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New-club movin’ on up

September 21, 2006

“I remember the day I fell in love with hip-hop,” the opening line in the movie “Brown Sugar” says. It’s a line two UW-River Falls students want to help their peers answer by starting a breakdancing club.

Mekha El-Shadi Jones, junior, and Chris Robinson, sophomore, together formed UW-RF’s first official breakdancing club.

“The breakdance club aims to establish a university community that practices and promotes breakdance as one of the positive elements of hip-hop,” the club’s constitution states. And “to introduce members and the university community to positive aspects of hip-hop culture and dances that has influences and continues to elevate the art.”

Robinson and El-Shadi Jones said one of the club’s main goals is to show people hip-hop can be positive and that in its original form it was not meant to be violent. The leaders hope the breakdance club can highlight that.

“We want to expose it to everybody in its purest form,” Robinson said.

El-Shadi Jones agreed, and said the idea was to “expose a side of hip-hop they may not see in videos or the media.”

The essence of the group is about exposure to the constructive varieties and lifestyles hip-hop adds to society and American culture.

“It’s about being able to express yourself in an urban art form,” Robinson said. “All art has to do with adaptation; breakdancing is urban adaptation.”

“Certain aspects of the [hip-hop] culture are changing because of the negative coverage in the media and society,” El-Shadi Jones said. “You can’t package djaying, graffiti or breakdancing, but you can package rap, and it will sell.”

Breakdancing in the current form is an accumulation of elements from different sources. Some moves are similar to a self-defense technique slaves from Angola brought to Brazil, others from 1970s funk dances and still others from rituals New York City gangs used to solve disagreements though a dance called up-rock.

El-Shadi Jones said it was at one of last year’s campus hip-hop shows, RF Underground, where he first got the desire to start a breakdancing club.

“I didn’t know anyone else could break,” he said. “Then another guy started to break on the side while the show was going on, and I knew the potential was there.”

That guy was Robinson, who also said he didn’t know of anyone else on campus who was a breakdancer. But when he heard about the Underground show he went with the intention of dancing. Both said they were excited when they realized they had found other people with similar a interest.

The idea to form a club then developed and was approved as an official club by the Student Organization Committee this week.

Things started rolling when El-Shadi Jones first persuaded the African American Alliance to sponsor a breakdancing club by allowing him to post signs and send e-mails to interested people last fall.

Following that, he started a group on Facebook devoted to gathering people and providing easy access to information. Members of the Facebook group began meeting and practicing together.

Further validating El-Shadi Jones’ notion that a breakdancing club would be good for the community was UW-RF’s pre-college summer camp, where he taught a breakdance class to young kids. Robinson joined El-Shadi Jones and taught the class to a new group of young students.

The club will measure its success in a few different ways. They aim to have regular attendance, improve their skills by challenging themselves and to keep the number of people in the club rising.

Another measure will be when they reach the level at which they can confidently compete or perform for an audience. The last way will be judged in the longevity of the club.

People of all races, ages and interests are encouraged to join.

“The movement spread around the world,” El-Shadi Jones said. “Young people of Hispanic, African, Asian and European descent all came together to find a way to deal with the oppression in their lives, and we encourage everyone, regardless of race, age or gender, to join.”

Questions on membership can be directed to Robinson and El-Shadi Jones through e-mail at either christopher.robinson@uwrf.edu or zionmoving@yahoo.com.