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Posts Tagged ‘isolations’

Interview: Brian “Footwork” Green

August 9, 2010 3 comments

This is my interview with House and Freestyle dancer Brian „Footwork“ Green. To see some of his great dancing, click here.

Please explain how you turned to dance at a very young age of 8 and what dances you initially pursued. What influence did your mother play?

All things go to GOD first, who gives us all a talent to express ourselves, live from, and that serves others in some way. In the human sense, at a very young age, my Mom, brother, and cousin danced; all different dance styles.  Brother did Rocking, Electric Boogie, and Snaking/Waving. Mom did Salsa, Hustle, and just hustle freestyle steps with alot of funky grooves behind it. My cousin did Ballet, Tap, and Jazz dance.

Also, my Mom showed me many TV shows,  Beta Max tapes, or reel to reel of various dancers and dances when I was young. I wanted to copy them and learn them all.  My Mom noticed that talent to music and dance before I did ( as GOD says, HONOR THY FATHER and MOTHER!!), and I just followed her advice. GOD told her, and she was right.

I’ve read that your brother, but also two individuals called Damien and Spanky, helped you to pursue different dance styles that you. What led you to freestyle, popping and house, and what were the influences of your brother and two friends?

My brother introduced me to the Boogie style/Snaking ( or people know it as Waving). That was in the very late 70s ( like late 78 or middle 79). Damien was a club head (a.ka. house dancer) that I met in late 86 or early 87 that was great in a style in House dance known today as Skating. It was very different from what people were doing, so I was influenced by him. Same for Spanky, who I met 2 years after in the House club. His freestyle was very different from other people and I was influenced.

HERE IS WHAT INFLUENCED ME IN THEIR STYLES:

My Brother: Creative, fearless, crazy angles, glides, and hand play in the boogie style. Clean Snaking/Waving (late 78 or 79-84).

Damien: He was about 6ft 9 or more, could spin, do floor moves, and travel around the club with very smooth syncopated footwork (86-88)

Spanky: syncopated and polyrhythmic footwork combined with very precise body isolations and rhythms, and arms that were coordinated with it. THIS WAS A CRAZY FREESTYLE!! CRAZY!! He was only 15 when I met him!! GENIUS. (88-92)


You did the choreography on a number of videos for music artists, including for the recording artist Mya. What qualities must the choreographer bring to such projects (e.g. willingness for collaboration, ability to endure time pressure). What surprised you most about working in such projects?

A choreographer or dancer in any form of this industry must realize it’s a business. So, realize what is “in” in the industry, but study other things to be able to have your own thing to show, and feel when it’s time for you to freestyle ( as a dancer) or choreograph. Also, be very humble, quiet, attentive, and knowledgeable for your longevity. Unless you are very versatile, I would say you can speak your mind and be aggressive, honest, and humble; be warned this is a hard way ( as I lived this one!!). Same results. You still make it to what you want and people will know you ( if that’s a person’s focus).

Surprises as a choreographer: just the lack of seriousness in dancers towards other dance styles. The lack of seriousness by artists to learn dance styles.

Surprises as a dancer: just how you are treated; expendable. But it was a  great experience to be on stage and to perform.
Can you describe a particularly inspiring moment in your collaboration with recording artists?

Really can’t say I have one in actually choreographing with an artist. I have some in choreographing with my group WORLD SOUL and HDC CREW. This is why I teach more, in hopes of raising the level in dance, physically and mentally. It’s a business, and some of the greatest artists (known or unknown) don‘t have the budget, or the industry doesnt give them the time to show their full talents. Artists like Mya, Barbara Tucker, and countless others were great dancers and performers that can raise the level on how people look at dance and can hold a note; they need more support.

Please describe the function of your projects World Soul events, Red Bull Teamriders, and the House Dance Conference.

WORLD SOUL is a dance group GOD allowed me to create back in 1992 in order to show the world the different feeling, soul, or grooves behind different dance styles; in order to try unite people in the dance world and the world ( as much as GOD will allow).

Red Bull beatriders was a RED BULL event that was to bring a certain amount of children around the world to train them in Hip-hop culture from experienced people in that culture. I was part of the advisor staff on this event/project, along with other prominent dancers in the Hip-hop culture.

House Dance Conference was like an event that focused on edutainment. With the same premise and ideas as my group WORLD SOUL!! HDC was an event that was financed and provided by GOD and me, but it was a collaborated idea that answered the cry of the scene of NY.  NY’s powerful dancers wanted an event to show children and up and coming dancers how it is to party for the love of music, but also respect and learn the art of dance styles they love from the pioneers of those styles. These people were flown in to perform, judge, and teach them from around the world. It was an event that had full-out dance and music on all levels. It lasted for 10 years in NY and is now traveling.

How does your spirituality feed into your dance and creativity?

GOD is life, gave life, and nutures it. Dance is my life’s expression. GOD is my life. JESUS is the example.

What role did ego, competition, and agression play in your dancing community when you started?

Funny, when I first started, I was a shy kid from Bayside, Queens. I went to church ( the building) in Harlem on Sundays to attend, or during the week to help my grandmother. I realized at the block parties in front of the church ( the building) that there was alot of violence in certain area  (Bayside was residential and on the upper middle class side).

The dichotomy was crazy to see and too complex to explain. But it’s a part of the dance and mentality of Hip-hop and other dance styles/culture that is important to know and realize. But many don‘t realize this importance and fall into the same pit falls in life, mentality, and work that keep them down.

In the beginning, I had alot of love for dance because I saw it that way. As I started to enter into battles and all, I started to see anger, showing-off, and violence. This fueled my skills, but definitely corrupted my mind in my late teenage and all of my 20s. Finding myself having to constantly read the BIBLE here and there on tours to check myself. Though that wasnt working till GOD had me realize ( thank GOD), the power of believing, faith, and praying; HE answers. AMEN!

I realized ( thank GOD), that ego, competition, and aggression must happen.  It’s a part of the nature of human beings when they dont understand what to do with their lives when they are rejected, tested, or pushed or work to something they like, don`t like, or don‘t understand. It’s life. It’s humans.

But those emotions in those categories of life help fuels their dance. Once feuled,  you change back to the love that once brought you to the dance. Then your dance grows even faster and crazier. And it becomes LOVE for real. Which serves people, yourself, and nature.

What does your daily dance training consist of (including suplementary training like stretches or weight training)? Has this changed significantly over the years?

I stretch every day considering the movement I will do. If I am going out to a club, then I stretch in the club and at least an hour before,  because I dont know what I will do in the circle. This is so I dont pull a muscle or something.  This has become more intense over the years in a cellular way. Studying heavier on my eating and physiology.

What mistakes do beginners typically make in the different dances, and what one advice would you give them?

We are all human and all make mistakes. We are all beginners in something. The mistake we all make is when we think we have arrived and stopped practicing and learning from others and ourselves.


How does age affect dancing in general (not just your own experiences)?

It doesn‘t.

Can you explain what led to the backlash by the mainstream public to certain streetdances like popping? It seems to have lasted from 1988 to 2000.

The popularity of certain dance style and seeing it everywhere behind different artists, videos, TV shows, and stage.  Has made people want to learn what it really is and it vast history and techniques. This is why it always re-surfaces.

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

Dancing after GOD obviously made HIMSELF known to me. Also, the first time watched my MOM dance.

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Featuring: Poppin John

June 5, 2010 4 comments

Being asked to choose my favourite dancer makes me uncomfortable, because I feel that I am disrespecting all of the dancers who have influenced me in their own different ways. But I can answer the question if it is posed a little differently. “Which dancer has the strength and qualities that you want to attain?” or “If you could only watch and learn from one dancer, who might that one be?”

In these cases, my answer comes without reservations: Poppin John. Isolations, dime stops, speed control, variety of styles. He excels in all of them. He happens to incorporate my favourite styles (what luck!), and his moves are always spot-on perfect.

Me stringing a line of praise and superlatives may come off as unconvincing, even disingenuous. So let me provide video footage of John’s dancing and point out why they blow me away like no other dancer. I embedded the videos so that they cut immediately to the part I want to discuss. That means that I’m going to post a lot of videos, but you don’t have to watch the entire clip (that’s your own choice afterwards).

My favourite moves involve head-and-chest isolations. I learned them first before attempting anything else.  A small number of dancers do it, but I have never seen anyone pull it off like Poppin John. Below you can see what I like to call “chicken head”

and here you can see what I like to call “head swipe” or “madd headd” (after Madd Chadd).

Note how isolated his head is from his neck and chest, and that it remains so even when he takes steps (not just standing around).

How about arm and body waves? No worries, that’s his specialty.

His footwork is varied and original. Look at his floating and gliding skills.

This clip below forced me to learn liquid hand waves.

Strobing is perhaps my greatest love, and there’s so little of it around (thank God for David Elsewhere, Tyson Eberly, Madd Chadd, and Flat Top). The best strobers are those that strobe more than just their arms.

I’m not the biggest fan of finger tutting, but tell me if this doesn’t bring a smile to your face.

Speed control. Moving your body real fast, then incredibly slow, perhaps even stopping on a dime, then going into overdrive again. Often overlooked, but it’s real important to build up contrasts in your dancing. That will make your dancing stand out. Check out his shoulders in this clip.

Too bad there’s no interview planned. That’d be too crazy, right?
You’d be surprised. Stay tuned for more.

Looking Elsewhere – Mirrors and shadows

May 4, 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.

Using a Mirror – I have found that using a mirror is extremely helpful when practicing because it gives instantaneous feedback. I know exactly how my moves look and can immediately critique myself. The only thing I would advise against would be getting so used to the mirror that you can’t perform well without one. To prevent this I try to practice just as much without a mirror.

Videotaping myself – I try videotaping myself once and in a while. It is just as helpful as using a mirror to me. The only drawback is that it’s not instantaneous feedback; you don’t see what you’re doing when you’re doing it. Videotaping has several advantages over a mirror. You don’t have to pay attention to your reflection thus allowing your mind to concentrate on just dancing. By recording yourself you, are able to observe things that are difficult to see in the mirror, like spins and ground moves. Videotaping yourself also gives you the opportunity to see what your moves look like from a variety of angles.

David Elsewhere, source

Many of the illusionary tricks of popping require a lot of practice and trial-and error. Most of the movements required to perform such tricks are unusual and essentially unnatural. Your body requires a lot of time and repetition to memorize these movements.

Take waving, for example. It requires you to isolate certain parts of your hands, wrist, shoulders, and chest, but to do so in a rapid and smooth fashion. Or take strobing, where you need to perform a rapid series of stop-and-go movements that have to be performed at a constant rhythm, every movement equal in distance from the previous one.

While there are many dance teachers and friends who can provide you with invaluable tips, you need to rely on yourself to criticize your performance and judge what you need to do so as to get where you want. That’s why it is necessary to perform in front of mirror. You can gain immediate feedback by watching yourself perform an arm wave and being unsatisfied with the result. This is particularly important when you first start practicing. Most likely you misunderstand how to perform an isolation or a dime stop, and only seeing yourself in the mirror will point that out. This allows you to try something different, find out what you misunderstood, what you need to work on.

Be aware of the drawbacks, though. Looking at the mirror means you are not fully concentrating on executing a move. It’s difficult to perform a move and concentrate on how it feels if you are looking at a mirror. Another possible drawback is that you may get used to performing in front of a mirror but are unsure how to dance without the aid of one.

Then we have the most simple negative effect: It can be disheartening for anyone to try to execute a move and failing hundreds of times, particularly in the beginning where you will almost certainly fail at everything you attempt.

Therefore, it’s necessary to divide your individual sessions into separate blocks. In the first half, you will practice your moves without a mirror, simply focusing on the sensations in your body as you perform them. Then you can practice in front of the mirror to see where you have improved and what you still need to work on. Spend more time performing without a mirror, but check your progress  with a mirror in every session.

At some stage your own shadow can replace the mirror as your toughest critic. First pointed out to me by Otis Funkmeyer (who learned it from Tyson Eberly), you can detect the effectiveness of your isolations and dime-stops more clearly with your shadow then your mirror reflection. I suppose it’s easier to focus on the movements of a simple silhouette than a distracting mirror reflection, and I guess that the blown-up size of your shadow helps you detect every unwanted movement, no matter how small. In fact, it’s infuriating to see how clearly your silhouette reflects the imperfections in your dime-stop or in your wave. That’s why I’m advising you to switch to your shadow only after achieving some success in your training (let’s be easy on ourselves at the beginning, after all). But I was surprised at how quickly it helps me to improve technique. After you convince your shadow, you’ll convince everybody else.

What about taping yourself? There are drawbacks here also. It isn’t instantaneous feedback, and you can feel even more self conscious with a camera than a mirror. Nonetheless, it helps you see focus on more than just one move, allowing you to judge your dancing as a whole. It also allows you to see the effect of your dancing from different angles. Better to tape yourself dancing once in a while so as to judge your dancing from a fresh perspective.

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