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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.

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New Otis Funkmeyer article on Westcoastpoppin.com

September 3, 2010 Leave a comment

Our old friend Otis Funkmeyer started writing popping articles on westcoastpoppin.com again. You can read the entire article here, but let me give you a reader’s digest version with these three quotes that really blew my mind.

I realized recently that the way I was taught waving, the way I teach waving, the way every single person I have ever met (except PacMan) teaches the arm wave, is wrong. It’s not how the best wavers wave. Simple as that.
And it got me thinking. The best dancers are the best DANCERS. They aren’t necessarily the best teachers. But eventually, people come along and they go, shit, how do you do that?!!? And so the best dancers are forced to become teachers. But they don’t actually know how they do what they do, so they just try different ways of teaching. Eventually, one of them sticks, and they just run with it. Then their students get good and become teachers and this method, which was not necessarily even a good method, let alone the best method, becomes the standard way that things are taught.

What I’m trying to say is this. We all got taught popping wrong. The way I got taught is wrong. The way you got taught is wrong. It’s all wrong. You want the proof??? The way that people teach is NOT the way that people dance. When I was in Calgary in 2004 learning Electric Boogaloo Style Popping from Boogaloo Sam himself, he doesn’t dance like that. He doesn’t just do the fresno. He doesn’t actually dance like that. That’s just some routine he came up with. When you seen him dance, boy, that man was GANGSTA BOPPIN. Hard ass robot. Hard ass dimestops. Clean. Quick. Shakes. Everything HARD. The fresno doesn’t teach you that. It teaches you to be on beat. On rhythm. On time. Loose and funky. But not HARD.

The arm wave is the same way. All the best wavers I know curl their fingers as the wave comes out. Nobody does that dorky upside-down-V thing that is how the wave is always taught. Why? Because it doesn’t look as good. It looks better to curl your fingers on the way out.

See, the way I teach popping, the way I was taught popping, is that you should be loose and relaxed and then when it’s time to hit, you QUICKLY tense and then QUICKLY relax again. See, this is actually a very good way to teach Japanese people who can’t dance and White Americans who can dance even less than that. Because when we see popping, we get so damn tense it looks uncomfortable. But the problem is that the baby gets thrown away with the bathwater. The best dancers ALL have that tension. That’s part of the unreal looking of popping. Even boogaloo at its highest levels is dope because it DOESN’T LOOK REAL. If you don’t have the unreal, robotic, animated, gangsta look with your popping, you are partially missing the point.

Youtube quickie: Popin Pete at Old School Night vol 10

August 24, 2010 2 comments

You know what? I don’t think I properly understood how good Popin Pete’s dancing really is until I saw this clip the other day. Credit goes to hanx036 for putting this up.

Raw interview: Poppin John (part 1)

July 3, 2010 Leave a comment

That’s right, that’s right. I was able to score a monster interview with Poppin John from Soulbotics crew. To understand why he’s one of my top influences in dancing, read my feature on him. The depth of his answers surprised me, and I am grateful to have had this opportunity.

The interview itself is divided into three separate parts. There is a link at the end of each post to the next section. I have added some links whenever he mentions a dancer, plus I added some video and my comments whenever appropriate.

1. Where did you grow up?

I grew up in a very small town called Farmington in the Northwest corner of New Mexico. My childhood was amazing there but when I started to creep my way into the entertainment side of life, it definitely was not the right place to be. But that being said, I do think I have come up with many moves and concepts because I was learning by myself with not a lot of influences in town.

2. What got you into dancing, and why did you specialize in popping?

Well, my very first dance experience was at a family reunion. We camped in a big campground in Colorado, I think. But anyway, there was a small like dance room in the main building of the campground and they had DJ get down on the weekends, so my dad took me and my cousins. I was about 11 years old. My cousin Jason could do a few new jack swing moves like top rock-ish. I was super amazed because I hadn’t even thought about dancing in my whole life until that moment. After that, I went to my 7 grade first school dance and BOOM girls and music….”That’s it, I need to learn how to dance”….

Everyone was just standing around, and then I saw a circle on the other side of the gym. There were 2 kids breakin in the circle. When I walked up, one was doing a backspin. The other answered with the worm. That moment I know that this was the type of dance I wanted to do.

So that night I went home and learned how to do the worm (haha, everybody starts somewhere). I laid my mirror down on the ground and watched myself attempt this move that I wanted to learn so bad. One night of practice: the next school dance I was worming my ass off. That was my first dance experience.

Me and a few friends started a crew and started battling other crews. It was crazy. There were 7 or 8 crews in my small town in like 99, and we would hash it out at the skating ring. It was so dope, we thought we were the shit, pulling out routines and all kinds of tricks. So one night at the ring one of my friends told me that I have the best arm waves, and he asked me to repeat it over and over…that moment really stuck in my mind.

I was breaking and poppin, but never at the same time! For some reason, thank God, I always treated the dances as completely different things. I was in a crew called Foundations of freedom and it was all bboys and one bgirl, and I was the one who could pop. After a couple of years of practicing both I decided to give bboying a break and focus on poppin. I have been addicted ever since.

3. What were the reaction of your parents and peers to your dancing passion?

Well, the first reaction of my peers was pretty much 50/50. One side was like “DOPE, I wanna learn”, and the other side was a bunch of haters. You know how it is, and in a small town everybody has an opinion. But my parents have been down since day one. For real, my parents are a big reason for me taking dance to the next level and perusing it as a career. But after I developed a pretty good skill level, it was rare when I got negative feed back from anybody, really.

4. How did you come to the conclusion to pursue dancing full-time and travel around the world?

Well, the first time I really thought about traveling the world was when I started to watch bboy battle videos. Seeing dancers from all over the globe come and compete in the same place was so dope to me. My pops started taking us to jams in the surrounding cities when they did go down. From those experiences, I turned into a battle cat, always ready to through down. To this day, I can’t seem to get rid of the desire to compete.

To take dancing as a career really started with my father. He made it known that he wanted me to pursue whatever I wanted to do in life and to not get stuck punching a clock and be unhappy. So then the idea of my website www.learn2bust.com started up, and a few years later, the plans became reality. Now I have students all over the globe learning form my videos. Its an amazing feeling, being able to teach the things I have picked up throughout my dance career.

Click here for part 2 of the interview.

Raw interview: Poppin John (part 2)

July 3, 2010 1 comment

5. Which dancers and teachers made the greatest impression on you at the beginning (and has this changed nowadays)?

So when I first started out poppin, I thought there were 5 poppers in the world (hahah). Salah, Mr.Wiggles, Poppin Pete, Bionic, and PopnTaco.

That soon changed when I started traveling and meeting poppers from nowhere and everywhere. I felt so small. I thought I was a beast and then realized that I was just a kid that had a few good waves. Salah was a big influence when I was beginning. I was amazed by his battle attitude and how he always had the crowd wrapped around his finger….I still feel the same about Salah, and after teaming up with him to battle in Juste Debout, I have so much respect and love for him. He definitely is super humble and very professional. A very good person all around and a good friend of mine now. It was a dream come true dancing with him…

Wigz was the first popper I ever know existed and I would say he was the biggest influence of mine…I watched a wigz tape over and over and over trying to learn moves and techniques. Now wigz is the person I go to for advice on my dance and business. He always has the time to answer me, and he was and always will be a huge influence of mine.

During the first 5 years of my dance, I decided I wanted to be a boogaloo popper…all the poppin jams were full of them and I really didn’t fit in with any of them. So that was a big focus of mine. I wanted to boog sooooo bad, so I bought a Poppin Pete tape and he broke down a lot of boog positions, and I started to boog in this period of my dance career. I was learning very slow. I really couldn’t find the feel of boog and the positions were foreign to me. But I stuck with it. A couple years went by and I had been to a few more big jams freestyle session. I saw J-Rock win freestyle session 8 and that’s what I wanted my dance to look like. But it wasn’t happening so I still kept pushing it…

I just couldn’t feel it one day, and I said “Fuck it, bro. I’m gonna do me.” I started looking in the mirror, seeing what I liked. I always loved it when I saw a popper get really “clean”… isolated, animated, clean waves. Popn Taco’s a beast in my book and always will be.

[Liquid Metal: I second that opinion on PopNTaco]

So Poppin Pete was an influence of mine when I really wanted to fit in with the boog world, but not so much now. I think he is amazing and a legend, but not really what I’m going for in my dance. Nowadays, I get influenced by everyday students of mine and my crew Soulbotics . But I try to influence myself and learn new things by myself. Its easy to watch videos on youtube now and really pick up that persons feel without knowing it, so I try to stay conscience of that and try to keep my own feel.

[Liquid Metal: This echoes my post Youtube is our friend and enemy]

6. What does your daily practice session consist of (including any supplementary conditioning and flexibility training)?

Daily practice consists of a studio solo session for 1 to 2 hours. Then I have choreo practice for 1 hour. I put a wall up for myself a few years ago and said I was not good a choreo. Now im trying to break that mental block, so I jam out with a crew in El Paso. I have been getting pretty good.

Then after that studio session I head home and change, go off to the club to really session. When I’m in the studio I “practice”, and when I go out I “session”. They are very different in my book. When I practice, I practice styles. When I session, I transition in and out of different styles, flip styles, and really connect with the music.

As far as warm up and flexibility goes, I really don’t focus too much on those. I just GET DOWN as hard as I can.

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

I think a big mistake beginning poppers make is trying to cut corners. I feel there are no short cuts in this dance . You have to learn the techniques of poppin and the styles of poppin before you can execute “moves”. I see many beginners just jumping from move to move to move, but they don’t have the control or technique to execute them…but I can also say that’s not a mistake, its just how it is today. I feel that those dancers are doing all they can with the skill level they have. If they stick with it, they will eventually learn the techniques and control. So I would say the mistake is not knowing that there is a lot of technique to learn before you can make moves look good.

And that brings me to my advice. You have to practice as much as possible to get better. This dance is a life long dance, meaning it takes YEARS to learn many of the techniques that are in poppin. So my advice is to never take a break. Always practice and try to find motivation in every situation to train more. When I lose, I train. When I win, I train. When I feel that I’m not as good as this guy, I train. When I feel I have a high skill level than this guy, I train. I find that fire in every situation to practice more.

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

Well, when I started dancing that’s what it was all about. In battling, I was sooo hungry and I wanted to prove myself in every circle. I learned so much about winning losing and using it all for motivation.

But there are a few things that I would like to say about the competitive nature of poppin. Be careful not to get too caught up in the drama of this dance. We can forget that it is a positive thing and we do it because we love the dance and the music. If you cant take losing very well then you should not battle. You are putting your dance in front of someone to judge it and critique it. If that is something that will hurt you don’t put your self in that position.

That being said, competing is a huge part of my life and I cant seem to get away from it. It is tough at times to take a loss and also to take a big win. You can’t let either of them get to your head too much. And about the success of others: the way I look at it, the better other poppers do, the better it is for the whole dance. I believe that we have the most talented people in this culture and we should all get exposure and the fruits of hard work. This dance is hard to learn, and when that much time is put into anything, I think there should be rewards greater than personal expression. But that just is my view. There are many people who view that subject differently… But to be successful in this industry you have to work hard and go get it you can’t just stand around and wait for the opportunities to knock at your door.

Click here for part 3 of the interview.