Harvard Westlake (HW) dance students were introduced to a new form of their art: hip hop. Harry Weston, a professional dancer, served as the students’ mentor and not only taught them an important lesson about the physical aspects of hip-hop but also its history and importance.
Weston taught multiple classes Feb. 7 , the bulk of which were spent learning and stringing together certain moves and styles such as “The Smurf” or the “Hit the Folks.” However, with every new concept introduced came a detailed explanation of how the dance move was created, whether it be through a 70’s block party or an underground dance club.
The stories behind every move slowly came together, and when they finally did, the sprawling story of hip hop was revealed as whole, much like the physical dance once all the individual moves were strung together.
In Weston’s stories about hip hop’s origins and how it developed, a recurring theme was communities who bonded over hip hop. “This culture was made to bring people together,” Weston said. He wants students to learn that “there’s so much more than just 5,6,7,8.”
Joe Schenck, the middle school dance teacher, was also able to gather new knowledge from Weston’s lesson along with the students. “I learned a lot more about the specific history of [Hip-Hop,]… and [about the] social dances and where they came from,” Schenck said.
Weston is a professional hip hop dancer, a 15 year veteran of the craft, and has knowledge unique to his experience. On the importance of the this specific specialist, Schenck commented that “Harry is integrated into hip hop culture… hip hop is a culture, and it comes from people, and it’s important to authentically represent that.”
Weston wanted to have impact on the students he taught. In just 40 minutes he talked about what knowledge he wanted to impart on the kids: “Give them as many tools as possible, so that if they do want to walk away and pursue this more, they [can].”
Students were also very happy with the class. “It was nice to have a change from what we usually do in contemporary dance one.” said Kayla Graewer ‘23. “In contemporary dance, we usually learn jazz and ballet.” These are two styles that both sharply contrast hip hop, so Weston’s class was bringing a new take on the art.
“I really liked learning the basic movements, because I think I can apply that to future dances.” Graewer said, echoing Weston’s comments on the necessary tools to give students.
Weston brought a new method to what his students love. Along with the physical art of hip hop, Weston taught a history lesson and opened the students‘ eyes to a new world of dance.