Hip-hop style of dance can be fun, does not have to be provocative

Jennifer Lee Preyss By Jennifer Lee Preyss

May 23, 2014 at 12:23 a.m.

Jermica Buckner, left, and Kenosha Thomas, right, follow Tasha Morrison, center, as she leads a hip-hop fitness class at The Heat Fitness. Morrison said she started the class because she found going to the gym boring and wanted a fun way to lose weight after having a baby.

Jermica Buckner, left, and Kenosha Thomas, right, follow Tasha Morrison, center, as she leads a hip-hop fitness class at The Heat Fitness. Morrison said she started the class because she found going to the gym boring and wanted a fun way to lose weight after having a baby.   Angeli Wright for The Victoria Advocate

Sweat rolls down Tasha Morrison's face, catching on her false lashes and mascara.

Her lip gloss sheens with the sparkle of the perspiration; her purple hair extensions flip side to side as she pops her hips to the beat.

Her choreography is at times suggestive, not at all attempting to be delicate like her "first lady" of the church role might teach.

But Morrison, 26, doesn't mind.

She may be a Christian, a church leader and married to a minister of an African-American conservative Baptist church, Greater Mt. Calvary Baptist, but she hasn't given up her love of dance or the ability to shake her butt.

"The church plays a huge role in my life and always has," said Morrison, who recently started instructing an adult, women's only hip-hop dance class at The Heat Fitness. "But I've always danced. . If I needed to blow off steam, I'd get dressed cute and sweat it out on the dance floor. Music does something to me."

Morrison said as a first lady, a common name used to greet and acknowledge minister's wives in black churches, the role can be daunting with its heavy expectations of perfection.

She enjoys the role, and the great work her husband, the Rev. Montari Morrison, is providing the members, but she said it's often difficult for others to see her apart from the "church lady" leadership role.

A role that is respected in black churches nationwide, members often look to the minister's wife to be the ultimate role model.

So starting a hip-hop class that will next month include sultry floor and chair dancing routines is out of the ordinary and may go beyond the comfort zone of many Christians who may consider the hip-hop, grinding, rolling hips, butt-and-boob-shaking movements too seductive or worse - sinful.

"If you look at where black people come from - Africa, the islands - that's how we move. Adults and children dance like that and it's not considered provocative. We're good at moving our hips," Morrison giggled. "We've made it provocative here in this country, but that's not my intention."

And it's not, she said.

After delivering her son more than a year ago, Montari "Stink" Morrison Jr., Morrison said she lost a bit of her femininity.

She needed something to make her feel like an attractive woman again, not only for her own self-esteem but so she could be a better wife to her husband.

"When I became first lady, I was 24-years-old and the best advice I ever got was to be myself. The moment you try to be what the church people want you to be, you lose yourself," she said. "This class may not be typical for someone in my role, but it's true to who I am."

And it's true to the Bible, Morrison said, who references David dancing to the Lord with all his might in 2 Samuel, 6.

As the class grows, Morrison plans to add an "after dark" 21-and-up floor and chair dancing class at Heat Fitness on the second and fourth Friday of the month.

Morrison is careful to remind dancers it is not for the purpose of lustful dancing.

There are no men allowed, no children and the women are fully clothed in regular exercise attire. But she does encourage them to wear their hair, nails, lip gloss and false lashes to impress and add a little something extra to women's self-esteem.

"We are not putting ourselves on stage to be someone's sexual object. What I'm doing is burning calories and looking cute," she said. "Just because I'm saved doesn't mean I shouldn't have a safe place to express myself in dance."

Dancer Kyuana Barnes, 42, who recently lost more than 100 pounds after gastric bypass surgery, said she enjoys the class for its entertaining exercise style.

While learning the choreography, she doesn't see Morrison as a Baptist first lady, she sees her as a fitness instructor.

"I don't think one has anything to do with the other," Barnes said. "This is all about exercise. There's nothing controversial about it."

Another dancer, Sharon Albrecht, 40, who started attending the class as a way to enhance her previous exercise schedule, said if they were doing the dance in the middle of the nightclub dance floor, there may be a few judgmental stares. But at Heat Fitness, it's just another way to lose weight and feel good about herself.

"In my own head, it makes me feel sexy . but I'm not ready to go home and show my husband yet," Albrecht said, laughing.

Morrison encourages her women to own their femininity and move freely as God allows.

And mostly, she desires the women to have fun and enjoy their hour away from the responsibilities of wifedom and motherhood.

"When a woman is confident, she is better in every area of life," she said. "They may not be a size 2, but if she's confident working a size 16, getting exercise and enjoying herself and what she has to offer, she can be a superwoman in her world. That's what I want to be."



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