posted on Jan. 22: Popular dance styles keep centre a hip hoppin’


The move by the McMaster Centre for Dance to offer dance classes that focus on popular culture is proving to be a very successful one, given the attendance at a recent concert.

Shows presented by a variety of McMaster dancers, at Robinson Memorial Theatre and at Hamilton Place, were staged in front of full houses, a sign that dance is alive and well in Hamilton.

Over 275 people attended the end-of-term Amalgam dance production shown in Robinson Memorial Theatre on Dec. 2 and 3. They enjoyed a diverse program featuring the McMaster Dancers, the McMaster Hip Hop Dance Company, the Jedi Ninja Crew & Affiliates (break dancing) and the Inner City Ballet. And last week the dance club's Centre Stage show, featuring belly to ballet and beginners and experts, resulted in two sold-out shows at Hamilton Place.

David Wilson, artistic director for the centre, notes that the focus at the centre is modern dance, which he calls “the art of movement.” Hip hop and break styles of dance are “more entertainment and relate to pop culture.” However, by offering class in the later two dance styles, more dancers are attracted to the centre and its programs, he says. In addition, they make the program more accessible to young people.

“There are about a dozen 12-year-olds from the Westdale area taking hip hop, and we had one 11-year-old taking break classes.”

David Ng, a third-year student in the Arts & Science Program, has been engaged in break dancing for about six years. “I like the movement and the opportunity it presents for personal expression,” he says. “It's very creative.”

Ng teaches three break dancing classes a week and says the emphasis is on improvisation. The class of about 20 is very diverse in ages and capabilities, and is split almost equally between males and females.

Troy Feldman, an active member of the dance community in Hamilton, also teaches break dancing at McMaster and other venues in the city. For the uninitiated, he describes the break style as a little bit of everything: martial arts, gymnastics, and all different dance forms. “Basically, if you are standing up, it's hip hop. But as soon as you hit the ground, it's break.” A dancer can incorporate any movement into the routines and, for Feldman, that's the appeal — being free to mix anything into the dancing.

Although he finds young people a challenge to teach because of the work involved in reducing the steps to simple components, Feldman says their enthusiasm makes up for all the effort. “Young kids are interested in anything. We start with somersaults and handstands, and go from there.”

Ng and Feldman both belong to the Jedi Ninja Crew, a seven-member sub-group of the McMaster break classes that puts together programs and perform for audiences.

Information about hip hop and break classes, as well as the other classes offered by the centre, is available from