National summit celebrates women in hip-hop

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Poppin’, lockin’, up rockin’ and breakin’ may sound like gibberish to the average Midwesterner, but to anyone in the hip-hop scene, those words are music to their feet—they’re terms used to describe the original forms of old school hip-hop dance.

Minneapolis dancer and choreographer Amy Sackett combines these traditional moves with funky new beats each weekend when her co-ed dance cooperative, Collective, performs at the Mall of America. Sackett’s dance style is just one of many that will be on display this month at Intermedia Arts for the 2006 B-Girl Be Summit, a weekend celebration of women in hip-hop.

Along with graffiti artists, DJs and spoken word artists, this year’s event highlights the dance aspect of hip-hop, paying tribute to the original definition of a b-girl, or “breaker girl.” The summit will host female break dancers from all over the world and offer master classes taught by world-famous b-girls Asia One, from Los Angeles, and Rockafella, from New York City.

Being a b-girl
Sackett was born in Chicago but has been dancing in Minneapolis for 10 years. This year the female members of her crew will perform a dance at B-Girl Be that she created specifically for the event.

Because breakin’ (acrobatic and handstand-like moves on the ground) is traditionally viewed as masculine, Sackett says she likes to add a little feminine touch to her choreography, including salsa moves and body rolls. She says it’s important for female hip-hop dancers to find their own style and avoid imitating their fellow b-boys.

But it’s often feminine sex appeal and booty shakin’ that gives women in hip-hop a bad rap. Sackett was careful to mention that although her dance includes some hot hip moves, she avoids the over-sexualized routines that show up in many of today’s music videos. To her, hip-hop is supposed to be beautiful.

“Hip-hop is a rose that blossomed out of the worst situations. People needed a way to escape the hardships they were dealing with in a positive way,” Sackett said.

Family-friendly hip-hop
A major goal of the B-Girl Be Summit is to be family-friendly and to give the community, and especially young girls, a chance to participate. Leah Nelson, dance curator for the event, says she just wanted to “give dance a good floor” and support dancers on all levels. Dancers of all ages and skill levels will perform throughout the weekend, setting the stage for networking and mentoring possibilities.

“We’re giving girls who’d otherwise be just messing around on the streets a chance,” Nelson said.

The popularity of the sex-driven music videos has increased the need for positive female role models in the hip-hop scene, both on the streets and on TV.

Sackett encourages her students to dance as much as possible. She tells them that even if they don’t have access to classes, hip-hop is free. You don’t need money, she says, just your body.

The summit
Traditionally men have dominated the hip-hop scene, but B-Girl Be reverses this trend and puts women center stage for the entire event. Sackett says she prefers being taught by women because they have a better understanding of how the female body moves. She says she “gives props” (respect) to guys for all that they’ve helped her learn, but bottom-line, men’s body weight is distributed differently.

“Once a guy was trying to teach me a freeze, and he was like, a buck twenty—and all muscle,” she says laughing. “And I’ve got this junk in the trunk.”

Instead, Sackett puts a feminine twist on the move and makes it her own. The summit showcases a range of dance skills, hoping to inspire women to step up and get down with their own personal style. Nelson says there will not be a battle, a b-girl dance-off, stressing the fact that the event isn’t meant to be competitive.

The local scene
Theresa Sweetland, programs manager at Intermedia Arts, said people seemed surprised by the success of the first Summit in 2005. She said the community just didn’t realize there were so many women out there performing independently.

“When the summit started, there were b-girls coming out of the walls,” Nelson said.

Minneapolis is a hotbed for hip-hop talent, and yet the women hadn’t met each other. “It’s too small of a community to not know each other. We [women hip-hop artists] need to meet,” Sackett said.

The B-Girl Be Summit has already brought together several local women artists and the trend is likely to continue.

So get out there girl, and be.

B-girl Be
When: June 29–July 2

Where: Most events take place at Intermedia Arts, 2822 Lyndale Ave. S., Mpls. Thursday’s opening keynote address by Dr. Roxanne Shanté and opening dance performance, “My Name is Roxanne,” takes place at the Capri Theater, 2027 W. Broadway Ave., Mpls.

Reservations suggested for workshops and events. Admission varies by event.

FFI: Call 612-871-4444 or visit www.intermediaarts.org for a complete schedule.