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Posts Tagged ‘Kollaboration’

Looking Elsewhere: Beyond the impossible

May 31, 2010 1 comment

This represents the introductory entry in the Looking Elsewhere series. In each post, I will discuss David Elsewhere’s dancing, but more importantly, discuss how he trained and practiced to become such an unique dancer. To do this, I will analyse and comment on Elsewhere’s own writings about this subject. These insights are meant to help anyone who desires to truly express themselves in ways people haven’t even imagined possible.

I first saw David Elsewhere the same way millions of others saw him. His appearance on The Asian-American dance contest Kollaboration in the year 2001.

I saw it late, around 2006, after it had been posted on Youtube. My first reaction to this clip is interesting in hindsight. I was amazed at this form of dancing because I had never seen anything like it in my life. It was one of the first videos where I realized that the internet could present amazing talents who would have otherwise received very little mainstream attention.

But it was only a freak curiosity, something that vanished just as quickly as it appeared. The thought of me imitating this dance never entered my head. How could it? Traditional breakdance (I hadn’t even heard of popping by that point) was too outlandish and advanced. Elsewhere was a step beyond this, beyond the impossible. Rumours spread that that the dancer must have been born double-jointed or with some kind of rare physical abnormality that gave him superpowers. I never thought I could be a contortionist, so why would I try to imitate Elsewhere? You needed to be born with this flexibility, and practice every waking hour since you reached age five. With expert tutors.

It was only years later, after I had just started dancing as a hobby, that I found out the truth. It came from Elsewhere himself. “I’m not double-jointed at all. The only place where I am double-jointed is my thumbs, which doesn’t even matter. I would say I’m probably a little more flexible than most people in certain areas, mainly my shoulders and my ankles, but I wasn’t born that way. Those areas became flexible because of years of practicing.” And he didn’t start dancing seriously at the age of five like Michael Jackson. No, only seriously around age 17 (but then every day). Constant lessons and hours of professional tutorship? Nope. He mostly practiced alone, in his parents’ garage. There were a couple of dancers who influenced him (like Squid, Salty and Skywalker), but they were never his tutors and he only met them on a few occasions.

I reasoned that if my preconceptions about practicing and training were so wrong, then I must find out more about his methods and see if they could apply to me. I found a small blog post on Myspace written by David himself where he summarised his philosophies and practices on dancing.

These insights were so illuminating that I printed them out and posted them on my wall so that I can read them during a lull in my practice session. They deserve deeper discussion and analysis, so I will post regular features on this subject, focusing on a specific point at a time. For the next post, I will probably take on his principles of being yourself and trusting your own judgement.

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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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