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50th anniversary celebration of hip-hop

Maria Klingelhoefer faces Emma Jahn in a dance-off on the Drake Theater stage. Photo by Lucas Ratliff / Antelope Staff

This year marks the 50th anniversary of hip-hop. To celebrate, UNK hosted a day of events themed around hip-hop featuring three master classes, a hip-hop opera and a hip-hop battle.

Teena Marie Custer, the host of the hip-hop battle, said the genre is unique in the fact that it has one relatively agreed-upon starting date.

“It really was a fading in of many different cultures from the Bronx, but the elders of the community just kind of decided to say that it was Aug. 11, 1973,” Custer said. “Which was the first party that Kool Herc hosted in the Bronx.” 

Herc is considered the first hip-hop DJ and revolutionized the genre during that party.

“He was just throwing a jam for his sister and he’s the one that got the two turntables to blend the records to make the break of the records last longer,” Custer said. “That’s kind of how we started hip-hop culture, but from the humble beginnings of the Bronx, it just spread globally.” 

During the celebration on campus, masterclasses were taught on the four elements of hip-hop: MCing, DJing, breaking and graffiti.

The 50th anniversary of hip-hop was coming up, and Noelle Bohaty, director of dance at UNK, had a friend who had worked in the field and could teach hip-hop. Bohaty said things just lined up.

For the hip-hop opera, the dancers learned hip-hop techniques and the show from Custer in five days.

“It would be comparable to learning ballet technique and ballet vocabulary simultaneously, then choreographing a really hard ballet piece, and they just did it brilliantly,” Bohaty said. 

The last event of the day was a community jam and hip-hop battle, which Custer said is a common event in the hip-hop community. 

“We have some professional judges, and a professional DJ that’s working in the genre all the time,” Bohaty said. “They are hosting a battle so you can compete for simple prizes, or you can also just be a part of the community of the dancers in the circle jamming.” 

The hip-hop battle was open to the whole campus and a group of eight competed.

“Most of the people tonight that I’ve seen are dancers and [members of] the dance department who are just doing it for fun,” Custer said. “There is one community member that’s battling who is from Lincoln and is actually practicing being a legit hip-hop dancer, but this is a really different kind of jam because it’s just friendly.” 

Custer said that the environment of the hip-hop battle on campus was much different than most of the ones she has gone to.

“It’s very competitive and you have to train really hard to kind of show, improve and get your respect in the street dance scene,” Custer said. “So it’s great to see people’s first time battling and have them feel comfortable.”

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Lucas Ratliff
Lucas Ratliff, Reporter
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