Today I had one of the best hip hop classes I’ve ever taken. It was up there with the time we had the hip hop/funk teacher from Velocity Dance Studio substitute teach for my UW jazz class Freshman year, and with one hip hop class I took with Whitney at Westlake Dance Center (the caliber of which was never found again).
For some reason I didn’t really expect there to be a big hip hop scene in France. That’s why I brought leotards and ballet and tap shoes, but left my jazz sneakers and hip hop stuff back in Tacoma. I’m not quite sure what lent to this perception – maybe just that hip hop seems so very New York and Los Angeles, and so not Paris. We’ve got the East and West Coast hand signs but seem to be lacking one for Île de France. Maybe we could have a Paris-specific hip hop rivalry between Rive droit and Rive gauche…somehow that doesn’t really compute in my mind.
I was both excited and weary of Sciences Po hip hop classes – somehow uppity French political science students don’t seem the type to get down on the marley (a kind of dance floor). I imagined a class that would be amusing, but would probably be kind of boring, considering that the level was specified as “all” and I’ve been hip-hopping for plusieurs years now.
Wow was I wrong. Well, at least mostly wrong. Wrong about the lack of a hip-hop scene in France, that’s for sure. I was a little more on target with my assessment of the hip-hop scene at Sciences Po – of the four girls (including me) in the class, only one is an authentic Frenchie. With her (and the teacher), there’s me, a German girl and an Italian girl – a very international group, that’s for sure.
Of the four, I was the only one with any prior dance experience, so I was interested to see how the teacher would approach it. I needn’t have worried. Hip-hop is not like ballet. With ballet, you learn the exact same pliés and tendus at every studio from every teacher. No matter what your level of hip-hop is though, the dance is always going to be half ability, half personal style. Every hip-hop studio, class and teacher is different.
The teacher, an energetic woman in her early 40s (I would guess), came bounding into the room decked out like a P.E. teacher, in a reebok track suit and a top-of-the head, scrunchied ponytail. Her style was anything but. She managed to put together warm-ups and floor combinations that were simple enough to be followed by someone with no dance experience, and her style was so original that I wasn’t bored for a second.
If the Seattle hip-hop scene is a fusion of Northwest grunge and Manhattan street funk, this class was a French twist on L.A. hip-hop. It was so fun because it was so different from any hip-hop class I’ve ever taken. We krumped and c-walked and did the “killing bee.” It was crazy fun.
Although dance classes in the U.S. tend to be half in French because the names of all the steps are French, it was also really entertaining to take a full class in French. What might have been called “contractions” or “full-body shimmying” in the U.S. was called “La libération” by our teacher. The name is kind of perfect for the move – when it’s time for the liberation, you stand with your feet facing the side of the room, but your arms and chest open to the mirror. Then you start shaking both your upper and lower half as fast as you possibly can in time with the music. Throughout this, our teacher was yelling,
“Laissez-les bouger!” Literally translated, it’s “let them move.” What she was referring to, was our posteriors. I also couldn’t help giggling everytime I heard “Un, deux, trois, et KRUMP!” Everything’s just funnier in French. And from hip-hop to plumbing…
I’ve been having problems with my bathroom sink since I moved in. Basically, it doesn’t drain. Or, it drains, but it takes 15 minutes to do so fully. I tried pouring an entire bottle of the French equivalent of Dran-o in last week, but nada. I asked Cassie and Jean-Baptiste about it earlier tonight, and they started describing to me how you have to unscrew this bent piece of pipe under the sink and check for gross hairballs left by the previous girl. Cassie asked if I wanted her to come show me, but being a fool and not wanting to sound like a useless girl, I said no.
The problem is that I am a useless girl. The kind so useless that she can’t put a chain back onto her own bike. So useless that she had to get her brother to put windshield wiper fluid in the car for her. So useless that she would try to put motor oil into the car at a gas station and have to call her dad to ask how to unscrew the cap (apparently, being a cap, you just unscrew it).
I came back up to my apartment thinking I’d finally have a working sink, but having of course forgotten the whole I actually am a useless girl thing. I got on the floor underneath the sink and managed to unscrew something back there, but whatever it is won’t budge. All that happened is the pipes started to leak some really gross-looking brown water. Of course I was too embarrassed to go back down and ask, so I now have a non-working bathroom sink. I’m a little bit lost without the boys I usually ask for help – my Dad and brother for car stuff, Robb and Conner for computer stuff, my other brother for gross stuff…
I’d probably be a better ambassador of Wopeople if I actually knew how to do this stuff on my own. As it is, I might as well be in the kitchen with an apron on. Though instead of making dinner in my apron, I might be closer to being strangled with it. I guess Paris is as good a place as any to begin untangling myself.