Watch them Nae Nae: Kids get free lessons in hip-hop this summer

Alyssa Jackson
  • A five-week dance camp kicked off at Martin Library last week.
  • The camp is free for fourth- through sixth-graders who also participate in the summer reading program.
  • The hip-hop lessons are taught by Illstyle & Peace productions, a Philadelphia-based dance company.

York kids are "getting jiggy with it" this summer at a free hip-hop dance camp offered at Martin Library for fourth- through sixth-graders in York City.

The camp is taught by a Philadelphia-based dance company called Illstyle & Peace Productions and is funded through a grant from the Cultural Alliance of York. The Positive Energy Arts Association also helped coordinate the program. The association is based out of Harrisburg and started five years ago, when arts were eradicated from many schools in Pennsylvania, according to Thomas Flagg, the artistic director and co-founder.

"We believe that dance is the most active and compelling of the arts, and it creates and manifests the most change," Flagg said.

On Wednesday, members of Illstyle & Peace Productions started the class by asking the kids what they wanted to be when they grew up. Answers ranged from artist to teacher, from dancer to singer, but the dance company maintained that no matter what the answer, there were common aspects among them all: They needed to practice and learn.

Practice and education are some of the main lessons organizers are hoping the kids will learn from the five-week camp, according to Paula Gilbert, director of services for York County Libraries. It's also an opportunity to get kids moving and staying active over the summer, as well as to teach them about hip-hop culture, Gilbert explained.

"The idea is that movement and dance helps you be a better learner," Gilbert said. "It's a heritage thing. This is something that's been a part of our country for a long time."

Illstyle & Peace Productions had the kids warm up by playing a dance game before having them follow along with the dance leaders in another warm-up exercise. Afterward, they practiced the dance they had started to learn the previous day.

Deb Sullivan, the community relations director for York County Libraries, said the kids can be inspired by the professional dancers who have spent hours practicing to get where they are.

"The library is all about connecting people with resources and experts and with people who have shared interests," Sullivan said.

Students can sign up for one week or all five of them, but each week the skills build on each other. Kids are able to sign up through the library's website, and all of those who sign up are able to participate in the free summer reading program as well, for which they get a library card and can participate in events. Students are still able to sign up for the upcoming sessions.

In two summer showcases, kids can perform the dances they've learned, according to Gilbert. One will take place July 16 and the other July 29.

"This is empowering them. They learn new skills and gain self-confidence," Sullivan said of the dance camp. "I think it's important for kids that they can try something new."

Camp will continue on the following dates:

July 5 - 8

July 12 - 15

July 19 - 22

July 26 - 29