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Featuring: Katie Lee (SOX)

July 31, 2010 Leave a comment

I have to confess that I didn’t particularly like locking when I first saw the dance. I looked at some of Campbell clips, and it seemed to belong to a different era. I didn’t like the pointing, the clothes, the stationary stance, or the overly comical attitude.

But I remember the second I changed my mind and fell in love with the dance.

I rewatched it over and over again, showing it to friends, angry if they didn’t share my enthusiasm. It was one of the moments where I didn’t properly understand why I loved what I was seeing. Why did this one clip affect me so deeply when most locking clips didn’t? I just knew in my gut that it looked amazing.

This led to me to take a closer look at Yoshi (Japanese dancer from Bebop Crew), and the locking clips of Michi Kasuga (I focused on his popping styles before). I now prefer the locking style over traditional boogaloo popping, despite my love for popping body effects. Let me show you why by showcasing Katie Lee’s locking (her dance name is SOX).

The above So You Think You Can Dance clip (Canadian version) shows a quality that SOX shares with Yoshi. You can call both of them lockers, but they incorporate a lot of different types of dance into their style (SOX actually practiced hip hop styles for five years before getting into locking). You can see SOX doing body rolls, some waacking (I think), plus some excellent isolation and hard stops that poppers would envy (that’s what people mean by saying her moves are “clean”).

Most importantly, she dances to the music. I didn’t properly understand this before I watched these locking clips. Look at her participation in the 2009 Funk for your feet competition. It’s very difficult to incorporate your entire body into the dance and keep your groove to the rhythm. SOX doesn’t stand stationary for very long in any position, incorporates a wide range of different types of movement, but she never loses her timing.

Another crucial quality is the ability to express a fun attitude to the audience. This often veers into purely comical gestures, but SOX manages to not resort to that. Watch the following battle (same competition) against the equally impressive Loose Canon. Look at how much fun and goodwill both of the dancers are able to express.


(The song is called “Why Leave Us Alone” by Five Special. Yes, I can’t stop listening to it either.)

See how well they play off of each other at 0:59. This turns the battle into a dynamic and interactive experience, which is very different from most of my battles (the below video skips directly to that part)

Some of this body gestures look so precise and on time, it borders on mime work. In the following clip, she does a guest appearance at Flowshow 2008 with fellow locker Mayumi.

At 0:24, Katie mimes being surprised by the sudden appearance of Mayumi, then expressing how impressed she’s with Mayumi’s dancing. It lasts only a split-second, but such details catch my attention immediately (again, below video skips directly to relevant part).

Now look at the quick changes of body poses and gestures (ditto). I don’t think I’ve seen something like this elsewhere.

I found something in Lee’s style of locking that I didn’t find in boogaloo. The need to listen to the music, express your fun attitude through your body gestures and poses, and to incorporate your whole body into a diverse set of movements instead of remaining stationary. I will always feel grateful for that.

I leave you with one interview that she gave before her 2008 Flowshow gig. She provides some information about herself and a quick explanation as to why she didn’t advance to the SYTCD finals. Dancers need to excel in a large number of choreography in these competitions instead of just one (Mr Fantastic and Pacman dropped out from the SYTYCD competition for similar reasons). I understand, but still think it’s a crime.

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Guilty by association

July 31, 2010 Leave a comment

Just my thoughts on popping in general. Click here for more of my ramblings.

Reading some of SpaceCapital’s articles on 4dapoppers.com, I came across an interview with Robert Shields, the mime whose TV show in the seventies proved a huge influence on the robot style. Shields lamented the loss of respect for the art of mime. Just because a small set of mimes makes the field look bad, all mimes suffer from it. Especially the great ones.

I’ve thought about the mainstream backlash to popping and (to a lesser extent) bboying from the years 1988 to around 2000. I’ve read some articles from the OG poppers to gain some perspective, but didn’t receive an answer that satisfied my curiosity. The closest I came was Mr Wiggles answer that popping turned too commercial and watered down. That appeared true, but I found it a simplistic answer for something much more complex.

Trying to figure out what it was, I thought about why I didn’t pursue this dance earlier in my life. To speak frankly, I just didn’t know that popping and bboying were any good. I had this image of bboys doing windmills from 80s TV, and that was it, just a gimmicky form of athletics. I’ve seen people do the robot, and not once has anyone done it well enough to look anything more than a joke. More than anything, they reminded me of the worst kind of 80s kitsch.

And that may be the problem. It wasn’t until Tyson Eberly and Madd Chadd that I saw how cool the robot can look. Not until I saw the bboy compilations on Youtube did I realise that it’s more than just one windmill after another. Not until I saw the very best in the respective fields did I respect any of the streetdances.
People in the 90s didn’t have the chance to see the very best. They were flooded with sub-par examples of the dance. And once people make the judgement that a dance is intrinsically bad, it’s very difficult to change their minds. There’s a particular backlash against something that becomes very popular but fades just as quickly. People see it as a fad instead of a real art form.

Even the great streetdance productions of the 80s were of low quality. Movies such as the Breakin’ series are a good example. They featured the most skilled and creative dancers in locking, popping, and bboying. Some moments have ingrained themselves in popular culture.

Yet they were rushed productions, and some parts are painful to watch nowadays. The sequel received particularly bad attention, and the term electric boogaloo itself has turned into an internet joke meme for unnecessary sequels (e.g. Speed 2: Electric Boogaloo). If the most influential films for streetdance reminds you of of the worst kind of 80s kitsch, then you can forget about mainstream accepting streetdance as a legitimate art form.

Perhaps it took some time for people to forget the association with the 80s. A new generation had time to rediscover the dance for themselves. The main advantage today is that anyone can access footage of the great at any time. You can bypass all of those that give the dance a bad name, and see the very best. You just have to look for it.

Categories: Ramblings

Looking Elsewhere: The Road Less Travelled

July 24, 2010 2 comments

This is an entry in the David Elsewhere series where I analyse his training methods and philosophies. The quotes are derived from his myspace post. In this entry, I discuss the following quote.

Exploring where others haven’t – In dancing I have found that particular areas are easier to be original in than others. I think that certain styles are less explored than others and this leaves more room for innovation. From the artistic perspective, the less traveled path is usually always the more rewarding one and the one I have tried to stay on.

David Elsewhere. source

Without leaving their own art, the ingenious leave the common path and take, even in professions grey with age, new steps towards eminence.

Baltasar Gracian. A Pocket Mirror for Heroes. Trans. by Christopher Maurer. In Robert Greene’s The 48 Laws of Power, p. 349.

Wonders never amaze the second time around. How many looked in awe when the first bboys started doing windmills? Remember when the audience gasped when Michael Jackson debuted the moonwalk at the 25th anniversary celebration of Motown? Now both of these moves are often seen as nostalgic throwbacks to the 80s.

Quickly losing amazement of the familiar represents one of the great tragedies of the human mind. Audiences quickly feel jaded by any spectacle. If you want to survive as a dancer in a certain field, you need to perform the moves better then the dancer before you. I’m new to the bboy world (just as an observer), and I’m in shock how well the foundations of today’s bboys are. You face a lot of competition as a bboy. There are thousands of others who practice the same moves you want to practice. They may be stronger, more talented, have more experience.

Creativity plays a very large part in streetdancing. We have the ability to throw off competition by dancing on our own terms, not the terms others put on us.

I haven’t seen any evidence that Elsewhere can boogaloo. I’ve not seen him perform most of the basic popping routines most poppers judge each other by. In all likelihood, he’d have to spend years learning these type of dance. And then he’d be an average boogaloo popper.

Elsewhere took a smarter route. Instead of competing in the same fields as the other poppers, he focused all his energy on developing his own moves and taking them further then other people would take them. Look at the first two dancers in the Kollaboration clip.

Although it’s hard to tell with only a few seconds of their performance, they have a solid foundation in their popping routine. But they look very bad in comparison with Elsewhere. He performed moves that nobody in the room had seen before. Perhaps some had seen strobing, but not the way Elsewhere strobed his hands crawling across his chest, his head twitching from side to side in rhythm. Liquid dancing and abstract waving was known to some degree (though it was a very underground movement). How many had seen a person melt into a puddle, though?

It was no contest. Elsewhere was fighting on his own terms, not the traditional popping battle field. I’ve watched the clip more often then I should have, but not once have any of the commenters said that the first two deserved to win.

Breaking away from the traditional path may frighten most dancers. You may feel left behind if you don’t train the same way other people do. How can you call yourself a bboy if you don’t train the same moves all the other bboys train? At some level, most of us want to be told what to do. If we follow these guidelines, we will develop the skills that we need, then we can call ourselves dancers, or bboys, or poppers. God knows that I have these thoughts many times, often severely.

The problem is, everybody else is doing the same routines you would if you followed this type of logic. You’ve spent a lot of time training for something that others do much better then you. It is easier to innovate in fields that other people neglect.

In a way this represents a god send for most streetdancers. Streetdancers often feel attracted to the bizarre, to the amazing, to the weird. Perhaps poppers in particular feel this way, because most movements are calculated to be “unreal” in some way. It seems natural that these dancers would start looking into the most obscure fields for inspiration. The more obscure the inspiration, the more bizarre the styles and moves, as logic dictates.

There are other benefits. Tutorials and workshops teach the most basic, well-known moves. The Youtube age has provided us with a lot more diversity and access, and you’d be amazed how easily you can find obscure footage. Sometimes you can only find one video clip, with only a few minutes (or a few seconds) of relevant footage, but that’s enough to get you on your way.

I spent a lot of time searching for strobing tutorials (forget about finding workshops teaching this stuff). The only helpful one I found was from Tyson Eberly. This represented perhaps five minutes of tutorial footage (Strobing tutorial begins at 11:45 of the clip below).

I took that and tried the best I could, but it represented an enormous amount of trial-and-error on my part to figure out what to do. I had to stay attentive to what I was doing and provide myself with constant feedback. My hands and fingers were not doing what they were supposed to do, and I had to figure out why by myself.

I felt frustration many times over, but at the same time, I felt great satisfaction. I was achieving results by relying on my own wits and ingenuity instead of practising the same drills without thought. It felt more like a creative process, and this translated into further passion, into more practice, and better dancing. I try to take this attitude now whenever I try something new. I will attempt to emulate the anti-gravity moonwalk (not the Michael Jackson moonwalk) that I once saw a dancer from Street Scape perform. It’s less than three seconds of footage from the 80s, but that’s enough to get me going on my way.


(I advise you to watch the entire clip. You’ll thank me for it.)

Yes, this approach requires you to trust your passion and judgement, practice on your own, and endure people resenting you for taking a new path. I believe it is worth the effort many times over.

We forget how free we can define our streetdance. We have work shops, judged battles, and dancers who consider themselves authorities on what popping, bboying, locking, or liquid “is”. But essentially, we can take the dance in any direction that we want, and how far we want. Nobody has the power to tell you where your passion should take you.

It is an uncommon skill to find a new path of excellence, a modern route to celebrity. There are many roads to singularity, not all of them well-travelled. The newest ones can be ardous, but they are often short-cuts to greatness.

Balthasar Gracian. In Robert Greene’s The 48 Laws of Power, p. 356

If you’d like to read all Looking Elsewhere entries, click here. To receive regular updates automatically, click here for RSS feeds.

You can love me as much as you want – Receiving compliments

July 24, 2010 Leave a comment

These are just some personal thoughts that relate to the typical traits of performers and entertainers. Click here for all of my other ramblings.

Receiving compliments is a problem for many of us. Yet I’ve observed that it’s particularly the case with those people who crave positive attention more than others. This seems counter-intuitive. I knew a Japanese girl who cooked, drew, dance, and acted better then anybody else I ever met. Though you would believe that her talents would make her feel confident, she would constantly worry about how people perceived her. If you tried to actually give her a compliment, she’d deny, downplay, or rationalise the comment. I sometimes wondered whether it came from the Japanese culture of humility and modesty. Was it her perfectionism? Just general low-esteem?

Stand-up comedian and actor Kevin Pollack often speaks about this strange habit on his internet talk show. He observed that many entertainers, especially comedians, have the tendency to reject compliments, despite obsessively craving positive attention. One of his guests, stand-up comedian Chris Hardwick, gave a particularly damning opinion on this behaviour. A person tries to tell you how much he appreciates your work, and you take that moment away from them. It’s born out of a narcistic motive to draw further attention to yourself, even if you sacrifice the positive attention for more negative attention.


(Video skips to the relevant part automatically.)

This reminded me of German philosopher, Richard David Precht’ views on love. I used to think that only receiving love made you happy, but Precht pointed to the other part of the equation. Having someone to love is just as important for your happiness. In some cases, it is even more important then receiving love. Receiving and giving admiration is a form of love, so you can think of receiving compliments this way: It’s less important that you are receiving compliments. It means a lot more to the one giving the compliments. Even if you feel that the compliments are wrong or over-blown, try not to take away the moment for the person. It makes the other person feel bad, and you end up looking bad in the process. Say thank you and don’t argue with the person who thinks you’re great.

Another stand-up guest on Kevin Pollack’s chat show, Gregg Proops, said something similar about charismatic actors like Will Smith or Warren Beatty. These actors seemed to signal “It’s all okay now. I’m here now, and you can love me as much as you want.” I found that line fascinating, because I would have listed the fame, talent, or good looks of these actors, but Proops focused on the way they receive attention.


(Video skips to the relevant part automatically.)

I have met a few people that signal this kind of openness (it’s very rare), but the best example would be my aunt’s dog, who had more love to share then any other living thing I ever met. Imagine you come home from work, having fought all day with the demands of colleagues and coworker. Or you come home from school after having a big fight with one of your friends. Whatever happened to you that day, your dog is waiting for you, happy to see you, ready to be petted. Of course you feel good that someone is happy to see you (perhaps the first living thing to do so that day), the simplicity of the dog’s love could be more important. A dog’s love is unconditional. It comes to you, ready to be petted and cuddled. This rarely exists with people, who typically have difficult, even contradicting demands. If we do find a person with this open quality, then we seem to be drawn to them in an intense way.

Categories: Ramblings

Featuring: Stephen the Wunderkind

July 17, 2010 Leave a comment

Some things don’t make sense the first time you see them.

In my research for 90 degree pushups, I saw a video title claiming to show someone breaking the world record. Clicking on it, I saw what looked like a fifteen year old doing 13 reps of the most difficult push up out there.

I knew that no fifteen year old could do this (save for Giuliano Stroe, arguably). Was this supposed to be some kind of joke? I didn’t see a punchline or anything. I clicked on some of his other videos.

I knew that no 15 year old can do one handed planche negatives. There is no…

AHHHHHHH! IT HURTS! IT HURTS JUST WATCHING IT!

Has to be fake. No way that’s real. I looked for clues to visual trickery, but since when am I an expert in visual fraud? The commenters on youtube were just as perplexed as I was.

Is it easier for a kid to do these things? Maybe, but most athletes can’t pull these things off. Geoff Craft has only been able to do nine 90 degree push ups, and he made a tutorial on it. The world record is set at eleven reps, for heaven’s sake. Unless Stephen was trained by shaolin monks or bitten by a radioactive spider, I’m watching something that shouldn’t exist.

I contacted StephenConditioning and tried to get some answers. Yes, he really is fifteen (although he stressed that he’ll turn 16 in two weeks). The videos aren’t fake. He simply trained his strength from an early age, trying to imitate the power moves of bboy Junior (the most impressive bboy out there). Stephen recorded his feats with a web cam, which explains the low quality of his videos, but recently acquired a camera. He’s already posting more clips of his incredible tricks.

He’s become a new friend of the website, and a personal inspiration. I have no excuse for not training my handstands and push ups variations now, and I will look to Stephen whenever I feel that I can’t push my body further.

To read the interview transcript with Stephen, click here.

Raw interview: Stephen the Wunderkind

July 17, 2010 1 comment

This is the interview transcript with StephenConditioning. I’ve inserted my comments in brackets and some links to the mentioned bboys. Read my feature to see his incredible moves.

When did you begin to train, and when did you start with bboying?
I started doing handstands, back flips, and somersaults in 2002 [ca. 8 years old] after I saw one of my pals do a back flip. I was fascinated and tried it. So I learned more and more and tried more and more. I didn’t train daily, just on the side, but now I train every day.
I started bboying in 2006 [ca 12 years old] after a class mate told me to watch some breakdance videos on Youtube. The first video I saw was with bboy Junior. I was so thrilled by his moves, freezes, and his musicality that I immediately tried it myself. I used Youtube to teach myself these tricks.

How can you pull of this amazing feats of power? Is there some special reason?
I can do these power moves because I tried to imitate Junior’s moves. It leave you breathless when you watch him dance on his hands and making it look so easy. His finger-push ups (with his feet in the air) impressed me the most. I first thought they were fake, but then I tried it myself [the exact same reaction I and others have with Stephen’s video clips.]. At the beginning of 2008 I started to train daily, and it’s working out pretty well now.

What are the reactions of your friends and family. Have people started talking about your talent?
My friends and family are indeed impressed by my talent, and everybody in my town knows me.

What is your strength training and bboy training. How do you practice each day?
My training is divided into separate blocks. I mostly train my strength with push-ups, hand-stands, and other power moves. Then I train my balance. Also, some new moves, freezes, top rocks etc.

Have you already started dancing. Do you already go to battles? Do you already have a dancing name?
Unfortunately, I live in a small city with no dance schools. I don’t receive any support from anybody because I am the only one doing this sport in my area. I would like to go to battles, but I don’t have a crew. Neither have I found a dancing name.
[Stephen the Wunderkind doesn’t really sound cool and exotic to native German speakers. I’m not sure that Spiderman really cuts it, either.]

Who are the best bboys in your opinion?
Junior’s the best bboy in my opinion because he introduced a lot of new moves to the bboy scene and he’s very creative. In addition, he is very musical and does his dance to the rhythm of the music.
Actually, all bboys who are creative and who develop their own moves are good. This includes Junior, Lilou, Physicx, Hong 10, and others.

What is your opinion of the German bboy scene?
It isn’t very good in my opinion. Most German bboys have the flexible style, like Rubberlegz, Lil’ Amok, or Salajin. These guys practically have no toprock moves, they just want to impress with their moves.

What one advice would you give to all those who want to become bboys?
My advice is to never give up and believe in yourself.

Describe your recent meeting with Junior and Cico.
My meeting with BBoy Junior was simply awesome. I’m a very big fan and waited a long time to meet him. I asked him some questions, like how long he has done this dance/sport, if he has a favourite bboy, what his sources of inspiration are. Also, I showed him some of the moves that I learned from him. Junior isn’t just one of the best bboys in my opinion, he’s also a very nice person, and I hope to meet him again. Cico was also very nice and showed us some of his tricks. At the end of the event, both gave a really impressive show!

[I think he’s referring to this event (posted by Stephen himself). Both Cico and Junior are so impressive in this clip. It made me gasp in some parts.]

That concludes this interview, but I’ll keep everyone posted with this new friend of the site. For regular updates of new interviews and articles, press the RSS feed button.

Extreme core training for bboys

July 10, 2010 1 comment

I never expected to train bboy moves, even though I’ve become fascinated by the dance. Learning popping related styles takes up enough time, and I don’t exactly have the best upper body build to pull off bboy moves. But then a weird chain of events began, started by yoga of all things.

I do a lot of yoga stretches, particularly for the back. While they do relax you and make you more flexible, almost none of them are “fun”. Except for the mayurasana (the peacock pose).

I noticed that it largely follows the principle of turtle freezes, since you support yourself by digging your elbows into your abdomen. I tried out to see if I could do freezes after being able to do the peacock. It turns out that I could pull it off (very crudely, of course). It seems that the mayurasana is a very good preliminary exercise for the turtle freeze and the baby freeze.

I remembered something else. A long time ago, I saw a video of gymnastics coach Geoff Craft practicing what may be the most difficult push up variation out there: the 90 degree push up. The world record for non-stop, consecutive 90 degree pushups is set at 11 (although some say 15). Compare this to the world record of normal push-ups: 10,500.

Geoff Craft put up a tutorial on how he trains for this. For this I will always feel grateful. It provides one of the most thorough, progressive exercise routines to build up your core and arms. Every practice prepares you for the next step, and works the same muscles at different angles.

I’m not expecting to ever complete all the exercises or perform 90 degree push ups any time soon (although I am going to feature a 20 year old German kid who can). But I’ve tried this scheme out, and I can definitely feel how effective it is. I’ve been meaning to switch up my weight training routine, (it gets boring after one year), and this is perfect.