And I Wander

The birds chirp at this side of the world. :)


Embedded video from CNN Video

International hip-hop artists find their roots in U.S.

By Jill Dougherty
CNN Foreign Affairs Correspondent

WASHINGTON (CNN) — Six hip-hop artists from five countries speaking four languages are on stage, warming up for their show at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

International hip-hop artists warm up for their show at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on Tuesday. 

International hip-hop artists warm up for their show at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on Tuesday.

“Warming up” doesn’t really capture it; the dancers explode across the stage, each one with a different hip-hop style.

Michelle Salazar is chic-grungy in black jeans and white T-shirt, her long black hair swirling around her head. Hassan El Haf, from Lebanon, tall and thin, does a kind of electric hip-hop mixed with salsa.

Argentines Mauricio Trech and Silvia Fernandez move in a dramatic break dance. Both hail from Argentina, home of the tango. Hien Ngoc Pham from Vietnam, with a buzz cut and dressed in white jeans and a white T-shirt, has Broadway bravado in his every move.

The dancing stops and Samer Samahneh begins rapping — in Arabic. No translation needed; it comes from his soul.

Three weeks ago, the dancers had never met, but now they’re a team, participating in the State Department‘s Cultural Visitors Program. The program consists of three weeks of meeting American hip-hop artists and dancers and visiting New York City, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.

“It’s like a dream come true for me,” Salazar said Tuesday, the day of the team’s show, “because I only read their names in the Internet and now, like, I met Afrika Bambaataa, the founder of hip-hop. I was right next to him. It’s a real immersion into the culture. I don’t want to wake up!”

Salazar isn’t just star-struck. She’s learning a lot and she plans to bring it back to her fellow dancers in the Philippines.

“Dancers in the Philippines don’t have much of a foundation [in hip-hop],” she says. “They don’t understand why dancers do this” — she moves her arm — “or why they do this” — she strikes a pose. “Because if they knew why they would feel it. I can feel it by watching these [American] hip-hop dancers.”

Samahneh agrees: “You’ve got to feel it.” His rapping, he says, comes from inside-out. “Even if you don’t know the language, you can get involved with what I’m saying.”

Samahneh says that when he raps in his hometown of Nablus in the West Bank, he is “asking God to bring peace to our land.”

Colombia Barrosse, the vibrant head of the State Department’s Cultural Programs Division of the Bureau of Cultural Affairs, says the cultural cross-fertilization is the goal of the program.

“There is nothing that can substitute for being in the United States and meeting Americans in their place, to look at the richness and diversity of the United States. That’s irreplaceable,” she says.

The Cultural Visitors Program is part of the State Department’s cultural programming around the world. The $8.5 million budget is supplemented by institutions like the Kennedy Center, which is co-sponsoring this performance.

Most of the visiting artists in the program found their way to professional dance through hip-hop.

Pham, a member of the Vietnam Dance Association, is currently working to open a hip-hop training center in Ho Chi Minh City to reach out to young people.

With a broad smile, he says, “Hip-hop is such energy. It’s so young. It’s also an opportunity for our countries to get closer, and I have a lot of friends all over the world.”

Hip-hop may have started in the United States, but it belongs to everyone. Here’s how Hassan El Haf puts it: When he got to New York, he felt as if he had landed on his “real planet.”

“Yeah, I see them, all the dancers in the street, the music, all the people that like hip-hop music,” he says. “When I do hip-hop, it makes me feel happy all the time. This is my life.”

August 1, 2009 Posted by | Blogroll, hip hop, kennedy center | , , | 1 Comment

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July 27, 2009 Posted by | hip hop, kennedy center | | Enter your password to view comments.

DAY 13



It’s Saturday noon & I smile at the day & heave a sigh of relief as I don’t have to get up from bed til 6pm tonight. Sarap. I can still bury myself under the sheets & watch the time pass by.

But my body is soooore. 7 classes a day was too much. But I ain’t complaining. What I got was worth a gem. I got to love lockin’ more, I was formally introduced to house & waaking, I learned at lot more about breakin’, & popping… it hates me haha!

I could have really soaked it all in, though, if I didn’t strain a muscle on my left foot. 😦 I think I got it from Marjory’s house class last Monday. So yeah, for the whole week I was really struggling. Even pain killers didn’t help. But it didn’t stop me from taking the classes. Keber na lang kahit lumala.

I loved all the teachers. They were so generous in sharing some nuggets of info about history, even anecdotes about how they were back in the days. It was all mind-opening.

They taught us a lot of techniques which helped us to really dance with the music. But it was important too that we learn where all these moves came from so that we can understand why we do them. Skeeterrabit shared that muscleman was originally his way of saying “hi” back then & that Don Campbell came up with his move coz he couldn’t pull off the Funky Chicken… I noticed that they were all so strongly in touch with the history but they are also very open about dance evolving. It was also interesting how some of them (like Mileage & Buddha Stretch) were so open about dissing “Lyrical Hip Hop.” They said that it is not hip hop. LOL 😀 Coz you dance to the beat & the melody, not with the lyrics. Dancing to words is just an excuse for teachers who doesn’t really know how to DANCE. Interesting. 😉

Illadelp Legends Festival is in its 10th year. I hope that in the following years, hip hop dancers from the P.I. will get to experience this coz personally, I know that this will help me a lot, not only with my techniques & musicality, but with my outlook in this dance itself. Mas masarap na lalo sumayaw. Parang pagkain na mas masarap kainin kapag nalaman mong pinaghirapan lutuin para sayo… Haha, there I go with food analogy again. :p

Now, my next challenge will be to teach what I have learned. Honestly, I believe that one cannot teach if he/she is still not a master of his/her craft. But just like what they say, we dancers should be ever-evolving. We should forever be students & not get content with what we know. So when can I give classes?… I have been teaching kids & I only do it because I love to teach them! I see myself more of a student. But then this was given to me for a purpose… to share. And I think I’m doing it now, here, so people can read this & learn. Teaching class? I’ll see, I’ll try, I’ll ponder over it. 🙂

* * * * * * *

I got to stroll around (albeit injured foot) Philadelphia. It’s a nice city. The roads are narrow, the structures are very historic & the atmosphere is sooo relaxed. I felt like I was in the province coming from NY. But as I spent more time here, I discovered that Philly is such a cool city that is mixed of both the old & new, historic & modern, laid-back & fun!

They don’t have a lot of billboards which is very nice coz billboards only clutter the grand view of the city. What they have a lot of are murals, of adsvertisements, history, art, etc.

I loved walking on the tree-lined streets of the area where we’re staying at coz I got to walk over dry fallen leaves. Hehe. Weird but I love the feeling of dry leaves crunching under my feet.

Tonight we will rehearse for our performance in DC. We will practice our MJ tribute number where each of us will try to do 8/8’s of a style we have studied at Illadelph with MJ’s song (Blood on the Dance Floor). Here are our respective assignments: Hien (Waaking), Silvia (Hip Hop), Mauricio (Breakdance), Scorben (Popping), Samer (House), & Michelle (Locking).

July 25, 2009 Posted by | hip hop, kennedy center | , | 3 Comments

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June 22, 2009 Posted by | dance, kennedy center | Enter your password to view comments.


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