My Life in Sweats: Hip Hop with Kevin Middleton

I don’t know how I wound up in an advanced hip hop class with Kevin when I’d never taken beginning or intermediate hip hop. Let me tell you – it’s as intimidating now as it was on the first day but I’ve accepted that as a brand new baby hip hop dancer it’s natural to be several steps behind. It’s pretty frustrating starting out in any new hobby when your brain understands the task at hand but your body glitches out. I was anxious about it in the first few classes but now I no longer punish myself for not being able to keep up. I have goals and I will get there eventually.

Kristin and Fenton told me that I’d be in good hands with Kevin and that he focuses a lot on technique. On my first day he warmed us up with some really fun and energetic stuff and it was exactly what I was craving in a dance class! I can hang just fine when we repeat moves and groove to the song. He also had everyone introduce themselves to each other and say why they were in the class since I was a new student. “Hi. I’m Sue Anne and I’m not sure if I belong here but this is the class they told me to take at the front desk.”

Kevin was able to acknowledge my newness in a way that made me feel comfortable. In the choreography section of class I’d start to forget the later parts of the sequence and stumble since they weren’t as practiced. This concerned me because at the end of each class the students break up into smaller groups and perform. I was really nervous when he asked me if I was okay doing it. “Nooooope,” I said, so he gave me a pass. I tried this again in the second class but he wasn’t having it. He initially agreed but then decided that it would be better for me if I participated. This may have been the first moment where I realized that I freaking love this guy. His class, his rules, and I am his student. I know the following video just appeared in one of my blog posts recently but I find it once again appropriate to accurately express my feelings:

Hi Kevin.

Kevin Middleton is an attractive, young, tall, thin man made of pure muscle. I don’t mean to alarm anyone but… Kevin… may be from another planet or dimension. He could be a robot. Then again, he might be the product of a top secret science experiment just like something you’d see in X-Men. While everyone else in class carries on as if nothing otherworldly is happening, I am standing there staring and pointing with my mouth hanging open wondering if anyone else is seeing this shit. Let me tell you a few things…

Kevin in the beginning and his students following up. At the end I’m afraid his head is going to just roll right off of his body. I’m going to recommend that he go to a doctor get that looked at. That way maybe we can get a blood sample.

1. Kevin has machine-like stamina.

I don’t know what he fuels his body with but it’s at least 94 octane. I’m in a workshop he’s teaching and the class goes for two hours. We don’t dance that entire time and we get water breaks and time to take notes but he outlasts all of us. He *does* break a sweat though. That may rule out the robot theory.

2. Kevin is bendy.

This actually supports my theory that he is a mutant. He’s always wearing super loose clothing so we never actually see what his limbs are doing but I’m convinced that his bones bend. All the muscles of my own body protest in collective spasm whenever I watch Kevin contort and flow. Occasionally I fall over sideways like a fainting goat. It’s very embarrassing.

3. Kevin has mastered mind control.

Kevin is fun and charismatic. He will compel you with a combination of his eyes, voice, and presence. Maybe the same arcane biology that allows his bones to bend allows him to emit some sort of chemical into the air that turns us all into Kevin-obeying zombies. Case in point: One evening after class he was insisting that we all go out to eat as a group. I was prepared with my old lady excuses (I’m tired, my butt hurts, my cats need me) but he held on to the idea like a bulldog. I blacked out for about fifteen minutes and when I regained consciousness I was at the restaurant waiting for a table. He either beamed us over there or brought us there in his spaceship.

Still shot from Seigfried with Kevin in the middle using his mind control technique. Try to look just to the right or left of his eyes. I have no idea how his powers work so it’s best to be safe and assume that images carry this power as well. I cannot be held responsible if you black out and find yourself waiting for a table at a restaurant somewhere.

In his six-week workshop I get to see him really shine. We meet for two hours each Friday night where we dance, take notes, experiment, and “lab.” Labbing is when you get in front of a mirror and dream up moves. It’s a time to practice and decide if they look fly or not. Kevin is pursuing an acting career and has us apply a few acting techniques to our moves to get us really thinking outside of the box. It is during this workshop where he shares his ideas that I find myself not only impressed by his teaching but inspired by it. Then I did some math. Yep. I started teaching college right about when he was born.

I enjoy how he pushes us with extreme contrasts. Example: Here’s a basic bounce step. Okay now do that same groove in a small, soft way. Now do that again with bigger moves and faster execution. Alright, now what if your moves focused on pushing. Pulling? Smashing! Each time the dance has a different appearance and personality. During one class he had us dance a choreography we’d been working on and then he broke us up into pairs. We pushed and pulled on one another and then we went back to the dance. By applying these new concepts that we would never have thought of on our own, our choreography was completely transformed. He’s getting us out of our comfort zone. It’s a big mind scramble and I love it. And thank you Kevin, thank you, for not making us lie on the ground and pretend to be bacon in a frying pan. That conceptual dancing lesson needs to be destroyed with fire. Right now.

Choreography & Concept by: Kevin Middleton Cinematography & Editing: Noah Duran Dancers: Alexia Dos Santos, Camry Alexander, Christina Gan, Daniel Kong, Eddie Wu, Hamza Ahmad, Jacob Bacud, Katie Mooney, Kevin Middleton, Krutika Pandit, Maiya Wenzel, Michael Saunders, Nicholas Scott, Nick Hoang, Phillip Livingston, Rachel Gladney, Sean Choi, Tyrik J Patterson

I started to process the way he teaches and envisioned applying it to the way I teach my drawing classes. “Okay guys! I want you to draw as hard as you can, with as much force as you can. Okay now erase that. Can’t erase it? Try it again drawing softly. Try doing a drawing only using your fingers. Now try it with your whole arm. Make pulling marks. Make pushing marks…. etc.” Kevin has already influenced my drawing classes! Another mind scramble.

I’ve gone out to eat with the group twice after we have wrapped up class and I have really enjoyed getting to know the other dancers. I found out that many of them are university art students! I shouldn’t be surprised. I’ve found that creative people are often talented in many different fields. Take one of my heroes, Steve Martin, for example. Comedian, actor, writer, musician. Connecting to these dancers on a level playing field has helped humanize my own students for me. At work I keep a professional barrier between myself and my students, avoiding too many personal details. The unexpected connection I’ve made with the dance class has softened me some but don’t tell this to anyone because it will ruin my street cred.

I’m a big Kevin Middleton fan if you haven’t figured that out already. I don’t have the strength to pick him up by the shoulders and shake him at local bystanders while shouting, “LOOK AT THIS GUY! LOOK AT HIM! PAY (shake) ATTENTION (shake) TO (shake) THIS (shake) GUY,” so this is my verbal substitution. I hope to see him go out into the world and be successful and happy, changing others lives for the better like he has mine. I’ll sure miss him when he goes though.

Pay attention to this guy,

~S

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