I started regularly attending breaking sessions. In some ways it’s not such a smart move on my part. It’s really tough on hip, knee and ankle joints and you need a lot of upper body strength to pull off even relatively simple freezes. There just happen to be a lot of breakers in Philly where I live and I interact with breakers through my work and research, therefore this is the style I have ended up committing to. As someone who is pretty goal-oriented, I soon realized I would need to re-think my approach to this dance. I am certain I will never be able to pull off the majority of challenging power moves and freezes, and I doubt I will ever have the confidence to battle or jam. That aside, I absolutely love doing it. It is both humbling and humiliating to learn a brand new dance style later in life, and I am learning to focus on process over outcomes. I accept I will need to practice even the absolute basics for a very long time as none of it comes easily. My youngest son breaks too and he soaks it up like a little sponge without the slightest hint of effort. I meanwhile have to practice frequently, visualize and imagine it, think about it a lot, and constantly ask for help. I am overwhelmed by how generous the other dancers have been. The majority are at least twenty-five years younger, but they are courteous, encouraging and only too willing to help. While most are male, I have become close to three young b-girls, all of whom are beginners and I love it when we compare notes, share achievements, and offer support. Although I have experienced one utterly embarrassing injury, numerous moments when I fall flat on the floor, calloused hands, aching joints, and exhaustion like I’ve never known, I have kept a journal that shows me I have made progress. My six-step is now relatively clean and I can switch from a baby into a turtle freeze on my right side. That’s not the important thing though. Doing it just makes me happy.

I would love to know if other PoP MOVERS have taken on new dance forms later in life or if you have tried to learn a new style that radically departs from what your body currently knows.

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Life Lessons in Hip Hop

Professor Sherril Dodds from PoP MOVES, in collaboration with b-boys Steve “Steve Believe” Lunger and Mark “Metal” Wong, Co-Directors of Hip Hop Fundamentals, have initiated a new research project called “Life Lessons in Hip Hop”. The project focuses on on Temple Bboys, a student-led organization formally affiliated with Temple University, and the local North Philadelphia bboy community. The project has two main aims:

  • to document and preserve the vibrant dance practices of a Philadelphia ‘breaking’  community as its members engage in collective practice sessions and dance battles with other local dancers.
  • to elucidate how bboys draw on their embodied knowledge of breaking and battling to shape and inform other areas of their lives.

Click here for more information on Hip Hop Fundamentals and Temple Bboys.