Today in my breakdance class, our teacher Alan had us do some cool musicality exercises, which were really challenging and fun. Everyone in the class basically got a couple eights of music that they had to do some floorwork to, and finish with a freeze that punctuated a hit in the music. What the exercise did was help us to try and think like a b-boy, i.e. what is happening in this song and how can I punctuate it with my breaking moves that I know how to do.
Alan had us watch this clip of the Super Cr3w performing on "America’s Best Dance Crew." "What makes the routine great is not that they are doing the most incredible tricks," Alan explained. "It’s that they are hitting the breaks in the music so creatively and stylishly."
The class reminded me of my first musicality class in lindy hop that I took almost ten years ago with the infamous Steven Mitchell…
Back then, Steven Mitchell was known as the "Darth Vader" of lindy. A man who would tell you to your face how bad your dancing was. You would leave his workshops feeling like you had no business even attempting this dance you were so pathetic and hopeless.
Sometime around 1999, I took one of his dreaded musicality classes. I was still a fairly new dancer, and had just a handful of lindy hop moves under my belt.
The entire class consisted of Steven Mitchell playing over and over again the Louis Jordan song "Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t My Baby." To start the class, Steven just put on the song and told us to dance socially to it as we normally would. After about a couple of minutes he stopped the song and barked, "Are you even listening to the song? Do you even hear it?"
Later he had us sing the song as we were dancing to it, to try and get the music into our bodies. He tried to teach us to dance behind the beat, instead of right on top of it, or — godforbid — ahead of the beat. Finally he just gave up and taught us a routine, to everyone’s great relief.
I was a wreck the rest of the day. I felt like a complete failure as a swing dancer. But afterwards, my friends told me that they could see positive differences in my dancing. And today, well, I have a lot of things I’m still working on as a lindy hopper, but I think in general that I dance with musicality and feeling.
I feel with breaking that I’m almost at the same spot that was at with lindy hop in 1998. I have a fairly decent repertoire of breaking moves. I know enough to be able to perform someone else’s choreography, and to do a couple of mostly pre-programmed sets of breaking steps and freezes. But I don’t feel comfortable enough with breaking that I can on-the-fly react to a song with the same level of musicality.
Being a b-boy is about finding your own style and creating your own moves. Hopefully before this body gives out, I will start to achieve that.