by Issie Lloyd, Dance Development Worker
I can honestly say the pioneers week of workshops was one of the most influential and inspiring weeks of my dance career! The layout of the pioneers was changed this year; Breakin Convention decided to mix the week with a variety of dance styles (Locking, Popping, House and Breakin) and bring a pioneer of each style to deliver the foundations, techniques and historical context.
I ended up participating in fourteen classes and a variety of free open jamming sessions throughout the week. I was blown away with the delivery of Locking and Popping, which was led by Popping Pete and Suga Pop (both members of The Electric Boogaloos and second generation in the Locking scene). To hear all the Old School stories of how they were influenced by Locking as children and how Boogaloo Sam (Popping Pete’s brother) created the style Popping, was absolutely fascinating. Every inch of their teaching involved a story as to how a technique was created and developed. In Suga Pop’s classes we would drill a variety of social dances, grooving to the music individually and in partners, simply living in the moment with that feeling of ‘this is why I dance’. You would look around the room and every single dancer would be smiling, simply enjoying dance for what it is! No strategic focus on how you look but only how you feel.
The main thing I learnt from Suga Pop, was how to feel the music, how to funk, how to dance with it and not against it. Then you can layer the dance with the technique. Nowadays you see a lot of dancers with great technique, but no dance, no funk. As for Popping Pete, his relaxed yet beautifully friendly approach to his teaching made me want to work harder then ever before. Especially as Popping is a funk style which I have only had a taster of and already want to learn so much more! He would get the class to always funk first and then layer the dancing with the pops. I drilled popping like never before to the point my biceps had grown an inch or two! Popping Pete was a very encouraging teacher and informed me that I was improving each session which was amazing to hear from someone so big in the dance scene! When I did the Breakin classes with Alien Ness and Trac 2 I was also blown away with new knowledge and movement skills. At times I was completely out of my comfort zone but I absolutely buzzed off the challenge! Alien Ness and Trac2 would sit us down at the end of the workshops and talk us through their history in the scene, who they were influenced by, how they view today’s Breakin scene and how we can develop as dancers.
Overall this experience still seems so surreal to this day. I feel so incredibly lucky to have met FIVE pioneers who influenced the development of Locking, Popping, House and Breakin. It was magical to hear them all talking about how they would meet up back in the day and exchange styles and knowledge on the streets. The fact that all five of them are still teaching today and networking with one other is incredible. Their love and passion for these styles has influenced other lovers like myself to continue developing them within the dance scene.
Throughout the Pioneers week I met up with a lot of dancers I have previously trained with and made close friends with a bundle more! These passionate dancers travelled from Scotland, Liverpool, Portsmouth, Essex, Wales and Poland. Spending the week with other dancers with the same objectives and outlook as myself was heart-warming. We would exchange knowledge, teaching one another different styles in the free jamming sessions – I even got some Capoeira teaching on the go. I have made some incredible networks that I believe will create some great opportunities in the near future. I am going to San Francisco and Los Angeles in November (with the help of the Lisa Ullmann Fund) to train in Locking and Popping as this is birthplace of the funk styles. Seeing as Suga Pop lives there I was able to make an immediate link with him and have arranged to attend his classes in LA.
The networking opportunities I have developed from this week really are endless. I feel like a new dancer, teacher and performer. The fact that I will see all these teachers and dancers again keeps me highly motivated and excited for my next big training opportunity…
A HUGE HUGE HUGE thank you to The Arts Council of Wales for giving me the opportunity to participate in these amazing opportunities!!