Dance Dimensions files into the studio for rehearsal, and Los Angeles-based choreographer Sabela Grimes instructs the class to begin with a warm-up exercise: ten minutes of “chicken heads.”
This exercise is nothing out of the ordinary in his teaching.
“He doesn’t believe in routines, which is a new way to learn… instead, we learn basic moves, which is more efficient and more organic-looking than a routine,” Dance Dimensions member Rebecca ’11 said.
Grimes is stepping in as Dance Dimensions’ guest choreographer for the Evening of Dance show in February. His lectures and teaching focus on the history of hip hop.
“I don’t have a plan, but I do have an intention, and that is to share some of the choreographic process that has been developed in communal spaces where black dance processes happen, and how it has made transitions to the concert stage and theater,” Grimes said. “It’s a newer context, and we’ll investigate what is lost and gained.”
Dance instructor Mpambo Wina said Grimes’ approach adds a crucial element of history to the dancers’ knowledge of hip hop.
“His approach is that hip hop comes from somewhere,” Wina said. “He has taken street dance and placed it on the stage, where a formality has to come in.”
Grimes’ teaching is taking the dancers in a new direction.
“We’ll be working on a step, and he’ll notice two other girls playing around and say ‘wait, stop, let’s try that.’ It’s a different way of teaching,” Rebecca said. “He’ll take something as simple as a step and take it in a different direction.”
Grimes hopes to see a change in the dancers’ studies.
“I hope to see growth measured by how they walk into the room, how they approach the vocabulary… I want to experience some of their expansion as artists and human beings. I want this to be a reference for them in twenty years,” he said.
Grimes wrote his dissertation on “Soulja Boy” from a cultural and historical point of view.
Wina said that working with a Los Angeles-based choreographer makes the teacher more accessible to the girls.
“It’s important to support the greater Los Angeles art community,” she said.