Breaking down Augustana’s new hip-hop club

“From the top: five, six, seven, eight!”

The Augie Hip-Hop club jumped right into practicing their dance number for the International Talent Show after doing some warm-up stretches to “Accelerator” by The Kansoul. For the first 30 minutes of the Monday night class, the only sounds were the taps of feet on concrete and freshman Onajite Taire explaining a new dance move.

“It’s like you’re saying ‘buh-bye!’” she exclaimed, gesturing to mirrors spanning the theater wall.

The second half of the class added music, and suddenly all of their practicing came to rhythmic fruition as they danced to “Rake it Up” by Yo Gotti ft. Nicki Minaj. The joy in the room was palpable as the dancers memorized moves and improvised other dancing techniques.

The five dancers that practiced on Monday night speak over seven different languages. Gedion Alemayehu, a freshman from Ethiopia, talked about the diversity of their dance.

“Even in Africa, we’re all from different places where they have different styles of dance and different ways of expressing ourselves through that,” he said.

Taire, from Lagos, Nigeria, took the initiative to start the Augie Hip-Hop club as a passion project for students who want to learn or improve their hip-hop skills.

She formed this club to express and share her love of dance. Whenever someone struggles with a new move, Taire goes through it step-by-step to make sure they understand it. She makes sure that everyone is comfortable with the choreography before moving on, creating a stress-free environment for students to have fun.

Camille Gaede, a senior nursing major, reinforced this idea by saying that with hip-hop “you don’t really care about what you’re doing.”

Gaede has been dancing on and off most of her life and fell in love with hip-hop in high school. Unfortunately, the expenses of continuing dance while attending college became overwhelming, so she had to drop dance classes like ballet and hip-hop.

But free hip-hop classes on campus allow anyone to enjoy dance without worrying about the cost.

“[The student teachers are] not gonna ask you to pay them for what they’re doing,” Gaede said. “They’re just doing it because it’s fun and they enjoy it. They’re teaching people their craft.”

When Gaede first learned hip-hop, she went to a beginner’s class with a group of children. She felt like she was terrible at dancing; not because she was a terrible dancer, but because she was a college student dancing next to a bunch of talented young kids. The Augie Hip-Hop club has provided her a space to learn with people her own age.

“Now I can learn all of the new dances I wanted to learn without feeling bad,” Gaede said.

Augie Hip-Hop initially had a class size of roughly 20 to 30 students, but now the club has around five or six members. The club has had slim advertising, so many students don’t know it exists.

Gaede said through dancing you have to take risks, and a fear of failure holds students back from joining the club.

“[Some students say] ‘Oh, I’m not good at dancing, so I don’t want to come.’ But that is the point,” she said. “There is this class that is taught by friends, by people that I know that are my age that are not going to be judging [me] for how [I am] dancing.”

The members aspire to share their love of dance with more people. Alemayehu said the club “isn’t really about hip-hop.” It’s a community of diverse individuals that come together to become more well-rounded dancers and have fun in the process. As a member  of Augie’s dual-engineering program, Alemayehu doesn’t often have time to relax, but he has found dancing to be a great way to destress from all his rigorous academics.

The club hopes to get Elmen certification and a spot on the Get Fit workout schedule to attract more students. But for now, they’re just going to keep doing what they love.

“You don’t have to know how to dance to start dancing, you just have to feel it,” Gaede said.

Augie Hip-Hop teamed up with the African Student Union to teach students how to dance to Afrobeats Thursday at 6 p.m. in the Theater Acting Studio. This beginners class is open to everyone.

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