The H+ | Hip-Hop Dance Conservatory, located in NYC, and now in its 25th year, is an arts organization dedicated to the preservation, evolution, and proliferation of Hip-Hop dance; not unlike the ballet. At its inception, the ideas of the Conservatory’s founder and Artistic Director Safi A. Thomas, were to cultivate an environment of sustainability and longevity for the art form. He did this through a multi-pronged action divided into what H+ calls their 6 Pillars:
- Pedagogy: The creation a codified teaching methodology.
2. Repertory: The maintenance of an archived repertory of Hip-Hop works.
3. Advocacy: H+ works to provide an advocacy voice for artists.
4. Medical Research: Medical research and injury prevention as it relates specifically to dancers.
5. Infrastructure: Building infrastructure for a sustainable life in the arts.
6. Design: The implementation of a design arm responsible for the marketing and communication of H+ and the costuming of its productions.
One of the outcomes of the Conservatory’s work is an initiative called DanceMart, which is part of the Infrastructure Pillar. It’s the brainchild of Safi, and run with Yvonne Chow, Education Director and Dana Turner, Development Director of DanceMart and it’s been running since December 2015. Recently graduating out of its beta phase, it has served over 600 dancers to date.
DanceMart aims to promote the health, well-being and ultimate creativity of dancers by focusing on nutrition and the secondary problems they see as barriers to maintaining good nutrition: time, money and knowledge. Dance as a career presents so many challenges to new and even sometimes to established artists. Dancers are so busy while trying to establish their careers – running from class to auditions to dance gigs and side gigs often with very little money in their pockets. This scenario translates to difficulties in eating sensibly and cost-effectively for a dancer on the go. DanceMart has set out to not only change the visible problem but also address the root of that problem. Over a period of 3 years, they have thoughtfully and carefully planned this program so that it could grow and also stand the test of time.
Currently, this monthly event makes an evening out of fun, food, education and free groceries. Dancers make the rounds to 6 stations when they come in:
- The Selfie-Station: this is part of the social and fun aspect to set the mood right as dancers walk in the door.
2. The Survey Station: this helps the program administrators get to know the participants and to continually refine their program.
3. The Prepared Foods Station: here dancers eat prepared foods that have been tailor made for the program taking into account the good-for-you factor, budget factor and taste factor.
4. The Film Station: where they watch videos related to health and body image.
5. The Chef Station: a certified chef (and dancer) demos that month’s recipes so that once they get home they recreate with what they picked up at the last station.
6. The Grocery Station: dancers leave with a bag of free groceries made of ingredients from the demo for that night. They get to put to practice what they learned.
The Dancemart team is comprised of dancers, providing for dancers. The ultimate goal is increased frequency from monthly to weekly as the program builds and expands nationwide.