Volume 75, Number 18 | September 21 - 27, 2005

Marvin S. Green instructs a young hip-hopper at the McBurney YMCA on W. 14th St.

Young dancers get hip to the hip-hop workout at Y

By Judith Stiles

When asked to explain what is hip-hop, 7-year-old Emilio de Oca Montes’s eyebrows pop up in astonishment, and as his jaw drops, he quips, “Huh, don’t you know what it is!” He takes a crack at describing hip-hop and says with an air of authority, “Well. . . Britney Spears is not hip-hop, she is pop, and is really old news, anyway, even though she just had a baby. Hip-hop is what we do in this class!” He pauses with his little hand on his chin and cites Usher as his favorite hip-hop performer, whose music is great for dancing.

Emilio’s legs are never still when he talks, as his body is always looking for a beat that’s good for wiggling and jumping. He was born to dance, and he spends several afternoons a week doing just that at the McBurney YMCA, where he is the lone boy in a lively youth hip-hop class full of giggling girls. Emilio is lucky to have a talented and patient instructor, Marvin S. Green, who recently moved to the Big Apple from Florida. Green is such a fantastic dancer himself, it won’t be long before professional dancers in New York City spot this dancer from Orlando, and scoop him up for their own productions.

In the meantime, in Studio One at the YMCA on 125 W. 14th Street, Green demonstrates basic hip-hop moves in front of a long mirror that all the youngsters use to observe their own dancing. Instructor Green smiles and shouts out not to worry about watching their reflections in the mirror, or counting out loud; rather, he insists that they let loose and just feel the music, “Just dance!” he says with a radiant smile.

As with the adult hip-hop class called “Hip-Hop Style,” the simplest way to teach the moves is to count out different steps, clapping, turning, hopping, whipsawing the head, etc., as the class reviews the routine repeatedly, refining all the steps. In the youth class, the 7-to-10-year-olds pick up the sequences very fast, and like racehorses at the gate, they are itching to blast the music and cut loose.

Green takes the time to improve their moves on an individual basis, and he even pauses to coax a young girl who prefers to stand alone and watch. He gently jokes with her as she slowly slinks her hands out of her pockets, and decides to give it a whirl. Before the music starts, young Olivia Nolan inserts a few twirls of her own that add a little spice to the number. She furtively works on varying the set routine during the water break, or when the instructor is working individually with another child. She stands right up front in class with her pretty pink shoes and polka-dot hair bow, perpetually in motion, always dancing, not waiting for the music to start.

Hip-hop at the Y is an excellent form of aerobic exercise for any child or adult who does not like team sports or solitary jogging. In Green’s classes, students are in constant motion, sweating their way through a workout that doesn’t seem like one, because Green creates an atmosphere that is so much fun. The class can be taken for a semester or on a drop-in basis and all levels of dancers are welcome. You don’t have to know all the theories on the history of hip-hop to enjoy the class, and you don’t have to be familiar with famous hip-hop artists. As Green so wisely puts it, “With hip-hop, just feel the movement! The definition of hip-hop? Well. . .it is hip music that you are hopping to!”

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