Hip hopping over obstacles

  • Joshua Allan
Joshua Allan cares little for conventional sports. This 18-year-old dynamo has found his flair in hip-hop dancing, an unorthodox choice which he says is much more than a pastime.
by JORDAN MOSHE | Jan 16, 2020

Hip-hop didn’t just offer emotional, mental and physical benefits, but an unconventional key to success in his matric year at King David Linksfield.

“People think there can’t be a connection between dance and school,” says Joshua. “This isn’t true. I’ve discovered that dance offers valuable lessons applicable to school life, from keeping a healthy mind to maintaining an optimistic approach.”

His passion for dancing began when has was 10, the influence of an older sister who enjoyed ballet and modern dance motivating him to get on his feet.

“I thought dance was for girls,” Allan says. But, he took a shine to hip-hop, a form of dance created in the 1970s that was closely related to break dancing. Allan initially entered the dance scene with friend and fellow-dance enthusiast Jordan Smith, a breakdancing champion who chose to move beyond hip-hop and who has competed in Olympic level dance competitions.

“Break dancing and hip-hop are very much alike,” he says. “The difference is that hip-hop is much bouncier, a freer from of dance with more freedom of expression.”

Allan continued dancing throughout his school career, participating in local and international competitions along the way. He has taken part in world championship events since Grade 7, (including the Dance Star World Gala event in Croatia in 2018) and has even been awarded school honours and national sports (Protea) colours for his fancy footwork, thereby attaining recognition for hip-hop as a sport in South Africa.

That July, Allan broke his ankle while on holiday. For nine months, he couldn’t dance. It took a toll not only on his physical health, but his mental well-being.

“It changed me,” he admits. “I didn’t go out for a long time. The psychological effect was enormous, affecting my mood greatly. My school marks dropped.”

He resumed dancing in April last year, but soon realised that he needed to rely on more than just dancing to succeed in matric.

“The prelims hit me hard,” he admits. “I sailed through school, and always managed to balance work with dancing. Matric didn’t start too well, and I realised that I’d have to put my head down and work hard. My parents urged me to make an effort, and I found a way forward.”

Allan decided to maintain the outlet of hip-hop as a constructive means of balancing his workload with fun. He even made hip-hop the focus of his Life Orientation research task, evaluating the role of dance in maintaining a health emotional, psychological, and physical state of well-being.

“The dance scene has taught me so much – teamwork, optimism, respect for others, and determination. These are all relevant to learning and school in general. Dance helped me cope with the stress of matric, and gave me unique opportunities along the way.”

Allan achieved six distinctions in his final exams, including subjects like IT and Hebrew. He plans to pursue a degree in Business Science at the University of Cape Town this year.

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