Thursday, November 12, 2009

Editorial: Street Dance & Health Fitness Fusion

Can elements of street dance be incorporated into an aerobic regimen for health fitness? This is surely to ruffle a few feathers because it takes elements of our dance culture and transplants them in a new context with a different spirit. So we can't call it street dance in the traditional sense. This would have to be a hybrid concoction. The question is who benefits? (Photo above is from a Getty Images archive.)

Let's look at Tae Bo in the late 1990s. You may remember the ubiquitous commercials with documented founder Billy Blanks working out with his class of on-camera students. Tae Bo is a portmanteau of taekwondo and boxing. Since then, many gym outlets and instructors have taught derivations of this fitness regimen to thousands of enthusiasts around the world. Many videos have been sold in the process. Have taekwondo and martial arts aficionados voiced displeasure with Billy Blanks and his fitness program? No doubt, there are some detractors. But it's important that anyone who markets such a program distinguish it from its original source. The same would be true if there were a cardio workout program mixing elements of toprocking, arm waving, and leo walks. Keep in mind that we have to be careful about mixing different street styles in one pot because misinformation about the styles could occur. We'd need to really think about what parts of the styles we'd use in a hybrid and how to make it work as a new whole. Sure, there are hip hop dance fitness programs and videos out there. But few have elements drawn from street dancing.

Could this be a profitable business venture for street dancers who want to expand their repertoire? Newbies to street dancing often get a workout just from doing basic toprock and a sixstep in a beginner level bboying class. This kind of dancing is definitely more strenuous than dancing on two feet. But street dancers with some background in health and fitness education could find a supplementary source of income if they choose to package and teach elements of their craft in a new form. Would this be compromising themselves artistically? Not if they present it as different from the original forms of street dancing. As previously mentioned, they would need to market it as a hybrid which would also be designed for a general audience of varying athletic abilities. A fitness program generally needs to be accessible to the widest number of people possible in order to be financially successful. So the movement vocabulary of this hybrid fitness program would be different than original street dance styles. Take a look at the new venture that Reebok and Cirque Du Soleil are doing: Jukari Fit to Fly. Essentially, they're creating a new fitness product which is a hybrid of different acrobatic techniques and branding it with two very visible global companies. And they've made it accessible to a large range of women.

In the end, street dancing combined with health fitness could be an educational field for practitioners in both fields. Dancers can learn how to better condition and preserve their bodies. Fitness experts can explore new ways to workout their clients. Both fields have so much new territory that can be covered. Who's to say that a new genre of health fitness can't evolve from street dancers? We may be able to co-create a genre of fitness that will benefit thousands if we're open to it.

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