Yesterday I had my midterm for my hip-hop class at City College. It’s been an interesting semester already. I’ve never felt like such a huge dork being surrounded by so many young people with style and ‘swag.’ I’ve also made myself sick a couple times forcing the word “fresh” into as many sentences as possible. The other day I caught myself saying “hella” for the first time before covering my mouth with my right hand and punching myself in the nose with my left. Then there was the 7 minute speech I gave on hip-hop culture and white privilege, the hardest public speaking gig I’ve ever taken on. And finally, yesterday’s midterm.
A midterm in hip-hop class consists of standing up in front of everyone and dancing the choreography phrases we have been learning all semester. You are placed into a group of 4 and called on to perform at random. The rest of the class sits around the edges and claps, stares, cheers, and trash talks you depending on how much heart you bring to the piece.
All of these things would have been previously described as my worst nightmare.
The first few groups went while I sat on the sidelines having hot flashes. I noticed they were nervous too and I thought perhaps it’s a common infection shared by all humans. And I thought, “Well dickface, you should stop being nervous and try to have a little fun with it.” Next thing I knew, our group was being called, and for a moment I couldn’t tell if it was real or another vivid dream.
The best thing about this uncomfortable situation was that it happened so fast that I didn’t have much time to doubt myself. My survival instincts kicked in and I somehow knew exactly what to do.
“5…6…5,6,7,8,” the entire class shouted at us.
And then it was just me and Missy, Missy Elliot that is, popping our booties so hard that the floor was vibrating. I hit the steps and even had room for a little personal flare. I was able to keep my top lip perched up in a snarl expression I’ve been practicing at home. Then finally, it was time for the ‘freeze,’ – the moment in a dance battle where you hold a pose and dismantle your opponent with a thuggish stare. Somehow, I ended upside down, balancing on only my head, with my arms pointing straight up to the ceiling. And I heard people go fucking nuts. Not like white people on St. Patrick’s Day, but like, You Got Served nuts. It was the greatest moment of my life.
At some point during one of the next performances I looked around and noticed that every person in the entire room had a smile on their face. I’ve never witnessed that before.
I keep trying to find the words to describe how it feels to be in a room full of people dancing. I can’t figure out how to capture it. It’s just pure fucking joy. For a little stretch of time nobody is judging you and you’re allowed to be free. I think it’s what kids experience everyday before a certain age.
I practiced some of the steps before the midterm at Hale and made this quick video. It reminds me of a Justin Bieber video where they make him look like a good dancer but cutting to him in short, quick bursts.