Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Editorial: Being a Woman in Street Dance

What does it mean to be a woman in hip hop and street dance today? There can't be one story. If anything, there are hundreds, even thousands of unique experiences out there that remain to be told. On our final editorial for 2009, we want to cast a spotlight on what the future may bring for the storylines that are being carved by our mothers, sisters, and daughters in this vibrant culture. (Photo above is from a Google Image Search for Los Angeles.)

It's hard to find a completely objective standpoint on this question. We're all informed by our cultural and social backgrounds in some way, nonetheless by our gender. It's like asking what does it mean to be an ethnic minority in hip hop? Or how about being gay or bisexual in this culture? There are so many similar questions with different answers. Being a female isn't easy. We know that. It's hard enough to be among a crowd of guys in a battle when thoughts are running through your head about whether they will really take you seriously for your skills. If you're a bgirl, have you ever been approached by a bboy who offers to train you only to discover that he has romantic or sexual intentions? Women in hip hop and street dance face similar challenges to females in every other subculture and industry in this world. It's not getting easier as we enter a new decade.

But it's good to be a woman in hip hop. We have a connection with the music in our dance which a man, even at his best, can never replicate. Our sisters, who work behind the scenes, have opened doors for new faces to be seen front and center on stage, on the big screen, and in print. There are many sides and flavors to being who we are. And the complexities and diversity of street dance offers many possibilities for this to be explored. There's no reason that our voices should go unheard in this new decade. Women of hip hop are mobilizing in every element. While the mainstream entertainment industry may still throw double standards and a glass ceiling in our way, we no longer have to see their opportunities as the only way to realize our dreams as dancers. After all, these entertainment outfits are only run by a small group of people who don't necessarily represent the tastes of everyone around the world.

So this isn't a definitive statement on what it means to be a hip hop woman or a street dancer with a fierce feminine heart. Not even one woman could speak for every mother, sister, and daughter out there. But it's a call to be courageous and to speak up. To not settle for something less than what is deserved. And it's a message of hope for the future ladies waiting in the wings: you are not alone.

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