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Posts Tagged ‘creativity’

Beginners have the right to bite

January 2, 2012 Leave a comment

Beginners have the right to shamelessly steal from other dancers. They can take entire moves and routines from other dancers. This allows them practice on a daily level and gain their first experiences and influences. But to progress to higher levels, the beginner should slowly outgrow their initial influences and start coming up with their own style. Biting other people’s styles is not neccesarily a sign of having no creativity , integrityor skill; it may also signify that the dancer is not experienced enough at the moment to tap into his/her creativity.

Raw interview: Vadim Savenkov

February 2, 2011 Leave a comment

This is my interview with Vadim Savenkov, one of the great Russian performing artists, who is also an amazing waver and botter. He is one of my biggest inspirations when it comes to blending performing arts and street dance. Also visit his website to receive further info.

What led you to performing arts like mime and circus clowns? Were there specific mimes and performers that inspired you?

During my childhood, I went crazy with movies. That is why I always like to dress as a movie character (soldier, indian, musketeer), and play the parts from recently watched movies. We in the USSR did not have the chance to buy nor rent any “carnival ” costumes. I used old clothes ,hats,belts, threads, needles, and my imagination. Sometimes my parents would help. And at the same time I did like drawing . Everybody was sure that I would be the painter because I easily won drawing competitions ( I later got into an art school ). Plus I have been in a children theater where I play parts. Then I was mad about martial arts and east culture. And of course music. When I heard first time “the Rockets” I felt something strange. I liked that music very much and I feel that something is getting closer.

Unfortunately in Russia, most of the invitations to participate in tv show with your act go to humorous shows. If you do not have a humor in your act you have almost no chance to be seen on tv. That is second reason why I start studying humor as a genre.
When I started to dance there were people who inspired me : Aleksei Geroulaitis, Vjacheslav Ignatjev, Michael “Boogloo Shrimp” Chambers.
Later I was inspired by: Michael Moschen, Koichi Tohei,David Copperfield shows( all production team), Michel Courtemanche, Tommy Cooper.
My favorites actors which inspired me from my childhood are: Andrey Mironov, Jurij Nikulin, Georgij Vitcin. Unfortunately those actors were seen only in Russia.

My drawing skills helped me to create new characters, build a combinations of moves, how to do the right make up.
My martial arts gave me good physical ability and knowledge of the rules of harmony.
My theatrical skill helps me to find right gestures, pouses and mimicry.
As a movie fun I have in my brain collection of many screen plays, actors reactions, compositions…
My researching skill helps me to get all that things together .
I am still researching an illusion dance and stage performance. Reading scientific books such as ” Biomechanic”, ” brain’s reaction on a visual signal”…
As for mime and clown, I can say that in 1990 I have a trip with famous Russian mimes. And of course I learn many things from them. Then I participated in shows with famous Russian comics. I always liked good sense of humor and one day I started to analyze this thing.

What is your daily training regime, and has this changed significantly over the years? How does one train to develop the strength, body control and agility that you acquired?

When I was younger I spent lots of time in training ( 5-8 hours a day), but now I often have no time for that, unfortunately, because sometimes I make the shows as director and it means that after the working day you have no time and no power. But if I have contract as a performer( in South Korea,Switzerland….) I spend at least two hours a day on training(character movement ,dance ,conjuring,…)
I think that east arts ( wu shu, karate,yoga..) can help to develop good body and soul control. For example, after practicing kata in karate for years I can able to make quick movements and stop suddenly.
If we need we can practice with a little weight on our wrists…
But I think that the most important thing is control the tension and relaxation in muscles and not to overtax joints. Of course tension is good thing If we want to do something extraordinary, but the way of harmony is how to be a good friend to our body and our soul and not to break them in order to impress audience .
Another thing is how to make combination( act,performance ) look good. As for me, I often draw on my ideas and try to find the way how to fill the space and how to match the music. Plus I always pay attention to the Russian theatrical school. There are lots of answers on how to make the act, how to work with a character ,where to you lead your audience …..
It does not mean that every B boy must know all these things. No. It is just for someone who want to get to the bottom of himself and make something that will be very good for audience of all ages.

How did you come into contact with streetdance styles like the robot, waving, and electric boogie? How did the Russian youth come into contact with streetdances.

Being in the Army in 1985, I suddenly saw Break Dance on TV! I saw people who were walking normally but the floor was moving, then you saw that it was a normal floor. Those people moved like robots, sometimes it seemed like the space changed, and the music sounded futuristic. From that particular moment I understood that this is what I have been waiting for such a long time!
I found that Break dance consist two things:
Demonstration of incredible physical ability. Audiences see ordinary people who perfectly operate with their bodies.
Demonstration of the ability of illusion. Audiences see people with abnormal physical ability who don’t seem human at all.
But I saw a stage version of Break dance . Maybe that is why when I got a chance to see the Breaking movie I was disappointed by some of the clothes. They looked like clothes for rock. But of course I liked very much electro rock , and the dance with the broom. I liked the happy face of a man who had no legs but had a chance to dance, being in harmony with the music and sharing his ability with an audience.
Later I bumped into the differences between street style and stage rules. As for the professional stage there were many obstacles. On the street there is more freedom.
Mostly I was on stage then on the street. But you know that we have cold weather in Russia, so most of the year you should dance inside.
Now the Russian youth can see break dance in a night club shows and on the internet, but very seldom on TV.

How was your experience in the Volzhskiy Circus School? How did it improve your skills?

When I was in a Circus School I like acrobatics, juggling and conjuring. I learned many rules about how to do tricks using only power which you actually need to spend to do that and avoid injury. And of course I learned what exactly it is to be a professional performer.

Is there any government support for the performing Arts in Russia? It at all possible to make a living as a performer?

Thank you for this particular question . As far as I can see, our government does not pay enough attention on these things. If you do not belong to classical ballet or folk dance, you are sailing on your own. It is difficult to even find out if someone casting because the casting system is hidden.
Our show business is based on singers and stand up comedians. If you want to go abroad you have to have a visa. Some of my friends (performers) are dead already and they were young people and not lazy at all but for them it was too difficult to get used to the situation. In the last years, the situation has changed a little. Our dancers can be seen on a world championships…( Top 9).
Anyway, it is possible to make a living as a performer in Russia.

How were your experiences performing in American venues like the Beau Rivage Casino.

I had a jolly good time there in USA! During my work in the USA I received many interesting ideas. In Las Vegas I saw most of the greatest shows with outstanding effects,scenery,costumes…!It was not my first visit to America but I always like to be there. Very quickly I met with local B boys . That was fun.
As for experiences… in one of those show I had character which performs thoughout the whole show . It is such a pleasure to feel yourself as a fantasy character, but at the same time you have to work hard and control your body as to be interesting for the audience; An who have already seen many shows,actors,dancers. You have to do something to make audience believe that you are not an actor or a dancer. You are real character.

What are your current projects?
Two months ado I finished with an ice show ” Alice in wonderland on ice” as a director and visual effects creator. Then one month ago I worked in a circus and gave lessons for the whole troupe and participate in a show as a wizard. Then took a part in Alterum theatre performance ( you can see on Youtube as” Alterum theatre” HD ,I was a Chess man).
At this moment I am participating in different shows which belong to Russian New Year celebration( December – January ).

What one piece of advice would you give people who are interested in the performing arts?

Try to get to the subject matter itself!

Best of luck for everybody!

For more interviews with inspiring people, click here.

Looking Elsewhere – Practicing alone

October 23, 2010 1 comment

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

Practicing Alone I have found that it is more productive to practice alone than with people. This is partly because I feel like I am performing more than practicing when I have eyes looking at me. Practicing with people doesn’t give me the full opportunity to experiment because I become too self-conscious.

This may be the most controversial one on the list. I could list a number of benefits there are to practicing with others. Other people can fire you on and keep you motivated during practice, or at least keep you company. But when you’re around friends, endless distractions keep you from focusing. The stories from yesterday, the drama and beef between friends, plans for tomorrow. Many have iphones and ipads. How much more fun is it to watch the newest battle clips then to practice the basics yourself?  Shooting the wind will take up most of your time.

More importantly,  to be able to practice every day and devote the time it takes to learn a complicated style, it is necessary to learn how to practice alone. You can’t always rely on others to practice with you, or that they’ll be interested in practicing what you want to practice.

But Elsewhere touches on insecurity. Elsewhere states that he feels self-conscious when practicing with others. I know that feeling inside and out. I’ve quit many dance classes in my teens because of this feeling of being judged, of not being on par with the other trainees. It can be very demotivating to see others progress faster than you in a move. I rarely believe that I progress fast enough, and training with others only reinforces this pressure on me. This throws me off my course. I began to forget what I’m training for and only saw failure everywhere.

When I started practicing some moves alone in my room, I started to feel comfortable and realised that I could actually follow through on my objectives. I was surprised by the time and frequency I spent practicing. Not once a week, not for a few minutes; but every day and for hours sometimes. I realised that I could rely on myself and practice what I wanted to practice, at my own pace.

We can’t stay in our cellars forever. I gradually confronted my self-consciousness by first showing my dance to friends, then doing it at clubs. The idea to go to workshops and perform in front of experienced dancers was an even greater obstacle, and it required some gentle nudging by Michi Kasuga (we exchanged thoughts on the subject over many emails).  Validation is important for any dancer, and that can only come through sharing your dance. Without that, we feel like we are kidding ourselves by hiding our dance from critical eyes. Dancing helps overcome our fears, shyness, and inhibitions. It should be your goal to share your dance with others and prove your worth.

But even after you have reached that level, you still benefit from taking time to practice on your own, on your own terms, allowing you to experiment with greater focus. The more you expose yourself with your dance, the more it is necessary to retreat and recollect your thoughts and energies. All you need is a room, some music, a mirror, and time.

For many impatient and insecure beginners, practicing alone may be the only option to build up a small level of confidence and patience. Without that confidence, your mind is constantly clouded by self-doubt and frustration. No one can be more critical of our dance then ourselves, and we always fall short of our initial expectations. These frustrations can really inhibit your progress, and this may force you to quit for no reason. Considering the time it takes to create and master a style, this can throw you off course even if you don’t quit completely.

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Looking Elsewhere- Trusting your own judgment

October 2, 2010 1 comment

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.

Trusting my own judgment– This is very much related to “Being Myself”, because being your true self requires some degree of trust in your own judgment. By “trusting my own judgment” I mean having the faith and confidence in my own taste and creativity to determine how I want to dance. Listening to feedback is helpful to me; yet ultimately I try to always trust my own judgment.

The notion of trusting your own judgment runs throughout the entire Elsewhere series, through every principle in fact. Elsewhere’s method goes to extremes that most dancers wouldn’t follow. The need to practice alone. The need to experiment and follow through on your ideas. The need to bypass implicit rules posed by labels. The need to reduce the dance to the elements that appeal to you, even if they are too obscure for the mainstream. None of these are possible if you don’t build up confidence in your judgment.

Trusting yourself seems nearly impossible at the beginning. We make many mistakes, we get frustrated, we know too little, we imitate others, others are better than us, we aren’t even sure what we want or how we want to achieve it. To tell us to trust ourselves feels like a backhanded insult.

You will only believe in this principle once you’ve achieved results through your own efforts. Only once you actually experience that you can trust yourself to achieve results will you start believing this principle. You trust your friends after they’ve proven themselves trustworthy, not because they tell you that they can be trusted. Why should it be different any different in the way you look at yourself?

Two things inhibit most of us in trusting our own judgment. We fear failure, and we have never experienced succeeding through our own efforts. To overcome failure anxiety, you need to put yourself in situations that frighten you, even though you know you will fail (like a circle battle). After experiencing this several times, you will see that these failures won’t kill you and you can learn a lot from them. While a little fear always remains and actually helps you focus, you’ve rid yourself of the tendency to blow up these fears to exaggerated proportions. Then you have the freedom to achieve results on your own. Once you see the fruits of your labor, you will learn to trust your judgment. Many people emphasise the need for positive thinking, but only a few emphasise the necessity to enter such a process.

Trusting yourself is one of those truths that sound simple, but is incredibly difficult to actually apply in real life. It’s a simplified idiom for a long and complex process that requires time, effort, and the ability to change the way you view yourself and your life.

Quotes of truth

Robert Greene, The 33 strategies of war, p. 35
Being self-reliant is critical. To make yourself less dependent on others and so-called experts, you need to expand your reportoire of skills. And you need to feel more confident in your own judgement. Understand: we tend to overestimate other people’s abilities-after all, they’re trying hard to make it look as if they know what they are doing- and we tend to underestimate our own. You must compensate for this by trusting yourself more and others less.

Robert Greene, The 50th law, p. 222-4
Often we have a general feeling of insecurity because we have never really mastered anything in life. Unconciously we feel weak and never quite up to task. Before we begin something, we sense we will fail. The best way to overcome this once and for all is to attack this weakness head-on and build for ourselves a pattern of confidence. And this must be done by first tackling something simple and basic, giving us a taste for the power we can have. […] When you take the time to master a simple process and overcome a basic insecurity, you develop certain skills that can be applied to anything. You see instantly the reward that comes from patience, practice, and discipline. You have the sense that you can tackle almost any problem in the same way. You create for yourself a pattern of confidence that will continue to rise.

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

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Looking Elsewhere: Youtube is our friend and enemy

June 28, 2010 2 comments

This is the third entry in the David Elsewhere series where I analyse his training methods and philosophies. The quotes are derived from his myspace post.

Relying on my memory and not videos for reference – Like most people I have the natural tendency to subconsciously imitate movements I am frequently exposed to. I feel videos have the potential of doing more harm than good because multiple viewings make me more disposed to mimicry. Seeing Skywalker and Animation bust only on a few occasions prevented me from directly imitating them because all I had to go by was the memories in my head. Using memory alone as reference allows my creativity to manipulate external influence into something that is more of my own innovation.

This principle surprised me the most. If it weren’t for internet video clips, I never would have started dancing in the first place. For the first time in history, I have the ability to watch the greatest dancers in the world perform, no matter how remote i am from the hub of the dance community. I can receive expert tutorials without relying on dance teachers near my region. This is the first time that everyone in the world has access to this treasure trove of inspiring videos, and every dance style has the chance to spread like wild fire on a global scale. How could anyone denounce this?

But one issue nagged at me. Looking at the small selection of popping and bboy clips that survived from the late 70s and 80s, I am often in awe of the originality of the dancers. Granted, some elements of those dances may seem dated, even corny. But in other respects, the skill and creativity of the old school dancers overwhelmed me. The art of animation, vibration and floats/slides were more advanced in the 1980s then today.

And here’s the central question: How did the urban youth of the time, with almost no guidance from video clips or formal teachers, learn these incredible creative moves?

This question rose up again in my interview with Otis Funkmeyer. He wrote that having less access to footage proved to be an advantage for him and his fellow poppers. They were always “hungry”. Youtube offered too much eye-candy and didn’t produce the army of skilled dancers that he expected would come out of this trove of videos.

A few interviews with the OG poppers (from Westcoastpoppin.com) showed similar sentiments.

What do you think is the major differences between todays scene and before?

[…] We looked within our imagination. Many stylese came out in a short period of time, and those styles got flipped by the next person, you took the ball and ran with it your way. Today, many cats emulate thier dance from the sorce they are studing to learn it from. That, in my opinion, takes away some of the creative process that takes place when figuring out styles, moves, transitions, etc, yourself.

-Midnight, source

I think it’s all coo for videos and clips, but people have to remember to look at these clips for inspiration not for biting and copying verbatim. Peeps need to take from what they watch and twist it to there own sh^t. or if they are beginners, bite a lil until you are able to understand the dance better, and then change what you have bittin to your own sh&t.
Mr Wiggles, source.

We keep hearing that back in the day, no one danced like each other. Please explain.

First of all back then we didn’t have any video cameras to record different people we were lucky to ketch soul train so see the soul train line and watch the different dancers. […] everybody got there reps of there originality and being different.
-Shallow, source)

After long periods of reflection, I began to see some truth in these statements. I came up with a number of ways that people can abuse the dance clips that are meant to inspire us. I will come back to these and discuss them individually in later posts, but I will now focus on Elsewhere’s objection to mimicry. Elsewhere distrusts the ability to replay the clips over and over again, because it induces the viewer to mimic what he sees instead of inspiring them to take their style in a new direction. He elaborated on this in an interview with Oye Mag.

With all the people and dance styles that have come before you, how do you stay original?
That’s hard. I think that in the very beginning when most people start, it’s kind of necessary to copy people. But once your dancing matures I think videos can be a little unhelpful. You can watch them over and over again so you’re kind of brainwashing yourself into wanting to dance like that. I’m not saying that videos are a bad thing. I’m saying that they are good to some degree, but I just think that they are easily abused.

I like going to events and seeing someone dance, then going home and not being able to watch them again. When you don’t have the ability to watch something over and over again, your mind kind of manipulates the memory into something different. Then when you go home and have that vision in your head, it becomes your own interpretation.

Not being able to rewatch video clips therefore has advantages. It means that you may remember a cool move, but you can’t remember every aspect of the illusion. These gaps in your memory means that you have to stay inventive and come up with your own ways to achieve the illusion. In the process, you stay hungry and attentive. Your mind isn’t allowed to remain lazy because it can’t rely on mimicry. This process is more valuable then actually learning the move itself. It will feed into your originality, and give you the impetus to create your own moves and style.

Let’s look at an example that illustrates this. Mr Wiggles accidentally created his famous knee slide because of a misunderstanding. He heard that Popin Pete performed a moved called the knee slide. Mr Wiggles hadn’t seen Pete do it, but he assumed it was a back-slide (now called the moonwalk) performed on the knees. He practiced so long until he figured a way to pull it off. He did the move in the movie Beat Street and in a performance for the president.

It was only much later that he found out that Popin Pete’s knee slide was nothing like a knee moonwalk (it was more like the ET walk). Not being able to see the move even once, he used his imagination and created a completely new move.

I’m not saying to stop watching video clips altogether. They expand your understanding and can lead you into something new and exciting. Watch as many different clips of different styles for inspiration (I’ll come back to this point in Looking Elsewhere: Mixing Styles). But the clips can make you dependent and decouple you from your own imagination. Refrain from rewatching the same clips over and over again, because it will do you little good.

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