Students are cooler than you think

Gliding, hitting, waving, popping. Sound familiar? These fresh techniques, in addition to general hip-hop education, are offered weekly in the UC Aerobics Room by international FreeStylers (iFS).

iFS, formed in 2002, aims to share its unlikely passion for all types of dance, especially hip-hop, with Carnegie Mellon students. Striving for diversity, the group rejects the audition process and maintains a free and recreational status.

“[We] hope to show that our creativity can be developed and expressed through dance,” said Frank Denbow, co-president of iFS and a senior in the School of Computer Science. With these classes, he hopes students gain respect and understanding for the various styles of hip hop. “Students should … have a basic understanding about dance musicality, expressive movement, and confidence within and outside of dance,” Denbow said.

The session trumped my expectations. A surprising assortment of students — breakers, beginners, and more — chattered and stretched while waiting for the class to begin. Denbow made it clear that this class is open to anyone. “Don’t worry if you haven’t danced before,” he tells his class before the hip-hop extravaganza begins. Justin Timberlake blares as Denbow reviews basic hip hop moves and demonstrates new techniques. During the class, Denbow introduced concepts like musicality — understanding the varying beats and rhythms you can dance to in a song. And somehow, among the awkward, there was shining effort — and a genuine appreciation for hip-hop.

“To the college campus, [hip-hop] is a method of expression, a way for students to learn and gain insight into their own creativity, talent, and abilities,” Denbow said.

More than that, it’s a cultural movement attempting to create social innovations. iFS does its part to prevent some of the socially awkward situations at Carnegie Mellon by bringing a diverse group of people together under the premise of learning hip-hop. Denbow, a limitless dancer of many hip-hop styles, leads the class with patience and thought.

After almost an hour of choreography and teaching, Denbow broke the class into three or four freestyle circles, each lead by some of Carnegie Mellon’s most popular breakers. More bass thumped from the speakers and people took turns showing off their moves. Each admires and pays tribute to the hip hop culture in their own way. Denbow walked around checking everyone out as the hip-hop movement continued.

... And all I learned was boom, boom, hit hit up!