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Street to studio: tips from the pros.

Want to make it on MTV? DANCE MAGAZINE talked to top commercial choreographers Brian Friedman and Wade Robson to find out what it takes to become a hip-hop pro. Both began as dancers before they became go-to guys for music video choreography. Friedman recently worked with Janet Jackson, and you may have caught him on MTV teaching Britney the dances on her Onyx Hotel Tour. Robson is currently working on the first of three movie musicals he's been signed to direct for Disney. These are the guys in charge of casting the dancers you watch. Here's their advice on how to make the cut.

Be able to do it all. Even if you just love to dance one style, you should be able to perform a variety. As Friedman puts it, "If you're only into hip hop, but you're out of work, sitting on the couch watching reruns and eating Ramen Noodles, are you really going to pass on the jazz audition you heard about because you never bothered learning jazz?" Sometimes having ballet, jazz, or tap training can be the deciding factor at an audition. Friedman likes to use tap steps because they are so rhythmic. The more you have to offer, the higher the odds are that a director will want something you have.

Pick up the choreography fast. Be a speed demon when it comes to learning the moves. For the Onyx Hotel Tour, Friedman had three weeks to teach sixteen numbers to a new ensemble of dancers. The sooner you pick up the steps, the more you can focus on performing them well. "Dancing is like vegetables," Friedman says. "It needs lots of spice to give it flavor." One way to stay sharp is to take classes from a variety of teachers. If you get too accustomed to one teacher's style, your mind and body will have a harder time adapting to new ways of moving.

Class is your time to experiment. Push yourself in class to make the most of every move. Try different ways of presenting steps and get acquainted with a range of styles. If you've had ballet or jazz training, but not much hip hop, classes are the perfect setting for the process of becoming comfortable and finding a style. "With ballet, there's a rigid technique. Hip hop has a lot more to do with making it your own," says Robson.

Be able to hear what's going on in the music. Hip-hop choreographers often don't use counts when they're teaching their moves. You're more likely to hear "Buh, da da da, dum, bum!" than "one, two, three, four ..." This is something you can practice anywhere. Listen to music and break it down into drums, bass, guitar, and vocals, so you get used to hearing every aspect of the composition.

Don't lose sight of what matters. Robson reminds dancers to look ahead, even when they are successful. "The creative spirit doesn't stop with dance. Dance opened a lot of doors for me, but knees can trick you, or you can find yourself at twenty-five being considered old. Be prepared to move on. A lot of young dancers today aren't being guided; all they think about is right now, and the truth is there are going to be times when you're broke. Do this only if you love the art."
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Title Annotation:Kick it: hip hop special
Author:Johnson, Tamara
Publication:Dance Magazine
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2004
Previous Article:Street to stage: Rhapsody's mission.
Next Article:Reader's choice.

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