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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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Tyson Eberly

April 19, 2010 2 comments

Tyson Eberly is the one who got me into popping.  It was his online tutorial series How to do the robot that made me start practicing, and his tutorials continue to be the most helpful and detailed tutorials I have encountered. There aren’t many poppers who are great dancers as well as teachers, but Tyson is exceptional. Versatile in his styles, Tyson is skilled in popping, roboting, waving, tutting, and miming.

I feel grateful that I could interview him over email and present him on my blog. His story shows how popping came back as a popular dance style after more then a decade of neglect. it also shows how dancing can help one person struggling through difficult times.

Tyson was born in Austin, Texas, and practiced popping as early as age 7. “[T]he 3 primary influences I remember are the movies Beat Street and Breaking. And the last would be the late MJ of course.”

However, back in 1983, popping remained an underground dance practiced mostly in poorer urban regions, and “unless you lived in the hood, nobody was doing it.” He stopped popping and moved on to other party dance styles  such as the Running man and the Hammer. He continued dancing in his teenage years, but became more focused on parties, drinking “and chasing girls”.

This spread into his twenties and began to take an enormous toll on his health. He developed the Epistine-Barr immune deficiency and became “a sick 25 year old alcoholic going on 50.”

A friend invited him to move out to LA, and shortly after arriving he decided to start abstaining from alcohol for six months, “which was a scary thought but deep down [I] knew it had to be done as my health had only gotten worse.” It was in these troubled times that he reconnected with popping. He saw a 2003 Mitsubishi Eclipse commercial where female dancer Dusty Paik popped and waved inside a car to the Dirty Vegas track Days gone by.

(Some of you may remember Dave Chappelle’s parody).

The commercial was based on the music video to Days gone by. The music video featured Byron McIntyre and Garland Spencer breaking, popping,  locking, and popping.

Shortly thereafter, he encountered another female dancer who was “killing it” in a club. He asked her from where she learned those moves, and she mentioned  Mr Wiggles, one of the earliest and most prominent poppers (and the most business savvy, selling his instructional tapes over http://www.mrwiggles.biz).

Tyson purchased two instructional tapes on tutting and footwork. He also bought a basic popping tutorial by Popin Pete, a member of the groundbreaking dance crew The Electric Boogaloos.

By now, Tyson became fully immersed in the dance. He opened up a dance studio in the garage of his San Fernando house and trained at hip hop dance school Mellimium. He associated with and befriended a number of poppers, such as Madd Chadd, Pandora, J-Rock, Poppin Todd, and Otis Funkmeyer. He became particularly close with Madd Chadd, and Tyson maintains that Madd Chadd is his biggest influence. I can believe this, because Madd Chadd is one of the best botters out there. He is currently featured in Jon M. Chu’s dance group Legion of Extraordinary Dancers (LXD), and can be seen in Chu’s films Step Up 2 and Step Up 3d

The more he immersed himself in popping (or robopoppin, as he calls it), the more frustrated he became by the lack of mainstream attention. This led him to establish the dancing company Elastic Illusion with Otis Funkmeyer and Josh “Ace Ventura” and they produced the How to do the robot series.  It represented a great financial risk for Tyson, but it became a success. Many of the videos received millions of views, and it spawned a second tutorial (Breakdance DVD, taught by Ace Ventura).

Despite the success, it was a short-lived venture. Ace Ventura left the group to produce further tutorials independently, and Tyson broke of business relations with Otis Funkmeyer after a dispute over revenue shares.Tyson moved back to Austin and started hosting his television program Tyson TV on Channel 16 Austin Public Access. I have seen the program, and his dancing tutorials are even more in depth and original. I can only recommend the program.

Tyson also teaches weekly classes, produces a weekly radio program (the new paradigm). He was a involved on the Bruce Willis film Surrogates (motion capturing for the film’s robots).

He is satisfied that popping is receiving greater mainstream attention through programs like So You Think You Can Dance and America’s Best Dance Crew. And LXD, of course. As towards his plans for the future, he concludes: “I will continue to dance on a daily basis well into my 50’s I feel because this dance can be! It’s not hard on the body, it’s good for the body!”