Who would have thought there were many similarities between classical ballet and hip hop dance?
There are many according to dancer and choreographer James Pullum who is one of the students due to perform at the Bermuda Civic Ballet Summer School production Summer Selections 2010 next month. He is one of three young men, all students of the Central School of Ballet in London, taking part in the show. As well as a host of female dancers Mr. Pullum joins Bermudian dancer and choreographer James Waddell and English dancer Luke Walker who bring to the stage an eclectic mix of dance styles.
Mr. Pullum, from London, England, has choreographed a number of hip hop pieces for the show some of which he will perform himself and some he will have others perform.
His hip hop dancing forté is a style known as locking which Mr. Pullum says is known as the “most balletic” of all hip hop dances.
“Ballet and hip hop have similarities in the sense that they use the same shapes and rhythms and patterns. Where break dancing has the guys getting on the floor and spinning, they say locking is the most balletic — it’s the ballet of hip hop because it uses upright positions and points and it’s all very straight and coordinated.
“Like ballet often is it’s very regimented.”
The two disciplines, he admits are also extremely dissimilar in many ways. He grew up loving hip hop music and started break dancing with his friends from a young age.
While he learned to love ballet, it is hip hop he seems to have a real passion for. He went on to attend the Central School of Ballet where it was mandatory to learn ballet along with these disciplines. He has choreographed school dances as well as outside events such as fashion shows and corporate parties using the hip hop genre.
“If you imagine the music of James Brown and the Jackson Five — the locking style comes straight from the music — it’s happy, it’s funky, it’s upbeat. Michael Jackson has some awesome funk so I may use some of his music to dance to or it could be Earth, Wind and Fire or James Brown — I’m not sure yet.”
Bermudian James Waddell has practically lived and breathed dance from as far back as he can remember. This may have been helped by the fact that his mother Coral, director of the Bermuda Civic Ballet, taught him from a young age. But that is by no means the only reason he has pursued a life on the stage. The student of the Central School of Ballet confesses he is more comfortable on stage in a theatre than anywhere else — he was born to perform.
“I intend to dance until my legs give out,” he laughed.
“I love performing and have done since I was really quite small. When I can’t dance anymore, I’d really like to give back to Bermuda.
“There is a lot of talent on this island but they are often not pushed. I would like to help people realize they can really accomplish something. That would really make me happy.”
Mr. Waddell began dancing at the age of three and was truly inspired at the age of six when he saw ballet dancers perform from some of the top U.S. dance companies. Mr. Waddell admitted that while there have been many benefits to having his mother as his teacher and mentor, it has also had its down sides.
“It was a definite advantage that my mother was teaching me — she would let me slip in to some of the adult classes and if I was ever unsure I could always get clearance. That still serves me well now I am living in London. At the same time if you have an argument at the studio it’s very hard to leave it at the studio. We try very hard but it doesn’t always happen so as useful as it can be it can also have its problems.”
Mr. Waddell has choreographed a solo piece in a contemporary style which he first created at the Central School of Ballet. He describes the specific style as release work for contemporary as you release into movements and let your body weight carry you into a movement. “It’s designed so it becomes seamless,” he explained. “Each movement carries into the next and you just keep using the momentum. It is contemporary modern dance.”
The dance will be performed to the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Porcelain — it is one of the funk, rock band’s more relaxed songs.
Luke Walker started dancing when he was 16 after being encouraged by several teachers. Despite his late entrance into the world of dance, he managed to get into the Central School of Ballet on the strength of his improvisation.
“I auditioned and even though I had not done ballet for long, I got in.
“I think it s easier for guys because there is less competition but they saw something in me. I would definitely say my strength is as a contemporary dancer.”
Mr. Walker will be taking on a lot at the show dancing in several different styles including ballet, contemporary jazz, hip hop.