Please Wait a Moment

Behind the Curtain Blog

NDEO's "Behind the Curtain" Blog features articles written by NDEO members about dance and dance education topics as well as periodic updates on NDEO programs and services. This is a FREE resource available to ALL.


The Miseducation of Hip Hop Dance

NDEO’s Guest Blog Series features posts written by our members about their experiences in the fields of dance and dance education. We continue this series with a post by Maria Daniel, Creator of the Hip Hop Dance Experience and Founder of iDance Ministry. Guest posts reflect the experiences, opinions, and viewpoints of the author and are printed here with their permission. NDEO does not endorse any business, product, or service mentioned in guest blog posts. If you are interested in learning more about the guest blogger program or submitting an article for consideration, please click here.

Note: All bolded and italicized words are Hip Hop song titles and references to Hip Hop. They are intentionally embedded for emphasis and as a tribute to the Hip Hop culture. 

Hip Hop dance has become one of the most well-known and recognized dance forms in the world.ii The clearest sign of the impact of the Hip Hop culture is its influence in shaping global issues and its impact on youth culture. Hip Hop is now an integral part of contemporary American society and thus warrants serious academic inquiry.iii

So, Ready or Not, Hip Hop dance is here to stay. If a studio or dance organization expects longevity, offering a quality Hip Hop dance curriculum is critical to maintaining relevance and the retention of youth dancers. Yet, in many cases Hip Hop dance and choreography is taught out of Context, and dance educators run the risk of crossing the line between creativity and disrespect of the Hip Hop culture.i

Hip Hop dance is not simply a form of dance. It is a critical element of the Hip Hop culture and evolved from three underground street styles: breakdancing, popping and locking. Hip Hop dance incorporates rhythms, gestures, musicality, individual expressions, innovation, freestyling, isolations, cyphers, battling, juxtaposition of movements, heritage, social issues and personal experiences.

No Brainer: Would you hire a ballet instructor that never trained in ballet? Would you hire an inexperienced instructor to teach modern, tap or jazz dance without standards? Would you offer a class if the instructor’s curriculum was based on watching YouTube videos or just choreography? The answer to these rhetorical questions is a resounding NO. You Can’t Truss It. *If you think this sentence contains a misspelled word, you don’t know Hip Hop.

So, why are many studios and organizations encouraging the “Miseducation of Hip Hop Dance” by hiring instructors to teach Hip Hop dance without knowledge, experience or a curriculum?

Don’t Get it Twisted Like any other dance form, Hip Hop dance has its own history, technique, cultural influences, terms, and styles. Hip Hop dance is nuanced, codified, and difficult, and deserves the kind of study, assessment, and critique that the European dance forms typically get. iv Despite the complexity of Hip Hop dance, why have so many studios failed to require the use of a curriculum with Hip Hop dance?

My Philosophy

1. No Respect: Some dance professionals mistakenly believe that Hip Hop dance is not a rigorous dance form with standards, technique, history or culture. Therefore, a curriculum may not be a priority. But Don’t Believe the Hype. Hip Hop dance is part of a complex culture with rich social and historical roots. It should not be taught without the guidance of a curriculum that respects and addresses the culture that makes it so important.v

2. No Clue: Some people mistakenly believe that anyone can teach Hip Hop dance. Inexperienced instructors are often assigned to teach classes to keep up with the demand. Reality Check: Unless you would offer “bootleg” ballet classes, you should never offer “knock-off” Hip Hop dance instruction. Studios and organizations should commit to Represent Real Hip Hop dance in an authentic way and with a comprehensive curriculum.

3. No Shame: It’s All About the Benjamins. For some studios, offering Hip Hop dance has become a way to Make Money. The demand for Hip Hop from students and families can result in offering classes that lack substance, authenticity, or age-appropriate content. This can lead to a C.R.E.A.M. mentality: Cash Rules Everything Around Me (C.R.E.A.M. get the money, dollar dollar bill y’all). Hip Hop dance education is not Strictly Business or a means to simply Get Money; your students deserve better.

4. No Integrity: Turn Down for What? In order to attract students, some studios offer Hip Hop inspired classes that are not age appropriate or respectful to the roots of hip hop dance and culture. For example, pre-school age “Hip Hop” dance classes are essentially creative movement classes often labeled as “Baby/Toddler Hip Hop.” While the need for creativity and innovation in the studio environment are appreciated, this is far from Keepin’ it Real and these classes become a part of the Problem. Creative dance should be encouraged and offered; however, offering creative movement disguised as Hip Hop is not authentic Hip Hop content and lacks integrity. The bottom line is your Hip Hop dance classes should be the Real Deal. 

Photo of Maria Daniel and Hip Hop Dance Experience students

What’s The Fix?

Hip Hop dance programs must have a comprehensive curriculum with Standards that demonstrates a commitment to quality arts The curriculum should be comprehensive and implement a variety of appropriate instructional methods that provide students with diverse experiences in process-centered study.vii  Specifically, a quality hip hop dance curriculum should include age appropriate dance standards, proper foundational movements, a clear path to learning advanced techniques, proven methodologies, historical context, assessment methods and clear strategies to help students achieve their dance goals.

Any quality Hip Hop dance instruction must include authentic content and context in addition to proper training in technique and style. Such instruction would include:

  1. History of the Hip Hop Culture, beyond the 4 elements of Hip Hop (DJing, MCing, Breakdancing, and Graffiti)
  2. History and Evolution of Hip Hop Dance
  3. Hip Hop Dance Terminology
  4. Lessons on Musicality and Rhythm in Hip Hop Dance
  5. Fundamental Hip Hop Dance Movement, by category
  6. Categories of Hip Hop Dance Styles, including sub-styles and techniques
  7. Visual and Media Aids
  8. Introduction to the Art of Freestyle and Expression
  9. Opportunities for Dance Performance
  10. The Art of Battling
  11. What is Hip Hop and What is Not
  12. Hip Hop's influence on world culture, and specifically on the dance field

Finally, a Hip Hop dance curriculum is best presented by a qualified instructor, who demonstrates an understanding of Hip Hop dance that is rooted in Hip Hop culture, knowledge of Hip Hop history and an awareness of the variety of Hip Hop dance movement and styles. It is important to remember that educating students about Hip Hop dance is more than trendy choreography. Even if a dancer has performed all over the world, choreographed for Hip Hop artists or appeared in shows and videos, this is not reflective of their ability to teach Hip Hop dance. Additionally, while a dance degree shows a commitment to training as well as excellence in and knowledge of dance, that does not always translate to quality Hip Hop dance instruction. Some of the best Hip Hop dance educators are self-taught, having learned Hip Hop dance as it evolved over the years. The absence of a degree should not be an immediate disqualifier, but a quality instructor will continue to perfect their craft by taking master classes, workshops or Hip Hop dance teacher training.

Photo by Maria Daniel 

After personally witnessing the Miseducation of Hip Hop dance, I became troubled by the increasing prevalence of watered down generic versions of Hip Hop dance classes. As a result, I was compelled to develop the Hip Hop Experience Dance Curriculum to provide the proper content, context and age-appropriate content to help guide instructors and dancers. When I began offering classes based on the Hip Hop Experience Dance curriculum, CBS news, NBC news, and parents sought me out. Why? They were fascinated that “real Hip Hop” was being offered and wanted to learn more. One of the most common complaints I received from parents is “My son/daughter takes Hip Hop at a studio but it isn’t really Hip Hop. They want to learn real Hip Hop.” Students want authentic Hip Hop dance instruction. So, let’s Give ‘em what they want.

The Hip Hop Experience Dance curriculum has standards and addresses the dreaded dilemma faced by many instructors: “How do I get dancers to FEEL Hip Hop dance?” After many years of implementing the curriculum, I can emphatically conclude that it is possible to create an environment that teaches dancers how to FEEL (or experience) Hip Hop dance while simultaneously developing an appreciation of the culture. Teaching students to feel and experience Hip Hop dance with measurable outcomes, differentiates a great curriculum from a good one.

It’s time for a Change. The Message is simple. If you offer Hip Hop dance classes, You Must Learn how to teach authentic Hip Hop dance and incorporate a quality Hip Hop dance curriculum. So, Ante Up. These are the breaks. If you don’t know, now you know.

Note: All bolded and italicized words are Hip Hop song titles and references to Hip Hop. They are intentionally embedded for emphasis and as a tribute to the Hip Hop culture.

i (Grimes and O'Neal, 2017) (quoting Nicole Klaymoon). ii (Ferrell and Miller, 2012), (Balletboard, 2019) and (, 2019) iii (Everett-Haynes, 2018). iv (Sanchez Herrera, 2017) (quoting Christina McCarthy,). v (Crooke, and Travis, Jr.). vi (, 2019). vii (, n.d.).


  1. (n.d.). Dance Curriculum Framework. [online] Available at: [Accessed 12 Jan. 2019].
  2. Crooke, Alexander, and Raphael Travis, Jr. "The Healing Power Of Hip Hop". The Conversation, 2017, Accessed 12 Jan 2019.
  3. Everett-Haynes, La Monica. "Hip-Hop, A Global Social Movement". Uanews, 2013, Accessed 12 Jan 2019.
  4. Ferrell, Rebecca, and Christopher Miller. "Hip Hop". Danceheritage.Org, 2012, Accessed 12 Jan 2019.
  5. grimes, d. Sabela and Amy O'Neal. "What Happens When You Bring Street Dance On Stage?". Dance Magazine, 2017, 2448547007.html. Accessed 12 Jan 2019.
  6. Jean-Baptist, Kelsey. "All They Want To Do Is Dance: A Study Of Dance Education In K-12 Public Schools". Digitalcommons.Ursinus.Edu, 2016, Accessed 12 Jan 2019.
  7. Morgan, Marcyliena, and Dionne Bennett. "Hip-Hop & The Global Imprint Of A Black Cultural Form". Daedalus, vol 140, no. 2, 2011, pp. 176-196. MIT Press - Journals, doi:10.1162/daed_a_00086.
  8. (2019). [online] Available at: work_4.pdf [Accessed 12 Jan. 2019].
  9. Powell, Kevin. "Breaking News, Analysis, Politics, Blogs, News Photos, Video, Tech Reviews - TIME.Com". TIME.Com, 2000,,8599,55624,00.html. Accessed 12 Jan 2019.
  10. Rizzo Gonzalez, Martha. "“Social Trend Of Hip Hop Dance: As Identity And Cultural Practices In Youth”". Aijssnet.Com, 2016, Accessed 12 Jan 2019.
  11. Sanchez Herrera, N. (2017). Hip-hop summit at USC Kaufman launches thought leadership tradition. [online] USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance. Available at: [Accessed 12 Jan. 2019].
  12. Williams, Justin. "Preview Of The Cambridge Companion To Hip-Hop [Worldcat.Org]". Worldcat.Org, 2019, hip-hop/oclc/887451029/viewport. Accessed 12 Jan 2019.
  13. "5 Most Famous Dance Styles In The World". Urbanpro.Com, 2019, Accessed 12 Jan 2019.
  14. (2019). Dancing through the Decades: most popular dance styles over the past 100 years. [online] Available at: years [Accessed 12 Jan. 2019].
  15. Balletboard. (2019). 9 Most Popular Dance Styles in the World | [online] Available at: [Accessed 12 Jan. 2019].

María Daniel is an accomplished dancer, choreographer, educator, author and attorney. She is the Creator of the Hip Hop Experience Dance Class (featured on CBS and NBC) and the Dance of Healing Workshop series. María received two Outstanding Director Awards, Hip Hop Dance Ministry of the Year, Artist of the Week and numerous top honors (including best of show) for her Hip Hop dance choreography and program. Notable choreography credits include providing hip hop choreography for a Disney World performance, the McDonald’s Gospelfet competition, a Hip Hop Opera (“Sympathy,” an American Premiere) and hip hop choreography for National Dance Week events. María is the Founder and Artistic Director of iDance Ministry (which is home to the Dance Ambassador mentoring program). She is a member of both the National Dance Education Organization and Dance NJ. She is an Ambassador for the National Dance Foundation. María is the recipient of two mayoral proclamations for promoting dance in the community and coordinator for numerous National Dance Week programs. Maria’s Hip Hop Experience Dance curriculum developed out of her desire to create a journey for her dance students to experience Hip Hop dance as she did “in real time” through each era of the Hip Hop culture. She was surprised that so many studios failed to teach Hip Hop Dance within the proper culture, history and context.  Many students did not even know basic fundamental moves and terminology. The curriculum was further enhanced as María was bombarded by parents seeking an authentic Hip Hop Dance experience for their children. They were frustrated with the lack of substance in Hip Hop dance classes as well as the mischaracterization of Hip Hop Dance (which did not represent Hip Hop dance movement).  Hip Hop Dance has forever been imbedded in María and the Hip Hop Experience Dance class and curriculum is the culmination and epitome of these experiences and her desire to provide an authentic Hip Hop dance experience. 


Ms. Daniel's headshot courtesy of Thomas Mosley. 

Featured Photo of Maria Daniel's iDance Ministry Dance Ambassadors by Brian Mellot

You need to login in order to comment

Subscribe to our Blog


Submit a Blog Post

To learn more about submitting a Guest Blog post, click here.

Search our Blog

Blog by Date