How to dance ghetto

Ghetto Classics Dance, in Nairobi, Kenya – The Ensemble @ Longy

Joanna Priwieziencew, who has danced with companies in the U.S., Europe, and Egypt, and now divides her time between the U.S. and Kenya, where she heads the dance program of Ghetto Classics

GCDance students Maximilah Saiboku and Esther Kavuu in Bourrée I from Bach’s Cello Suite No. 3, choreography by Anthony Lee Bryant, LADP. Photo: GC Archives.

“To dance is to be out of yourself. Larger, more beautiful, more powerful. This is power, it is glory on earth, and it is yours for the taking.” – Agnes de Mille

The snow was falling heavily, obscuring the picturesque view of the forest. The snowflakes were waltzing in unison, and when Tchaikovsky’s score reached a crescendo, angels appeared: the Ghetto Classics children’s choir from Korogocho, a slum on the outskirts of Nairobi. Their soft voices brought calm and serenity to the stage of the Kenyan National Theatre, where The Nutcracker ballet was being performed.

On that warm December night in 2018, the idea of Ghetto Classics Dance was born. In early 2019, the music education program Ghetto Classics, serving over 500 children over the last 12 years, added dance to its activities.

On the crowded roads of Korogocho, with its 300,000 inhabitants on 1.5 sq. km, its tin homes with no running water and open sewage, and its backdrop of Dandora (an immense, ever-growing, and constantly burning mountain of garbage), one can scarcely imagine encountering a center filled with live arts. But that is the home of Ghetto Classics, where every corner, every room vibrates with music—from Chopin to Tanzanian composer Adam Salim.

Esther Kavuu, student of GCDance since 2019, during ballet class. Photo: GC Archives.

Now, the school vibrates with dance moves as well. Ghetto Classics Dance currently consists of two classes, each with 12 children. Small classes ensure that each child is given continuous personal attention. During the school year, classes take place all day on Saturdays and Sundays; during school holidays, classes are every day. Students are required to attend all classes taught in the program: hip hop, traditional African dance (taught by Kenyan dancers Raymond Ochieng and Daniel Mboya, respectively), and classical ballet, which I teach. All three styles have equal importance in the curriculum.

The theoretical part of the curriculum focuses on dance history—the role of dance, from traditional African culture through the French royal courts of King Louis XIV to the birth of hip hop in the Bronx. The students also learn basic music skills and recorder, benefiting from the music curriculum of Ghetto Classics.

Evelyne Akinyi (front) leads fellow students in a ‘baby freeze’ during hip hop class. Photo: GC Archives.

GCDance believes all these disciplines, taught truthfully, are crucial for our students to be able to communicate their own vision and negotiate a globalized world from an informed position. Equipping young dancers with discipline and artistry, facilitating opportunities that are more readily available to peers from luckier socio-economic backgrounds, and developing skills so they can represent themselves with dignity in the dance world: this is the mission of Ghetto Classics Dance.

Including dance within the Ghetto Classics program enables multidisciplinary art collaborations: a piano accompaniment for ballet class; drums for an African dance class; original choreography to the music of Nubian oud player Hamza El Din or to an original composition from Korogocho. If not for music, there wouldn’t be dance. The process of dancer and musician learning to pay attention to one another, to support one another, and to try, fail, and create together—this very human process is transformative and gives rise to the fleeting moment when art is born.

GCDance students and GC cellist Stephan Kamau rehearse Gigue from Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1, choreography by Daisy Jacobson, LADP. Photo: GC Archives.

Most professional dance schools are associated with dance companies. In these standard settings, dance students look up to and draw inspiration from the dancers on stage, in the hallways of the opera, or even on screen. Given Korogocho’s remote location and scarce access to the internet, and the very young dance scene in Kenya, this model wasn’t feasible. Thankfully, dancers are known for challenging the impossible, and a partnership began in February 2020 between Ghetto Classics Dance and the Los Angeles Dance Project (LADP). As a result, the dancers of LADP have created and coached choreography for the students of GCDance, often defying shaky internet connections. Sometimes waking at dawn or teaching late into the night, the extraordinary LADP artists defy time zones, demanding high international standards of their GCdance students. When the work is ready to be shown, the first audience to see it is always the community of Korogocho; it is to them, first and foremost, that we owe quality art.

Another artistic partner has been SquireBallett Studio, in Kiel, Germany. This partnership supports the continuity of the program but also offers a much-sought exchange of practices. On Zoom, ballet students from Kiel have bounced to hip hop beats with GC teaching artist Raymond Ochieng.

James Muindi and Maximilah Saiboku partnering in dance to Chopin Prelude no 4. Photo: GC Archives.

When Covid forced schools to close in Kenya, the lack of access to devices and the internet made remote learning impossible for Korogocho students. But having established protocols that provided a safe, non-stressful environment, GCDance became a full-time dance school for 14 weeks of lockdown. “They come to dance, not to be thinking about the pandemic,” Lucy Squire, director of SquireBallett, reminded us. This period also allowed the program to expand into other vital areas. The students began bi-weekly classes in nutrition with nutritional therapist Michelle Pesce. We also organized outings to nearby nature that they had never visited, from the trees in Karura Forest to the wildlife of Nairobi National Park.

What we lack in Korogocho continues to cause us sleepless nights: is it acceptable to have dance students jump on a cement floor? We know it isn’t. When a child is in pain, can we stand in for a sports doctor? Absolutely not. Are there any guarantees of the future we can offer to these children?

None. But the freedom they feel as they become music and make the impossible happen, through their own sweat and countless hours of work—that is theirs for the taking.

Dance Mania: Ghetto Madness | Various Artists

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  • Compact Disc (CD) + Digital Album

    1. Jammin Gerald - Pump That Shit Up
    2. DJ Deeon - The Freaks
    3. DJ Deeon - 1112
    4. Steve Poindexter - Computer Madness
    5. Darien - Hit It
    6. DJ Rush - The Reactor
    7. Wax Master Maurice - Bounce That Body
    8. Tyree – Nuthin Wrong
    9. Jammin Gerald - Pump On The Floor
    10. Paul Johnson - Give me ecstasy
    11. Parris Mitchell - Ghetto Booty
    12. DJ Milton - House-o-matic
    13. DJ Funk - Computersex
    14. DJ Funk - Bitches
    15. Houz Mon - The groove

    Includes unlimited streaming of Dance Mania: Ghetto Madness via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.

    ships out within 3 days

    Purchasable with gift card

      €12 EUR or more 
  • Streaming + Download

    Includes unlimited streaming via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.

    Purchasable with gift card

      €11 EUR

  • 2LP Vinyl Album

    Record/Vinyl + Digital Album

    Includes unlimited streaming of Dance Mania: Ghetto Madness via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.

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Jammin' Gerald - Pump That Shit Up 04:09

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DJ Deeon - The Freaks 03:40

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DJ Deeon - 1112 07:04

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Steve - Computer Madness 04:16

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Darien - Hit It 04:19

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DJ Rush - The Reactor 04:17

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Wax Master - Bounce That Booty 03:53

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Traxmen - Let Me See You Butterfly 05:13

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Jammin' Gerald - Pump On The Floor 03:31

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Paul Johnson - Give Me Ecstasy 06:15

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Parris Mitchell - Ghetto Booty 05:34

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DJ Milton - House-O-Matics 04:53

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DJ Funk - Computer Sex 04:06

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DJ Funk - Bitches 02:42

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Houz' Mon - The Groove 05:22

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Strut return to the archives of seminal Chicago house label Dance Mania in January 2015 for ‘Dance Mania: Ghetto Madness’. The follow-up to Strut’s acclaimed Dance Mania label retrospective ‘Hardcore Traxx’ from early 2014, this new instalment places the spotlight on the raw, stripped back, hyper bpms of ghetto house and the rise of the movement’s fresh generation of stars during the mid’90s including DJ Deeon, DJ Funk, Jammin’ Gerald and DJ Milton.

The album tells the story of the evolution of Chicago’s sound during the era as mix tapes circulated through local stores and DJs developed their own under- ground following, playing local parties in the projects. Crowds began responding to faster bpms and gangsta rap-inspired X-rated lyrics. As DJ Deeon remembers, “it bridged the gap. It made it OK for guys in the ghetto to like house again and it brought the women onto the dancefloor too.” Dance Mania was perfectly positioned to capitalise on the new sound – many of the DJs came regularly into Ray Barney’s record store and, as Chicago’s most trusted and respected label owner, he was offered the best tracks for commercial release at an early stage.

‘Ghetto Madness’ brings together some of the underground classics and enduring favourites that earned Dance Mania the title of ‘Ghetto House’s Motown’. Tracks include DJ Deeon’s party-starter ‘The Freaks’, raw DJ Funk cut ‘Computer Sex’ and Nina Kraviz favourite, Paul Johnson’s ‘Give Me Ecstacy’. Other featured gems from the archive include the dark early Steve Poindexter outing ‘Computer Madness’ and Tyree’s in-demand jam, ‘Nuthin’ Wrong’.


released January 1, 2014


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Dance Crip-Walk (C-Walk). Type of modern dance.

Crip Walk can be described as a street culture dance, modern and spontaneous. The creep walk pays primary attention to the movements of the legs: as in a twist the dancer “presses the cigarette butt with his toes”, so in the creep walk different possible signs or words are written out with his feet. Sometimes, therefore, the creep walk is referred to as a "graphic dance".

In the late 60s in Los Angeles ghettoes were formed - special areas with a low level of development, inhabited by African Americans who defended their rights after the complete abolition of slavery in the territory US .

In these areas, various bandit groups had a huge influence, they were practically the only force influencing social change. The levers of influence and the main profit of the gangs were drugs, weapons, murders, robbery, blackmail ...

, which later became known as Crips .

Raymond's main ideas were to seize a leading position in the social influence of his society, protect his neighborhoods, "have weight on the scales" ...

In the early 80s, Crip Walking began to develop as symbolic dance of the Crips gang, which is why it got its name.

Crip Walk or C-Walk is a contemporary street dance style focused on virtuoso improvised footwork. It appeared in the late 60s of the 20th century in Compton, a poor suburb of Los Angeles, and was performed to rappers' chants.

Members of the gang used dexterous footwork to display their name or give bandit signs, to initiate new members into the gang.

In the early 70s, with the development of the Crips gang, they had special movements that only they understood, at first they were used as visual signals, passwords, warnings.

Developing this idea, Crips began to use these movements for initiation into gang members, and if you were not a member of their group, but copied their movements, you could be shot right on the street.

These movements were first called Crip walk .

Then it grew not just into movements, it became their style, their lifestyle, to leave the house and perform a crip walk, it was as natural as washing in the morning, moreover, all the members of the gang “cooked in it” .

With their crip walk , the creeps wrote the name of the main rival gang Bloods , and then crossed it out, thereby "omitting" them. The answer followed in the form of Blood walk - a set of moves similar to Crip walk.

At this time, clowns appeared in the same areas of the ghetto, in which people, living on welfare, were either members of gangs or those who hid from them. Yes, clowns.

They hosted parties for ordinary African-American families while dancing to the local music of hip-hop. The first was Thomas Johnson , later he turned into Tommy the Clown for everyone ( Clown Tommy ) - a cheerful guy with a painted face and hair of all colors of the rainbow at once.

His style was called clowning. He found himself in various types of hip-hop culture, and became the progenitor of such a style as Krump . But Tommy had many followers who developed separately from him, and one of them, seeing the movements of the Crips gang - crip walk, which was then forbidden in America, added clown, comic movements and his own tricks to the dance ...

This is how Clown walk was born, thus, using their great popularity, clowns diverted popularity away from gangs in a more peaceful direction.

Young people have received a way of self-expression in dance, saturated with culture. Subsequently, the prohibition by the US authorities of crip walka, style Crown walk was based, as a synthesis of two names (crip and clown), this dance became a synthesis of clown movements clown walka and style, and the presentation of crip walka.


Crip Walking has many motion variations. However, there are several major versions of the C-Walk that have always been part of the Crips culture:

  • The "V" : This is one of the most important variations of the Crip Walk. In this variation, you need to move your body so that you "draw" the letter "V" with your feet. Creeps usually "write" words or their names with this move. Usually the word "Bloods" is written and then crossed out or "erased".
  • The Heel-Toe : Also one of the most popular C-Walk variations. In this variation, you need to do half-turns with your heels and toes. The tricky part here is doing the "angles" with your feet, for example: your right foot needs to be at a 90 degree angle behind your left foot in order to do a half turn.
  • The Heel-Hop : Another popular version of the Crip Walk. This variation is similar to the Heel-Toe, but it does not require any turns. You simply transfer the support from one foot to the other.
  • The Shuffle : This movement involves shuffling your feet back and forth.

Our time

Crips walk became popular after rap artist Ice-T showed up in front of the cameras in the 1990s. Clown wlak is just a hip-hop dance.

  • Clown walk is usually faster
  • Elements in clow walk are more spectacular and less traditional
  • Clow walk is a dance, not a ritual
  • This is freestyle without the required elements
  • During the dance, a person does not perform actions related to gangster chips

Currently, the dance C-walk is developing, implying a way of expressing one's feelings, emotions, state, but not forgetting the history and soul of the dance. And gangs Crips and Bloods , having many years of development and bloody war among themselves, dividing spheres of influence, signed an unspoken “peace treaty” in 2006.


Dances, Theater, Esterent in the districts

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Ghetto Kids -

Ghetto Kids (or triplets Ghetto Kids ) is a dance group founded in 2014 in the Kamwe slum of Daud Kavuma children Uganda).


Ghetto Kids concert in 2017

In 2014 Alex, Fred, Bashir, Patricia and Isaac, the film themselves dancing to the music Sytia loss by Eddy Kenzo. The video is gaining more than 8 million views in a few weeks on Youtube and social networks. Singer Eddie Kenzo states: “I didn't know this video existed until a friend told me about it. [...] It took me about two weeks to find them in Katwa." Then the singer invites them to take part in the official video for the song, which will be released in September of the same year. This collaboration marks the start of Ghetto Kids and allows children to return to school and Dauda Kavuma can buy supplies to grow the group. He composed and produced several pieces of music for the band, which will tour Africa and the United Kingdom in the coming months.

B Aleksey dies at the age of 14 from the consequences of a bicycle accident. Despite this death, the band continues to tour Africa. The group is admired by American artists such as P. Diddy and Nicki Minaj, and in 2017 participation in the video Unforgettable from French Montana begins its success in the USA.


In 2014, Ghettos Kids dance for Eddie Kenzo's music video on Sytia Loss.

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