nakia-bowling_web.jpgMIAMI — Here’s one way to get middle school kids to exercise: Play some hip-hop – “Stanky Legg,’’ “Bust Your Windows,’’ “Kiss Me Thru the Phone.’’ Before you know it, they’ll be breaking a sweat and zapping calories while shaking and shimmying to the beats.

That was the scene during the 2009 Hip Hop 4 Health Fair and Dance Competition held May 2 at Jungle Island in Miami. Trios from about 20 middle schools throughout Miami-Dade County spent months practicing their moves for the chance to rank among the top three schools and win trophies and prizes, including Nintendo WII Sports games, Dance Dance Revolution games and Trek mountain bikes.

‘’We’re trying to get them moving,’’ said Nakia L. Bowling, program director of The Carrie Meek Foundation, one of the event’s presenters. “Dancing will help cut down on adolescent obesity.’’

Theresa Garner, of Westchester, mother of 12-year-old twins Brittany and Breyana Yearby, agrees. She sat in the shade and watched as her slim girls swayed to music before the dance competition.

“I think they were dancing in the womb,” she said. “They love music.’’

There was plenty of music, courtesy of WEDR-99 Jamz and radio personality Lorenzo “Ice Tea” Thomas.

Dancers from Equinox put their moves on display and cajoled many in the crowd of about 3,000 to dance along.

The Miami Heat dancers, looking just as fit as the team they represent, gave the kids advice: Learn every type of dance – ballet, African, Latin – not just hip hop. The more you know, the further you’ll go.

Even Heat Mascot Burnie got into the action, challenging emcee Kalyn James, a model and choreographer, to a little one-on-one. Sorry, Burnie, it was no contest. James got the loudest cheers.

“I really love it,’’ James said of the event.  “These days it’s really important for kids to associate something that they enjoy doing with health, and since fitness is such an important part of growing up, I think this is an excellent opportunity for kids to put the two together, hip hop and health. It’s perfect.’’

About 30 health vendors were also on hand. There were free blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose screenings; rock climbing and bungee swinging; and healthy cookbooks from AstraZeneca. A few cooking hips: Try smoked turkey thighs instead of ham hocks, and Canadian bacon instead of pork bacon.

“It’s a good way to promote a healthy lifestyle,’’ said Jeff Alverson, representing the pharmaceutical company.
“It’s about patient education. We gave them out last year, too, and it went over well.’’

After several hours of jamming at the fair, it was time for the dance competition, time to really have some fun, said Breyana Yearby, of Glades Middle School.

“It doesn’t matter who wins or not,’’ she said. “It’s about having fun because it’s for your health.’’

The Parrot Cove theater was packed as workers quickly assembled the dance floor and tossed Hip Hop 4Health T-shirts to the audience. Then, the dancers took over, gliding, jumping, back-flipping, and everything else.

They might get guidance from a dance teacher, but then the kids “put a little raunchy stuff into it,’’ said Toshia Blackmun, a social studies teacher at Madison Middle School, who danced along in the audience while the
Madison trio took the stage: Andreuei Barnes 13; Romeka Williams, 15; and Jamika Hanna 15.

Overall, there were a few wardrobe malfunctions, but nothing of Super Bowl proportions. Jewelry flew off, paper corsets worn over T-Shirts ripped, and bandanas fell, but the kids never missed a beat.

While the judges collaborated, the colorful hip-hop group High Definition put on a show. In the end, Howard A.
Doolin took third place and the mountain bikes, Westview Middle won second place and the Dance Dance Revolution and DVD players, and the Madison Middle trio, with tie-dyed denim shorts, neon tights and baseball bats (for Jazmine Sullivan’s “Bust Your Windows’’) earned first place.

“We practiced a long time,’’ Barnes squealed, clutching her trophy and Nintendo WII Sports. “We put our hearts into it. Oh my goodness! I’m gonna cry.’’

Photo by Mychal McDonald. Nakia Bowling