Hip- hop dancer and choreographer Lee Fraser says the form is much more than ‘cool moves to cool music’
Classes are underway at Shiamak Davar’s Dance Studio in Banjara Hills and a group of children are warming up for their session. At the head of the room Lee Fraser moves effortlessly to the music, even as he keeps an eye on his students. Although only his second class with the young dancers, they share an easy rapport with their instructor, a fun evening in all.
But it’s a lot harder than it looks, says the hip- hop dancer and choreographer from Vancouver, Canada when he sits down with us minutes before the class began. “We all dance and move to music because it feels good but organising this and dancing in a way that also looks good is not easy,” he says, and adds “the key to looking good is to make it seems effortless.”
Fraser’s stop in Hyderabad is after a two-week stint in Mumbai where he trained more experienced dancers. “Teaching in India has been phenomenal because there is a lot for dance in the Indian culture and it’s been amazing to experience that because in Canada people love to dance but they often forget how much. So to see it here has been a great reminder for me,” explains Fraser, a former ice hockey player and coach who began dancing only five years ago.
“When I got a taste of professional performance dance, I fell head over heels in love and have dedicated myself to it since,” he recalls. It took Fraser no less than a year to catch up with other professionals his age, a feat he accomplished with the physical discipline and perseverance he had honed as an athlete.
His experience with coaching children also proved an asset when he began to teach dance. “I told myself that I would stay connected to dance even if I don’t make it as a professional dancer but I have been fortunate enough to be able to make a living off it now,” says a grateful Fraser.
But what makes hip-hop so special?
“The biggest difference between hip-hop and other forms is that it’s a reaction to the music, and also very limited by it. Contemporary ballet or jazz are independent from the music. They are all about expressing through movement and the music is secondary,” he explains.
“Hip–hop is about finding something in the music and expressing that so it is much heavier, with stronger hits rather than flowing movements.
“Fraser’s brand of dance is also fundamentally different from what we commonly construe as hip-hop in India. “It is a lot groovier, it moves through the chest and the core a lot. Indian hip-hop is bigger and faster and has a lot of arm, leg and head movements. So most of the stuff I am doing here is to help students find their core and have their moves come from the chest, back and shoulders.”