Home > Interviews > Raw Interview: Otis Funkmeyer

Raw Interview: Otis Funkmeyer

This is my interview with Otis Funkmeyer. For a quick introduction, read my feature on this scholar of popping.

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Arundel, Maine, a small town of 2000 white people. The house I grew up in was built in 1690 and my closest neighbor was 1/2 mile away. We didn’t have cable television in my town until I was 13 years old. All true!

What got you into dancing, and why did you specialise in popping?

I got into dancing because of raves and I had a very intense experience with LSD at a rave that made me want to drop everything–I was a math major in college–and become a dancer. I chose to specialize in popping because it’s the best dance. Period. It is so funky and amazing and it is so illusional and amazing it is so trippy and amazing and the way that a popper can BECOME the music. I’ve never seen it anywhere else. I was hooked immediately. I saw an old clip (this is 5-7 years before Youtube) of Skeeter Rabbit of the Electric Boogaloos and I crapped in my pants and said “THIS IS WHAT I WANT TO DO.” Within 2 years, Skeet was my good friend and teacher.

What was the reaction of your parents and peers to your dancing passion?

People were VERY surprised and VERY skeptical. I kept it to myself in many ways for a long time. I think that it’s really important to nurture your creativity and if you notice that there is someone in your life who is not supportive of your passion and your dream, you must shield it from them. Creativity is like a tiny baby flower. It is very delicate and fragile at first. It needs love and encouragement. Too much negativity can kill it.

One of the biggest things that my journey to popping has taught me is that if you stick with your passions, you develop a sense of character that can not be taken away from you and it sticks with you in every endeavor you become involved with.

How did you come to the conclusion to pursue dancing full-time and travel to learn more about the dance?

I couldn’t help it man. I was obsessed. OBSESSED. It was all I could think about. For a long time, I had no interest in talking about ANYTHING except popping. My friends JRock and PopnTod and I used to spend HOURS on the telephone just talking about anything and everything related to popping… it’s deep man this popping thing!

What were your experiences living with poppers (like Madd Chadd) and making friends with a new network of poppers.

It was the best. The way that I have always felt is that I participated in one of the amazing renaissances of the world. Like the Harlem Renaissance or Paris in the 20’s. I mean, it was me, JRock, PopnTod, Madd Chadd, Tetris, Animatronix, Pandora, JSmooth, Kid Boogie, Preying Mantas… we would just hang out and go dancing all the time. We were all young dancers just trying to get better. Now, we are all winning contests all over the world and starring in movies and theatrical productions. It was a special time and the best part is that all of us were a part of it and so we have a special look of recognition when we see each other.

Which poppers and teachers made the greatest impression on you during this time?

My main teacher without question was Skeeter Rabbit. He taught me as much about life and art as anyone I’ve known. Skeet and I were SOOOOOO different from such different walks of life that it just worked. He was the one who made me feel comfortable around people different from me. My first teacher who really got me going was Poppin Pete. And my VERY first teacher who showed me the ropes was Gorgeous Fon the Dapper Don, who has basically created one of the biggest and best popping scenes in the world now in Montreal. I have also learned a LOT from Jazzy J, Buddha Stretch, Boppin Andre, and Brian Green. Those guys all put together are my main teachers. And also JRock, PopnTod, and MaddChadd. We all lived together so were always showing each other new things.

How did you become involved with Elastic Illusion, and how did the company break up?

I got super disillusioned with the popping scene. As I started growing up and maturing and developing spiritually, I saw how lame the whole thing was. A bunch of teenage boys basically–always beefing, always talking about drama… it was actually more like teenage GIRLS to be honest. I just lost interest.

The culminating incident was when Suga Pop punched out my friend PopnTod for no reason. Basically, because Suga Pop’s whole mentality is based on dominating people. If they stand up to his intimidation, all he can do is fight. He is a sad man–at least he was when I knew him. And I’d say that to his face. It’s the truth.

After that, I thought, this is STUPID. I want to be involved in sharing the FUN of dance with people. I don’t want to tell you how to dance. I just want to show you HOW and let you make up your own mind.

And me and Ace and Tyson are some weird guys. So we thought. Let’s just go for it all the way. And we did.

The breakup was a sort of “you reap what you sow” thing and we all learned a lot from it. It just happened… People change.

How did you start producing your own tutorials?

I was always really scared of being in front of the camera so it took me a long time to start producing my own tutorials. After the Elastic Illusion experience, I realized what I actually cared about was people who wanted to learn REAL POPPING. I mean, just read my resume above. I’ve studied extensively with pretty much ALL of the OGs. I didn’t even mention how much I studied with Taco and Wiggles and Suga Pop, but I did. They just weren’t that huge an influence on me.

And people were always calling us “fags” in Elastic Illusion. I figured, I’ll show you what real dancing is, and then you see what you call me.

To put it another way, the goal with Elastic Illusion was to show millions of people how to dance. Our videos have about 23 millions views as of May 2010 so it’s like, we succeeded.

My goal with my tutorials is to create 10,000 HARD ASS, RAW, FUCK YOU UP IN THE CIRCLE, EAT YOU UP IN A BATTLE, HARD HITTING POPPERS. So it’s a different goal and it requires a different approach.

What does your daily practice session consist of, including any supplementary conditioning- and flexibility training?

I eat really healthy. I have spent about 10 years learning the ins and outs of nutrition and now have a diet I am very happy with. A lot of raw food, mostly (but not strictly) vegan. It works for me.

I have discovered, even though I know this might be too hard to believe, that you just have to practice when you feel like it. Look at dance as a life long journey. Some weeks or months or years you want to get down 24/7. Sometimes you don’t. Just flow with it. TRUST THE PROCESS. Don’t worry about getting rusty.

Popping, the way I teach it, is a BIIIIIGGGGGGGG dance. There are a LOT of concepts, a LOT of styles, a LOT of feels to learn. You have to take your time. Be patient.

I see a lot of people in a hurry to be the next Pacman, the next Mr. Fantastic, the next Elsewhere. Those are not the students I’m interested in. Those people come and go (not Pac/Fan/Else, but they’re wannabes). i am wanting to teach people who are in it for the long haul. I don’t get caught up in HOW MANY of those people there are.

So, basically, I just dance when I feel like it. is it good? I dunno. Is it bad? I dunno. But I do know that it works for me.

What is the most common mistake beginning poppers make, and what advice should all new poppers know?

Going too fast. On all levels. Trying to run before you walk. Trying to freak beats before you can ride beats. Trying to boogaloo before you can pop. Ignoring the robot.

The biggest advice is SLOW DOWN. Practice air posing. Work on your slow, subtle dimestops. Be patient. Don’t try to get “GOOD” so fast. Be OK being BAD! You’ll get GOOD! Everyone gets good eventually. Just be patient. ENJOY where you’re at.

This was the advice that I was given that I didn’t take! And now I wish I had.

The other advice is listening to other people TOO MUCH. At some point, you have to decide how YOU want to dance. Skeeter Rabbit did it for me but maybe he doesn’t do it for you! That’s cool. TRUST YOUR GUT. Don’t trust mine! That took me a long time to learn and when you learn that, you will have a confidence when you dance.

What are your thoughts on the competitive nature of popping, and how should one deal with the success of others?

Man, you gotta keep GRIIINDIN. Just keep putting in work. The competitive nature is what makes the dance dope. A heated battle is like nothing else. Fuck the contests; a circle battle is where it really goes down. No politics, just show and prove. It’s primal. It’s real.

You know, I’ve been in the game 10 years now. I’ve burned some bridges that I’ve had to rebuild and I’ve discovered that even when you think someone has disappeared, they haven’t. Work on CONGRATULATING and APPRECIATING other people’s success. Think about how special it is that you knew that person way back when. And realize that if you are around them, then maybe it’s because you’re well on your way toward success as well.

I mean, I got STOOOORIES man. I remember when JSmooth had no confidence, when JRock had no car, when MaddChadd had no home, when PopnTod had no job, when Pandora had no musicality, when Kid Boogie had no skills. I mean… that’s special you know.

I discovered I had to make my own path. As Eminem said, “I came to the fork in the road and went straight.” That’s wassup.

What changes do you see in popping now then the time where you started?

You know what. I just saw JRock for the first time in a minute last night and we were talking about this. The youngsters don’t understand the importance of foundation. I always thought Youtube was gonna make an army of dope dancers and on one level it has, but on another level, there is so much eye candy to try to bite on Youtube that a lot of people are not historians. Trust me. Victory is achieved by the patient.

Our generation had to be DETECTIVES man. I’m talking PRE-DVD era. We were mailing each other VHS cassettes back and forth across the country. Trying to find ANY SCRAP of footage we could possibly find. I always thought this sucked for us. But actually, it made us HUNGRY. We were forced to always be looking, always be grinding, always be searching.

And I think for that reason our dance has more SOLIDNESS. The architecture of our dance has more of a foundation. There’s a basement and good scaffolding. You can’t BS that stuff.

The way I think about it is like–what’s the longest-lasting building on the planet? The Pyramids in Egypt.

Now I actually think that there was extraterrestrial assistance in their construction, but ignoring that for a moment…

What’s the first thing you notice. IT’S NOT EASY TO BUILD THAT SHIT MAN. You got THOUSANDS of MASSIVE stones. So you do that hard work for 500 years and the shit lasts for like 10,000 years. That’s how it goes.

You wanna be a dancer who LASTS. Who not only gets on the TV-show-of-the-moment but who is still going strong, getting more and more respect at age 50, 60 and beyond, you gotta do the HARD WORK. There are no shortcuts to foundation. That’s plain and simple truth.

What are your future plans?

My goal is to create the ultimate popping teaching resource and game that the world has ever scene. I spend so much time thinking, analyzing, brainstorming the best way to teach this dance. You know when you go into a ballet or jazz dance class. They got a SYSTEM man. You learn in a very specific way. I want to create the Funkmeyer method of learning popping. I want to produce well-rounded, super hard, very unique and creative dancers by the thousands.

My other goal is to be the star of a holographic video game popping instructional. Something like rock band/guitar hero for popping. The technology is not there yet but we get closer everyday.

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