The term fusion is used to mean a mix of music as well as dance. In this post I’m focusing on dance fusion. By that I mean two different dances or dance styles fused into one dance. This is a surprisingly controversial thing to do, given that it pretty much mostly happens with street dances which are open to interpretation anyway. By street dance, I mean a dance that was made up by dancers in response to music that was new at the time. Street dances evolve with the creativity of the dancers and are constantly changing, but they do retain something in all permutations that enable them to retain the integrity of that particular dance. This is as opposed to a studio dance like Ballroom, which has very specific rules and never changes.
So why is it controversial? Because people are afraid of the dance they love getting lost if it fuses with other dances. Purists get upset if you name something and they don’t see what they consider the integrity of their dance surviving in that particular version. Fusion shows up every so often in various swing dances. Hip Hop is the most common culprit and it’s usually the hip hopper, not the swing dancers, who get upset. This doesn’t really surprise me because what you see is a swing dance with hip hop styling, not the other way around. If you dance that style of swing, it’s obvious that it’s still very much lindy, or west coast swing, styled for hip hop music. The hip hop dancers don’t see enough hip hop to consider it legitimate so it’s not unusual to hear scoffing comments (“There’s no real hip hop here!” “Where’s the Hip Hop? The baseball caps and baggy pants?”) I have to admit, when I saw a hip hop troupe incorporating swing, I had a similar response. There wasn’t much swing and what there was wasn’t very good. It must be extremely challenging to do justice to two completely different dance styles in one performance.
In this clip two of the world’s top Lindy Hoppers, Max Pitruzzella and Thomas Blacharz, put some hip hop into their routine. The result is a highly entertaining, absolutely stellar lindy performance, but hip hop dancers remain unimpressed.
If you are not being distracted by the fear of your dance not being properly represented, you’d be hard pressed not to enjoy that charming little show. I featured these guys in an earlier post about stealing in partner dance with Annie Trudeau in case you want to see more of them.
Here’s an example of West Coast Swing infused with Hip Hop. Similarly, the West Coast Swing is unmistakable, that hip hop just adds styling to the dance and fits it to the music. Well, this WAS for a west coast swing competition, not a hip hop contest.
So I suppose you want to know what I think of fusion dance? Well, I do have a concern for the integrity of each dance. I don’t want to see all dance styles melded together so they all become the same, but I’m not really worried about that. I remember attending a workshop with Frankie Manning, one of the original creators of the Lindy Hop who would be turning 100 if he were still alive. Frankie taught the running man step in a Lindy class. He learned it from his hip hopping granddaughter and thought it was a great move. Street dancers are constantly stealing ideas from each other and from other dance styles. But when those moves are incorporated into a different dance, they become part of that dance. And, frankly, when I see dancers this good I just appreciate their creativity and enjoy the show. Life is too short to do battle with my fellow dancers. There’s room for everything in the world of dance.
by LaurieAnn Lepoff
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