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Doubling Up w/ CT’s Hip-Hop Dance Duo
Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Fairfield is probably one of the last places you’d think to look to find some high quality Hip-Hop dancers. The town, however, is home to an expert, Paul Herman, who teaches Hip-Hop Dance at Flash Pointe Dance Station. Paul and his brother Brian, who teaches on Long Island, are known as Double Up Dance Group and in addition to being instructors they’ve worked with a number of big name artists, including Kat DeLuna, whom they tour with, Eve, Sean Paul, Alicia Keys and Beenie Man. Their story doesn’t start in Fairfield, though. It starts in the South Bronx.

Growing up in the South Bronx, Paul notes he and his brother were surrounded by inner city pressures such as gangs, violence, and crime. Dance became one of their outlets to stay away from such negative influences. Paul explains that their parents’ backgrounds had a lot to do with this, saying “our parents are of a Caribbean background. Our mother’s Jamaican and our father’s St. Lucian and Caribbean people are very in tune with dancing and celebrating. At a young age we were taught to showcase dancing and express ourselves through dancing.”

The brothers’ first experiments with dance were with the Caribbean staple Dancehall, a style of dance seen most in the world of reggae music. Thanks to living in one of the birthplaces of Hip-Hop Paul and Brian were also quickly put in tune with the world of Hip-Hop dance. There was another factor that influenced the duo, as well – television. Through TV they feel they “got more in touch with the Hip-Hop side of things from not just a Bronx perspective, but from all over the United States.” In 2000 Paul made the move to Fairfield to attend Sacred Heart University and the town has been his home base ever since.

Even though Paul and Brian teach Hip-Hop dance, don’t expect to see them spinning on their head on a flattened out piece of cardboard on the street corner. In fact, according to Paul, Hip-Hop dance and breakdancing are two totally different animals. “We don’t classify ourselves as b-boys,” he explains, “the stuff that Justin Timberlake may do, or that Usher may do, that’s the style of dance that we are known for.” Paul continued to explain the difference, saying “breakdance is more floor motion, powerful hard moves, explosion. You might see someone doing a flair, or spinning on their head. Stuff like that. Versus in a concert you would see some styles of b-boying, but at the same time you wouldn’t see it that much because you can’t do all that while you’re performing. Justin Timberlake can’t drop the mic and start spinning on his head.” He adds teamwork is essential for Hip-Hop dance. “When you’re actually in the moves everyone has to do them together. Sometimes in b-boying people can do stuff together, but after that they break up (and do things solo).”

The Double Up Dance duo received their first big break in 2007 when they heard about contest where the top prize was a spot in Kat DeLuna’s “Whine Up” video. “There was a big contest on Z100 where you had to submit a video dancing to her song,” Paul remembers, “at the time she was coming out as an artist and she was looking for a dance that was symbolic to what the song was saying, whine up.” Paul and Brian’s Caribbean background would work to their advantage as they came up with something that struck a chord with the young singer and her people. “We took our style of dance of Hip-Hop and most of that Caribbean vibe and meshed it together very well. From there Kat and her management team saw the video and requested that we come down to Times Square and perform it in front of them.”

The duo made their way into the city thinking they’d be led to a dance studio or event space of some kind. They were slightly shocked to find out there was no studio or event space, Times Square was going to be their stage. The brothers shook off any jitters they may have had upon finding this out, aced the audition, and went on to the next round where they met renowned choreographer Tanisha Scott. After all was said and done Paul and Brian ended up being chosen to be in the video and can be seen as featured dancers in the clip (which has over 12 million views on YouTube).

The success Paul and Brian have had mixing genres of dance is something that they take great pride in. Paul explains that even though they’re teachers, “we’re eager to learn new things. We pull pieces away, so whatever we learn, whether it’s capoeira, ballet, tap, jazz, we always try to pull something away from there and bring it back to the table.”

What’s next on the table for Double Up Dance Group is a March 29th workshop they’ll be teaching at Fairfield University as a part of the school’s Diversity Week. The workshop is scheduled to be held at the Barone Campus Center in the afternoon. After that it’s more teaching, more touring, and more auditioning as there is no rest for this dancing duo.

Story originally ran in the FairfieldWeekly.


posted by Adam Bernard @ 7:50 AM  
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