Interview: Slim Boogie

October 29, 2011 1 comment

Slim Boogie

Half a year ago, I started losing interest in popping. I couldn’t figure out how to develop an interesting style within the confines of traditional popping styles. I started focusing on locking and physical exercise because it seemed more rewarding. But when a friend showed me a clip from Slim Boogie, I felt the same fascination I had when I first saw popping. His smooth flow, animated movements, isolation and hard pops showed me that it is possible to develop a style within popping. I met him in Brixton, England for the UK BBoy CHampionships and was able to interview him for a few minutes.

What are your daily traing goals, and how have these changed over the years?

For me, Ive never taken any Electric Boogaloo classes. I’ve never taken any any classes at all, actually. But my crew and I are very close to the EBs.

So you session with the EBs more than you practice?

Yeah. I practice with them and try to learn as much as possible, and I’m still learning. I think it’s good to learn the style, so we can keep it as popping. If you don’t do that it’s going to lose its edge. It’s gonna be a completely different thing. The way I usually practice… I always practice my hits, my angles, my musicality, but always just trying to be creative.

Try to be open to all styles. Don’t think of training as training, but as fun. Remember that there are always new ways of creating new things. That you always have room to innovate and create; like even with the old man and the walkout, you can create something within that style.

Liquid Metal: what was the greatest obstacle you had to overcome in your training?
Right now I’m working on more freedom in my dance. I used to be really into animation (I still am), but when you practice too much of something like the robot, you lose something. I wouldn’t say you lose the dance, but you lose some aspect of it. It becomes too much of only robotic movements or something like that. So now I’m trying to mix those robotic movements with a free feeling, but still stay isolated and animated. I’m sure that it has been done before, but I haven’t seen too many people do that.

How long have you been popping?
Six years, seven in May next year.

We are standing in front of the building for the UK Bboy Championships. What role does competition and ego play in this dance?

I see these competitions like UK BBoy as something to put on my resumé. Like when you get a Master’s degree from the university. You could be the greatest popper, but if you don’t have it on paper that you won these battles, then people won’t easily recognise that.

If you could only give one piece of advice to beginners, what would it be?
If you have a goal, then stick to that goal. Don’t care what everybody else says. If you don’t have a goal, then find one. I think that just following a goal will make you a better dancer.

A convo with Boppin Andre

August 25, 2011 Leave a comment

I befriended the legendary Boppin Andre on Facebook and asked him if he were willing to describe his practice methods and how he developed his unparalleled animation skills. Instead, we had a chat about originality, pioneers, and experimentation. I have never heard of a dancer saying he doesn’t practice and  I would put it down as false boasting if it didn’t come from such a great dancer like Andre..

Boppin Andre: You should first be aware that I do not train! I do not even practice. I just go withwhat i always have done and then throw in whatever I feel appropriate at the moment […]

Well, I guess that everytime i perform, that’s practice enough, but I feel that people practice to acquire skills and movements they dont have. I mean, they really practice hard to try and master someone else’s moves!
Outside of the robot, which I use to practice hard, when I was young (13-15), I also practiced popping at first (compton style popping, which came from EB’s and popping pete!..1977). After that, i made the connection and combo..bopping! I’ve not have to peactice since then, because i’m only doing me. It’s what I want to do, and as such I don’t have to practice or try to master it. It’s whatever i do!
I am however about to begin practicing. When i figure out how to go about trying to master or perfect someone else’s moves, I’ll be glad to share that!

LM: Well, would you say you spend a lot of time experimenting? Because your reply reminds me of how David Elsewhere explains how he developed is dance.

Hahaha, i don’t experiment..with nothing! Elsewhere both experiments and shares his movements with others.(skywalker, his influence, and squid , another share buddy!)

At one time, i incorporated some mime type moments into my repertoire; influenced by a guy nemed Robot Prince. But I only do me, and he, like eveyone else, watched, took and copied what they could, and some even best me at doing myself!

No my friend, nowadays I’m not original. In my prime, i was bar none. The most influential cat, bar none. Elements of my endeavors have been indirectly incorporated into almost every poppers performance. Popping Pete had the brake (drum). I brought the disc brake, and everybody, including Pete, use to disc brake! The vibrate; been there, I was the first moving vibrate. Sinbad/3d/strobe/animation/speed changes and the rythym riding instead of on the beat only popping (later perfected by my friend , flattop)

No my friend. I only do  my moves, and everybody else are doing my moves as well (in part or totally)!

LM: Do you feel that you have received the proper respect for your contributions by the current generation? Some OGs feel overlooked and betrayed.

Again there’s that word: “OG”. Wrong word to use by anybody! There are only a few cats that actually created or brung something new to the table, and only a few cats that are original/different! Everyone else could claim they saw, then went and practiced, and perhaps they became the best at it!

There are not many og’s. Sure, some were lucky to promote themselves and get onto tv, on stage, into film, but they only truely took the credit and income from the source. Many, myself included, were not soo lucky to get that opportunity

In the streets, OG is the identifying marker and title for the first! It’s like Senior and Jr, so most all of those guys trying to fluant the OG title are perhaps OG in name only. Perhaps they were pioneers. They didn’t create, but they took it into another arena. They were the first in that arena.

I’m the LA OG, or so i claim. I was not the first to pop, others did it before me, from different areas, around LA county. But to my knowledge I was the only South Central LA cat! Big deal! I am the originater, not of the robot/ not of popping, but of the combo-deal;.Bopping!

And i was an original! Today, I’m not so original. Perhaps there’s even questions as to if I am the best at even doing me ! But, i am the originator Anybody coming after me can not claim to be the first, and with that they can not be OG!

Click here for more of my interviews with streetdancers.

Practice tip: Find your dance through drills

August 19, 2011 Leave a comment

Summary: Drills are not meant to just teach you certain moves. Drills help you find how your body can move in a dance. Every person has a different body and way of moving; this is why no two people doing the same drill should do it exactly the same way. Practising the same exercise allows you to provide feedback to yourself and experiment.

Explanation: The main advantage of locking and popping over hip hop choreography are the fundamental “drills” you can practice over and over again (exercises like the walkout or the lock). Every person has a different body and movement characteristics. Some dancers look better moving fast and dynamic, others look better moving slow but with more force. Drills provide you with exercises that allow you to experiment on how to move in an aesthetically pleasing way. No two people doing the same drills need to look the same. God is in the details, and only drills allow you to notice these details.

See more of my practice tips here.

Categories: Uncategorized

New practice tip: Avoid burning out

August 8, 2011 Leave a comment

Summary: Many people give up because they burn out from too high expectations that are not met by immediate results. The initial burst of enthusiasm dies out when you realise how slowly you improve in dancing. Accept the slow rate of improvement. Instead of setting yourself up for disappointment, let the dance take over your life in a slow fashion. In the beginning, just focus on practicing a little every day. Once you start seeing results, you will be motivated to have longer practice sessions. Then you may also start working on your body (stretching, cardio and weightlifting). You will not feel overwhelmed by this workload because you have experienced the benefits over a long period.

Explanation: I learned the greatest lesson in dancing from weightlift training. Let me explain. When we start physical exercise like weightlifting or cardio, we do so with great enthusiasm. We may train every day, giving it our best every time we go to a gym. But the results come slowly, far too slowly, and frustration starts to build. We train so hard, why aren’t we getting stronger quickly? Every session seems more like a burden, a waste of time even. We start to resent the whole process. Despite our guilt of sabotaging ourselves, we stop training altogether.

I went through this all-too familiar cycle not just with my weightlifting and stretching, but with my dancing, too. My high expectations could never meet up with the slow process, and I would burn out. This impatience is tragic, because there is no reason to work that hard and burn out in the beginning. Beginners in weightlifting will get stronger even if they only have light training once a week. The improvement rate is strongest at the beginning, even when we can’t easily see the improvements. In fact, training three times a week as a beginner will almost make no difference, because there is a limit to how fast one’s strength can grow. Additional training becomes necessary once one has achieved a certain level of fitness. It is better to start slow, see the benefits, then intensify your training in a gradual fashion.

I realised that this applies to dancing, too. I was overwhelmed by the difficulty of my first choreo classes and hated how long it took to start feeling comfortable. Should it take this long? Are the others learning this faster than me? Should I train harder? This only added to my stress and frustration, and I felt like quitting.

Over time, I realised that this worrying served no purpose. My dancing had improved over time, even though I hadn’t realised it while I was doing it. The more my dance improved, the more I felt like training more intensely. Dancing has altered my entire lifestyle. I continue to do weightlifting, stretching, martial arts, and eating healthy because of it. But this process took nearly three years. Had I started out training as hard as I do now, I would have given up very soon.

Categories: Training philosophy

New inspirational quote: Skeeter Rabbit

July 27, 2011 Leave a comment
I personally believe we focus too much on [technique]… rather than on much more important things, like, the influences and purposes which cause us to experience the feelings which produce the moves. Many times we are too busy focusing on the correctness of the actual technical move itself, And not the power which has inspired the move in the first place.
-Skeeter Rabbit
Categories: quotes

Richie Rich: What is real streetdance?

July 24, 2011 Leave a comment

Some time ago, I saw a video of locker Richie Rich discussing how many people nowadays don’t dance “real” locking, but only incorporate some locking moves into their freesytle form. While I had no interest in criticising or insulting him, I did see this as an opportunity to express some thoughts of mine on originality, labels, and technique. Richie felt the same way and graciously replied to a series of statements I sent him over email. These exchanges happened more than a year ago, and I have reconsidered many of my points below, but I hope our exchange can clarify your own thoughts about what “real” streetdancing should be.

Liquid Metal: You can argue technique and form, but no one has the right to tell you what you should like in a dance. A person’s judgment is rarely perfect, but I believe one should always pursue the elements of a dance they feel an instant connection to. They should disregard everything else.

Richie Rich: I agree. That is how I was introduced and fell in love with locking. I went to a nightclub and saw a locking group perform. I was amazed at the things they did. Their routine was concise, tight and full of surprises. I instantly fell in love with the dance and the music they were dancing to. I liked certain aspects of the dance and not others, so I focused on the parts of the dance I liked!! I didn’t care what others opinions were. I learned my technique first, dance second and then the most important part the soul or emotion within the dance.

Liquid Metal: The previous statement does not give you the prerogative to disregard foundation. Many of the dance moves require you to learn basic exercises first before you attempt the actual moves.

Richie Rich: I again agree, but will add that you need to understand and learn the basic foundational moves, roots and the history of any dance. In turn, I think it is important to master these basic moves if you want to do the dance from a foundational standpoint. If you do not master them, I would recommend not entering contests that deal specifically with this dance style! I would also say that if you didn’t learn the basics and foundation, you really can’t call yourself that type of dancer (like a locker).

Liquid Metal: If you respect the dance and research everything about it, you are free to take it in any direction that you want, no matter what other people believe the dance should be.

Richie Rich: That is called innovation!!!! I think that this is a very important part of any dance and the evolution of that dance. The problem is that today people do not learn the basic moves, roots, history and foundation of these dances. They go to classes and learn choreography and not the elements mentioned in the previous statement. I will talk specifically about locking for the rest of this response. People think that because they learned some locking history and know a few basics about the dance that they can now innovate on this dance. It takes more then just basics to innovate on a dance. It takes passion, conviction, understanding, knowledge, soul and more then just basics to improve on this dance. Imagine if I learned some basic tap dancing moves and then tried to innovate on this style of dance. I would need more then a basic skill level to innovate a hundred of years of this evolving dance style. I believe this same premise applies to locking. Now if you do choose to innovate with just the basics, that is fine but I believe the dance will look like a more watered down version of locking. It will lose some of its street elements and authenticity. There are those rare cases that this may not apply and this person may just stumble onto something by accident. Actually, this is how locking was created. Don Campbell was attempting to do some soul dances and couldn’t seem to get it right. Then he started doing something else and people found it amusing and kept telling him to do it again and again. This was how the first moves of locking were created. So again I say it’s not impossible but unlikely. I will keep an open mind in that case!!

Liquid Metal: My main gripe with popping and locking is that they sacrifice expressive and dynamic movement in favor of specialized techniques. This attention to certain forms of technique escape the attention of most audiences (that aren’t familiar with the dance) and the dance looks limited.

Richie Rich: Finally, we can disagree on something!!! I find the major problem with locking today is the lack of the technique!! There are plenty of dynamic movements in locking and I feel people do too much of this and do not really lock or dance. They are doing flips, knee drops, dives, splits, butt drops, soul dances, etc… but they do not lock. Locking can incorporate many different moves if done within the locking framework of the dance.

Another issue is that most people, do not know the basic moves and foundations so instead add other dances into what they call locking. Basically, they are dancing doing locking moves and truly not locking. I would call that more of a freestyle dance. There is nothing wrong with that but call it freestyle not locking. I see this over and over again in LOCKING competitions.
The final issue is that of SOUL and FUNK! People think that acting funny or silly during there so called solos that this is soulful and funky. Soul and funk does not equal funny. When James Brown performed he was soulful and funky, there was a certain feeling about him and no one laughed while watching him dance or perform. I think it is great thing to have personality within the dance that makes you look more like an individual. Instead, because they really lack the soul and funk and ability to do the dance they act silly or fake the funk. Most lockers out there lack SOUL!!
Soul for me is defined as a person’s ability to take their own personal emotions and feelings and express them physically in their dance especially locking. “Our body is the instrument that plays the music.” If a dancer does not have soul, it waters down the true authentic style, essence, foundation and street element of any dance. I can write about this point forever but will stop here to let our debate begin and just touch on popping.

I am not an expert when it comes to popping but I will give my opinion. The boogaloo style has specific movements and techniques but popping has a lot more styles to choose from. That is why you have seen the rise and increased popularity of the G-style movement. They are saying that there is a lot more to popping then one style and that we should know them all and use them all. I again disagree with you when you say popping sacrifices self expression. I believe popping allows self expression and has dynamic movements and that is why popping is so popular. I’ve seen many poppers that are great at expressing themselves while doing dynamic movements. This does not just apply for the popping superstars but for poppers that have not reached that status yet!! I say again, this is not my area of expertise and just my opinion.

Liquid Metal: I believe that the reason for the downfall of mainstream interest in streetdances (starting in 1988) came from the audience being flooded by sub-par performances. They rarely experienced the great performers that took the dance seriously. Because of this, they quickly made their mind that streetdancing itself was a bad artform.

Liquid Metal: I have to disagree due to the fact that streetdancing is bigger then ever. Some of the biggest shows on TV are dance shows such as ABDC, movies and the events around the world are bigger such as the Juste DeBout. The skill level of dancers has improved and I even see a large number of kids dancing and their skill level is incredible for their ages (Baby boogaloo, lil Demon, Jalean, etc..) I think streetdancing continues to grow and so does respect for these dances as an artform.

Raw interview: Josh “Ace” Ventura

July 3, 2011 Leave a comment

As I’ve mentioned before, the group “Elastic Illusion” and their youtube tutorials are what got me into dancing. I have interviewed the members Tyson Eberly and Otis Funkmeyer before, but there remained one person who I needed to interview: Josh “Ace” Ventura. Higly proficient in an astonishingly large number of styles, comfortable in front of the camera even when teaching complex moves, I wanted his views on practicing and dedication. His replies to my question did not disappoint; they are in-depth and provide some invaluable advice. You can buy his tutorial dvds at breakdancedvd.com. Be sure to also check out his website.

How did you get into dancing, and what made you specialize in popping, locking, and bboying?

I grew up in Atlanta GA and honestly, I didn’t have many white friends. I was exposed to hip hop at a young age thanks to my neighborhood friends and YO MTV Raps. In addition, my mom is a dancer. For the first 13 years of my life, while I lived with her, she always had funk, Lionel Richie, Prince, MJ, Madonna, 80s and 70’s, Motown, and Julio Iglesias (thats right before Enrique), the Gypsy Kings, and of course Gloria Estefan playing. She taught me how to moonwalk.

Growing up MC Hammer and Jim Carrey were my idols. I saw Hammer’s concert when I was just 13. He killed it as did all of his dancers. I spent hours in my room (usually grounded) practicing the running man. I watched every episode of In Living Color which meant hours of logged Fly Girl’s footage. I was really really into the 90’s as a kid but I hid from dance for so long to rebel against being like my mom. I said no to dance classes and gymnastics.

When I entered college, I was on my own and I began to realize how much I much I really enjoyed dancing. Around 19, I took my annual trip to visit my dad in Los Angeles, and saw Bboy Ivan and Mr. Animation doing a street show. Even though I had seen them many times prior to this encounter, something clicked. I said, “I wanna do that,” followed by an immediate, “OH CRAP i’m already 19 so if I wanna do this, I don’t have much time to get good and train my body.” For 5 years I trained like crazy in breaking (minus some down time due to a knee surgery).

At that time, I was aware of locking and I was practicing whatever I could with popping, BUT it wasn’t until I saw Bboy Storm’s short video tape (http://stormdance.de) that I really wanted to learn popping and locking. At the end of the tape he does a locking routine with his wife and he also does a long popping routine. He was really good and he made me want to learn those styles. It was seeing him that gave me validation as a bboy that it was ok to do other styles and not just break. During the time I was practicing bboying, I was already deep into dancing to funk and house music. After 5 years or so, I guess around 2003/4, I moved to Cali and joined Culture Shock LA and Tony Tee Dance Company. I learned Locking, refined my New Jack and teaching skills. Tony became my true sensei. He was absolutely incredible and the best locker I have ever seen to this day.

Fortunately, when I found his academy, Don “Campbellock” Campbell was teaching there so I was able to experience the creator of locking. I think around 2006 or 2007 or so is when I really started toying with robot and practicing my boogaloo more. That is around the time I was hanging with Brit and Tyson. Now I try and mix and match all of them together and do the best I can to always come back to my foundations.

How did your family and friends react to your dancing?


Both had a unique response.

Friends: Prior to becoming a “professional dancer,” my friends knew I had rhythm and was into dancing. During highschool pep rallies, I would get on the court and do some dancing. When I got into college, I made a new group of homies and kept a couple from prior years. That is when I suddenly became “the dancer.” None of my friends really danced until I started learning from my two bboy instructors in Atlanta, Amir Totem and Joy Prasavath. We also started the official breakin club at Georgia Tech called Metro Flow.

Of course, becoming “the dancer” of the group means every time we went out they would call me out, whether it was to battle someone or help them get girls! Of course, I was always happy to help! To this day, I think it surprises many friends from my past that I am a professional dancer. Hell, it often surprises me! They gave me names like ‘Mighty Whitey’ and I could never escape the nickname ACE since my last name is Ventura. Now my close friends really appreciate my ability to continue following my passion. I think it inspires them.

Family:
Family thinks of dance as a hobby. It is especially cool at family gatherings, weddings, bar mitzvahs, etc. My cousins who were my age loved having me show off. However, once I moved to California and decided NOT to continue my path towards marketing executive, tension definitely grew in the family. They didn’t see dance as a career to begin with. When you add in the fact that I was already too old to technically be pursuing a career in dance, my parents (aunt and uncle) were definitely concerned for me. Family will always try and steer me towards a more stable career but on the flip side, they certainly love boasting about the famous people I have worked with and the commercial gigs I have booked.

What was the most frustrating challenge or obstacle you had to overcome in your dancing, and how did you do it?

Aside from my knee surgery, the greatest challenge for me was figuring out how to make a living doing what I love to do. I was not going to give up training hard at dance until I reached a certain level. This meant not having a normal 9-5 job which in turn meant I had to hustle for gigs and find various jobs that would allow my lifestyle as a “dancer in training” to continue. Despite my age and onset of a few lasting injuries, I persevered through sheer will and determination. What made it increasingly difficult in the industry was the fact that I was a freestyle dancer. I was just so-so at choreo. I could eventually kill a piece, but not in the time required at an audition where you get just a few minutes to learn 12 8 counts of choreo.

I look back and I wonder how I did it and still do it. Where there is a will there is a way?! Right?!

Who were your initial influences, and how did this change over time?


My influences changed over time as my dance styles progressed and priority that I gave to each particular style changed.

My initial influences were just the musicians. The music I listened to gave me joy and made me wanna move. I briefly touched on the origin of my dancing background above, so I’ll try and just list out specific names and how they influenced me. For the most part, these are listed in chronological order.

Michael Jackson – definitely don’t need to say much here
MC Hammer – nor here.
Rosie Perez – choreographer for the fly girls.
MTV- exposed me to it all!
Ivan and Style Elements Crew – (Remind, Super Dave, Crumbs) bboying
Totem (Burn Unit) -Nicole, Adrienne, Dang – bboying lifestyle and style / foundation
Joy (groove monkeez) – bboying and especially power moves (he showed me the storm video)
The Jones Brothers (Kahlil and Jamal) – first locking exposure
Rhythm – house and hip hop groove
Storm – bboying / and all styles dancing
EZ roc – bboying
Mr. Wiggles – all styles dancing and of course popping
Victor and Noel – locking
Don Campbellock Campbell – locking
Tony Tee Sama – locking, living, 90’s, groove, wacking, teaching
Jade – bboying
Tammy and Joey – they just inspire me (children of Tony Tee)
Donna and Tiffany – locking / whacking / hip hop
Tyson and Brit – mime / boogaloo
Cristina Benedetti – house house house (she is incredible)
Madd Chadd – robotix / transformer style

What did you, Tyson, Funkmeyer, and Madd Chadd learn from each other in the time you spent together?

I learned foundation boogaloo technique from Otis Funkmeyer. He is like a knowledge base for boogaloo style dancing and knows every individual move. I didn’t really learn much from Tyson but he definitely opened my mind up to the possibilities of what you can achieve with illusions especially in the art of MIME. I always feel this is his strongest asset. Madd Chadd and I got closer after Elastic Illusion and it wasn’t as if he necessarily spent class time with me showing me moves. It was more that I would ask the right questions and he was really good at explaining things. He has a keen eye for detail and observation, which is sort of mandatory for such a detail oriented dance / art form (robot). I took what I learned from him and just practice the $hit out of it.

What does your daily practice consist of (including supplementary training like flexibility or strength). Has this changed significantly over the years?

During my years of strictly breaking Training:
I initially learned for a good 1.5 years strictly from the style elements vs korea video!! I would play that thing over and over and over in slow motion.

I would practice 4 or 5 times a week. Each practice was at least two hours long. 3 of those days a week were committed to twice a day at 4 hour intervals. I was really serious and I know that is how I ended tearing my meniscus. I didn’t strength train enough or allow my body to rest. However, I was always really disciplined at stretching. I always warmed up sufficiently and stretched like crazy.

After my knee surgery the importance of rest became VERY clear to me. I returned to breaking for a while and then moved to LA. I started really practicing other styles. Locking took over and then robot and during that entire time I was always practicing New Jack and House Grooves. As responsibilities grew and I had to really stay focused to practice. I would devote each training session to a particular style or one particular goal. Breaking then became a maintenance as opposed to trying to get better. In other words, I decided instead of trying to get airfares or flare 90s, I would just simply do my best to maintain mills, swipes, turtles, heads, flares etc.

During the all styles years of training, I would practice about 5 times a week technically but I would find myself dancing all the time. The practice sessions were only about 2 hours each. Two days a week usually Tuesday and Thursday, I would manage a 4 hour practice (which would get me super sore.)

Over the last 3 years or so Yoga, weightlifting, cross-training with plyometrics, running, stadiums, and workouts outside of dance grew in priority and importance. I found it harder to allocate as much time to training so I would at least stay in shape.

At the moment, I am not training dance as much. I am focused on acting. I stay in very good shape and will practice robot and breaking strength training while my focus has shifted. I will come back to dance training after I reach a few goals I have set for myself in 2011.

What mistake do beginners typically make, and what one advice would you give them?

If you are in it for Instant Gratification, then get out NOW! All of these disciplines take years to achieve a high level of competency in. You have to be willing to commit years of sacrifice in order to achieve greatness in anything whether it be for money, hobby, or pure love. This is totally not to say that you can’t just tinker with it. I will NOT judge you. That statement was for those that wish for instantly being able to learn art forms that take years to master.

The problem I have with a lot of dancers these days is that they dance for one year and can do a couple tricks or mimic a bunch of videos they’ve watched on youtube and they immediately consider themselves good enough to be professional dancers. They are completely oblivious to the difference in level between a refined dancer and themselves. I will say there are many gems in the rough out there as well and that is always a pleasure to see. LIL DEMON!

More advice:
Cross Train:
Prepare your body to be beat up and take care of it. It is your temple for longevity in this career and really in life. Weights (with proper form), Rest, proper diet (young or not), did I mention Rest and sleep, Stretch and be willing to stretch through the pain. A mistake often made is trying a windmill before you can backspin or a windmill before you can even turtle freeze!! WRONG Trying airfares before you can flare. Trying 90’s before you can do a handstand. This is unacceptable.

Do your homework:
Learn about the different styles when they were created, where they were developed, by whom, what music caused these styles to develop.

Biting:
You can copy but please make it your own and if you copy then acknowledge the individuals you took from. Everyone takes from everyone and every dance style has influenced others, but without personal expression you might be dancing but you ARE NOT a dancer. A dancer feels from the heart and you can’t do that if you are simply mimicking another’s heartfelt movements.

LEARN TO GROOVE:
Please, for the love of the dance gods, learn foundational hip hop groove before you go take some random choreo classes and while you learn breaking, locking, popping foundation and tricks ALWAYS go back to groove basics and practice them until they are natural and you look like you could kill a soultrain line in the 70’s! Often times, dancers take my hip hop classes and wonder why they don’t look like me. I tell them that it’s the in-between movements. They all get the move but they don’t get the glue between the moves which is the ….. drum roll please…. GROOVE!

When Injuries occur:
This is the hardest thing for a dancer for obvious reasons. Staying positive is sooo difficult. One thing that definitely kept me going when the injuries occurred was shifting focus around. For instance, when I had knee surgery, I shifted focus to my upper body and I got really good at planches, flares, and turtles. If one body part is injured do your best to workout whatever other body parts are not. This helps in such exponential way, especially because we tend to compensate with other parts which leads me to my final bit of 2 cents.

Health Care:
I mentioned diet, stretching etc. These are key as is Massage and Chiropractic. In my opinion these two elements are priceless in the long run. Do your research before choosing a chiro. Many of them suck and are creepsters. Also, by massage I mean deep tissue only. In my opinion, it is the only way to truly benefit from massage. Your muscles will become very tight and very strong and you have to be able to break down the build up of lactic acid, scar tissue and just stiffness or overly exerted and spasmed areas.

You produced the tutorials Breakdance DVD and Learn to Groove. Does teaching the dance to others improve your own understanding of the dance?

YES YES and YES

Private lessons are really where I have learned the most about my own dancing. One on one, it has been easier to experiment with different teaching methods. You really learn the best way to explain how each move works, how to explain each grooves and break each style down to its foundation. When you teach, you truly learn how important foundation is.

A mastery of pedagogy takes as many years as practicing the dance itself. Through teaching you learn so much about how you interpret, other people’s perspectives, and it is a venue for providing others with something that I didn’t have access to when I was growing up.

I have seen many your videos, and you are highly skilled in a large number of completely separate dances (popping, robot, locking, bboying and others). Weren’t you concerned that you were attempting too many dances, and end up not excelling in any of them?

YES! I was and have always been concerned about the fact that I was determined to learn so many dance styles. I believe it has hurt me in certain areas and helped me in many. Nowadays, all styles battles are popping up, and there is an overall deeper respect for a dancer that can perform all styles at a high level.

Having so many styles in my bank makes it difficult to audition. I never know what to do. Should I break? Should I pop? Should I just wave, robot, house, ahhhhhhh!!! Of course you only get 30 seconds and the casting people are never knowledgeable enough to answer you on specifics of what they are looking for. The answer is always the same; Just do your thing. When they look for a freestyler, they look for the best in that particular area. The best roboter, bboy, headspinner, tricker, locker, flexer, etc. I was just really good at all of them but way difficult to compete against bboy specialists such as cloud, nasty ray, venom, flips etc. at least from an auditioning perspective.

The hardest part was again the fact that I started so late. Another thing to keep in mind is that one or two or three styles will always have to take a backseat when you focus on another style.

On the positive side, I feel extremely accomplished as a street dancer given all of the above. I love so many different types of music. Music is the reason that I dance and that we all dance. We are moved by it. I want to be able to move how different types of music makes me. I don’t wanna just uprock and break to house. I don’t wanna just do locking when a banging popping track comes on. I wanna be able to move freely within all of those styles.

My advice to those attempting to master many styles is again do your homework. Or simply:
1) Know the root of the style. KNOW the difference in music
2) Know the heck outta the foundation for that style. Practice the foundation so much that it is 2nd nature so when you get creative within that style it just flows.

Otis Funkmeyer mentioned in our interview how disillusioned he became of the envy and petty bickering in the popping community. Did you experience examples of this in the popping scene?

NO. I will say that the tension within the popping scene can be SUPER MEGA outta control DOUBLE RAINBOW INTENSE. Poppers are more intense and gangster than BBOYS!!! And bboying is the ultimate G …. I don’t care what anybody says.

The foundation of Street Dance is super competitive like any sport, but certain dancers in the popping scene can have extremely negative attitudes. I just steer clear of it. This dance is for me. It is a personal goal and passion for myself and therefore NO ONE can take that away. Sometimes when there is a super intense circle, I’ll just go in it and start dancing like a fool and practice straight funk / groove dancing to break the ice. People take themselves way too seriously in life hence the silly slogan, “Breakdance with a smile.”

The other side of it, which is really an answer to the question below, is that streetdancers have a lot of pride. During a battle, you put your pride, your rep, your life on the line and it is the ultimate test of strength, will, judgement. How will you react in that situation. One side must lose and a lot of dancers who are super nice will turn completely different when its battle time.

The interesting part about the tension in the younger dancers is that the real GEEES are the old poppers. The real Gees are the pioneers of this dance that started it all. It was created out of mixture of party outlets, staying off the street, celebrating what little you actually did have, preventing gang fighting via battling, an alternative to gangbanging and drug use or just slanging. The initial push was getting off the street by expressing yourself through music (djing), art (graffiti), rap (mcing), and the dance.

We live in a different time. America till has racism, poverty, ghetto, drugs, but the availability of outreach programs, technology and access to dance is at an all time high (and still not enough). The pioneers of this dance did not have that. Now you have kids who feel like they have to act all hard and pretend like they were raised in the ghetto to be a street dancer. Which moves into the next answer…

What role do ego, competition, and aggression play in streetdance and the streetdance community?

As mentioned above, Streetdance is just that… STREET, RAW, ROUGH, UNREFINED DIAMOND. It was formed from aggression, frustration, poverty struck neighborhoods who found dance as an outlet and alternative form of expression. However times have changed.

Don’t misunderstand, there are still many dancers out there who only have dance to turn to. If they didn’t dance they would be dead, in a gang, doing drugs, and up to no good. BUT now you also have trust fund kids who grow up with access to classes, dance studios, athletics, private lessons and they completely misunderstand the root of this art form.

Ego, competition, aggression. These three play a part because as you dance your pride grows thick. You become proud but uncertain if you are worthy. More than anything you demand respect from your peers. You care more about what a small handful of very high level dancers think of you than you even care about yourself or how the rest of the 6 billion people on the planet may value your existence. It is really quite fascinating.

The real street dancer doesn’t care about money. The ultimate goal is to make a name for yourself, to gain respect from those you respect. To battle the best and beat them or at least be able to compete with them.

The affect on the community can be pretty profound. For instance, when you have an older (og) dancer who insults the way you dance it can be devastating. That happens far too often. A lot of the older dancers and pioneers of this art from feel walked on and betrayed and stolen from. So it becomes a trickle down affect where the attitude of the second and third generation becomes even more aggressive than the first generation of dancers. People just start shitting on each other verbally because they aren’t dancing a certain way or doing it the way it was supposed to be done.

Not a lot of real street dancers cross into the commercial side of the industry. That side is extremely competitive and egos can be way outta control. There is an unfortunate gap that remains between street dancers and studio dancers and commercial hip hop choreographers who make the money and use streetdancers or just their moves on their jobs. The dance community is quite divided in fact and there is no SAG or AFTRA established just for dancers that stands up for our rights. The main problem comes from the fact that dancers will always lowball each other for work. This however, is a separate topic on its own.

Are there any dancers you would like to give a shout out to?

Definitely shout out to all my influences above.
The dancers that really inspire me as I write this are:
Nasty Ray – bboy
Slim Boogie – popper
Madd Chadd – bopper/ robot
BBoy Storm – bboy / locking / popping
Anthony Thomas – locking / pure soul dancing
Donna and Tiff – all styles dance and known for whacking and locking

Final question, hardest question: What was your most memorable moment in dancing?


This one took a while, but when I think about what moment brought me the most joy, I have to go with a tie between the following four and they one upped each other every time:
1) The first time I did continuos windmills.
2) The first time I did over two 90’s
3) The time I finally took my jacket off while headspinning
4) The first time I did a CLEAN flare to handstand…. never got a clean flare 90 but i got up to handstand and then i could turn the 90s. I worked so hard though to get it ahhhhhh.

If I had to go with one, then I would probably just go with the first time I did continuous windmills. That was a huge benchmark for me. It was the proof that I needed to keep going. It taught me that if you don’t try, you have already failed.

These are simply achieved goals and they meant so much to me because I had spent years training for them. NOT because I wanted to battle or be the best. I wanted to be better than I was. To prove to MYSELF that I could achieve these objectives. Even when I am successful and wealthy, I’ll look back on my life and consider the above goals some of the greatest achievements of my life. I wonder how that will change in 10 years….

The new memories that I enjoy the most NOW are when I am teaching what I have learned and I witness that moment / spark in a young dancer where they realize they figured it out! It’s a priceless moment. The other day one of my students went to a sweet 16 and he didn’t know anyone except the birthday girl. He started shuffling (or the running man as I taught him) and everyone gave him props including this one girl he thought was super cute. His excitement when he told me the story was priceless.

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