Word to Your Grandmother - Hip Hop Gets Old Schooled
“What we appear is not what we are.”
That’s the name of the rhyme written and rapped by a group of seniors on Monday.
After taking on rapper names like Sparkle, Ping Pong, Old Dutch, Mommy-C and Erosion (“if I try to breakdance, I’ll just wear away”), this group of about ten ladies and gents at the Lutheran Church of the Resurrection got to work making bling, sketching tags, writing raps and breakdancing, all as a part of the Heart & Soul summer camp for seniors.
The rap the Heart & Soul hip-hop workshop cooked up—”Watch Your Back”
A video by Ian Gibb of the dance session, taught by Drew Moore.
From bouncing to the beats to spitting out their verses, this crowd was beaming ear to ear all day. Some were more mobile than others and some needed some assistance to participate, but everyone was engaged.
Jesse Robson coordinates Heart & Soul, and with her team of volunteers, this church rec room transformed into a hip hop bonanza and these seniors became blanged out superstars. But, she explains, hip hop is just the theme of the day.
“We like to center our workshops around a theme,” she says. “We like to do three or four different activities combining different artistic genres, and then individual and collaborative art work so we find it easier to do that when there is a theme.”
Robson has a background in neuroscience and dance, and this combination led to the creation of a dance class with a fellow volunteer at the QEII hospital last year. Eventually, they decided to have a more consistent program, so with the help of the Robert Pope Foundation and now the Halifax Community Health Board, Heart & Soul was born.
“There’s been a lot of literature in neuroscience recently about how important it is to remain physically active in later life for preventing both physical and cognitive decline,” Robson explains. “Dance is something that is really accessible to everyone. Everyone can bop along, even if that’s the only sort of movement they can do.”
And this group did more than just bopping. Under the the tutelage of Drew Moore from Concrete Roots, the Heart & Soulers were up on their feet popping and locking but first they learned about the history of hip hop. Moore explained how it was birthed in the Bronx as an outlet for a generation of disempowered youth, how it helped break down barriers and let people express themselves.
The greater message of hip hop culture struck a cord with this group. Oliver, a.k.a Erosion, told me his hip hop education has made him more open-minded.
“I think it has possibilities—not only for the younger who are better equipped to respond to it. I think the older people can as well, myself included. And I do what I can, I have an arthritic hip, but there’s still a few moves I can make.”
And making these moves is doing nothing but good things for this group—in fact, most of them are here on the recommendation of medical personnel.
“After people have a bad fall or a surgery, they just don’t want to do anything for a really long time,” Robson says, “which is understandable, because they’re in pain, and they’re afraid they might fall again. We think this program is helping out.”
“The thing about hip hop is it’s not what you do, it’s how you do it.” Moore explained at the end of his B-Boy workshop. “So if you’re just walking around with some attitude, some swagger that’s what it’s all about.”
Judging by the content of this group’s rhyme they’ve got swagger up the yin yang and they’ve got the jokes, too.
“People see white haired ladies and bald-headed gents, we’ve lost our hair but not our underwear,” as they say in their poppin’ rap.