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Guilty by association

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
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