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The imaginary material of the floor

Another idea that helps you explore new possibilities and transform your freestyles or choreographies is to work with imaginary attributes of the floor.

What this means is you style your movement with the goal to create the illusion of dancing on a certain kind of underground. It can be defined through simple adjectives like:

  • sticky
  • slippery
  • muddy
  • hot
  • cold
  • dusty
  • unstable
  • magnetic
  • burning
  • everything you can come up with

or by a more vivid image:

  • dancing on raw eggs
  • in a swamp
  • in the desert
  • on a frozen lake
  • stepping on chewing gum
  • and whatever more you can imagine

You will execute your moves in a different way if you immerse yourself into the idea. This concept is very close to storytelling, but it gives you just one idea to work with, instead of a whole plotline.

The only tricky point in this one is that it only works if you commit and believe in the image that you want to create. That is not a thing for everyone, but I strongly recommend you give it a try, as being able to believe in your concept/story/idea will help you to improve your performance-abilities a lot.

The 4 elements of running a dance business

4 colooured pillars and the headline "four elements of running a dance business

Most people who are into dance, flirt with the idea of becoming a professional dancer from time to time. While this is not the right thing for everybody, it is not too hard to pull off for someone who really wants it. With discipline, dedication and honesty about what oneself can do, it is doable, even without any talent. (Talking about myself here, not you :-p)

Being successful in your dance business is no matter of luck. There are four key components you have to take care to create a sustainable income. Only one of them is directly related to dancing. Invest time in all of them and you will see results in a matter of months.

  1. Honing your craft.
  2. Providing value.
  3. Finding your audience.
  4. Building your network.

If you have it all, you will be successful. Let me explain in a little bit more detail.

Honing your Craft

You need to be good at what you do. This is an essential rule in every business. You deliver bad quality, you are out – even when you have everything else down.

Put in the hours into your dance skills, your understanding of the music, your knowledge on how to create shows and how to present yourself. You want to create the illusion that everything you do is super easy and comes naturally to you. Every great dancer delivers this illusion and it is imperative that you can do it too.

This also goes for secondary dance workfields like organising events, judging, or anything where your knowledge and experience as a dancer is the key. But those are a topic for another post.

Providing Value

Giving the people something they crave is the key to success. If you think about it, it is obvious. Nonetheless, it often happens that people try to “sell” things that nobody really needs. Don’t fall into this trap.

The best methods of providing value to peoples lives (from a business point of view) are:

  • teach them
    If someone wants that move but does not get it for years and you help him finally get it, you can be sure you added some value to his life. This goes for everything you can teach dance wise: steps and moves, musical understanding, groves, concepts, choreography, …
  • enlighten them
    If you spark insights that give them an understanding of how they can improve by themselves. This is very similar to teaching but deserves its own place. You can introduce are a certain kind of thought process or sources of inspiration that may help their development. It is more like telling them where to look instead of what to do.
  • entertain them
    Entertainment is one of the biggest industries right now and dance can do it very well. People want to be distracted, they want to be amazed and see things they have never seen before. If you create that show that can take them out of their regular lives for even the shortest amount of time, you will earn your place in the hearts of the people and that is where you ultimately need to be.
  • touch them emotionally
    Connecting to people in a way that you can take them on a journey through more emotions than just enthusiasm is even better. You know the feeling when a movie or music takes you on an emotional rollercoaster, right? That is where your audience needs to be. To be honest: it is not easy and takes a lot of work and/or talent. There are very few dancers and choreographers out there that can do that. If you find out you can do it, look no further for what you should do.

Find your Audience

Jeff Goins writes in his bestseller Real Artists don’t Starve: “in order for art to have an impact, it must first have an audience”. This is another no-brainer if you hear it from somebody else. Building or finding your own audience is still one of the things that a lot of dancers neglect. Dance is art and art is a matter of taste (as soon as a certain level is reached of course). So the people that enjoy your dance might not be the same that enjoy the dance of some of your colleagues and vice versa.

You should take the time and research the people who love to watch your work. Create a place to present what you make and make it easy to find. Luckily today that is not as hard as it used to be. The internet is your best friend. These are some of the tools you can and should use:

  • Your Website
    There is really no excuse to wing this. On your website, you can introduce yourself, show your work, post events or shows you are attending and give people all the info about you. If you have things to sell, you can put it up there too.
  • Social Media
    Social networks help you connect with the people that like what you do. You go there and direct the traffic to your website, where they can learn everything about you. Don’t make the mistake to promote all the time. Spamming people will not bring you sympathy. On social media, the goal is to engage with your audience and build a relationship. When people are comfortable around you, they will care about your promotions as well.
  • Word of Mouth
    Still the strongest form of an ad! If you are recommended to someone by a friend of theirs, your chances are really good that they consider checking your stuff out.
  • Meeting in real life
    If you can meet people and make a real world impression, that is the way to go. The only disadvantage is that you can only be at one place at a time. This means it does not scale well.

Building your Network

This is the same work as building your audience but for a different group of people. Your professional network are the people that you collaborate with or that help you do what you do. It is imperative to have healthy relationships with them and to never let them down as long as they treat you right. Here are some examples of people you should have in your network (depending on your work fields not all may apply):

  • other dancers of course
  • choreographers
  • producers & directors
  • composers
  • musicians
  • booking agents
  • event promoters
  • festival directors
  • photographers
  • videographers
  • an accountant (if you are not into accounting yourself, this one is crucial)

You might not need all of them and depending on your personal niche there might be many more.

Here we have them: the four crucial elements to running your dance business. When you are planning to start your dance business, or you are already earning money with it, I encourage you to grab a notebook and think about all four elements in detail. List your strengths and weaknesses. What value can you offer to people? What do you know about your audience and in which ways do you connect with them? Make a list of your collaborators and see if you miss anyone. There is power in the clarity that you gain from seeing this base-line study in front of you.

From there, we can start to level up.

Four Corners

A sketch of a square with the titlle "four corners"

Four Corners is a concept that helps us to break free of a static front and helps us to explore different directions and rotations within a step or a freestyle round.

Here is how it works:

  • We envision ourselves standing inside a square or rectangle.
  • When dancing, we try to hit the corners of the square with every move.
  • The order of the corners does not matter.
  • In the strict version, we need to hit every corner before we can hit a corner a second time.
  • Sometimes it’s also ok to chill and hit corners multiple times, when you are not in the mood to keep track of which ones you already touched.

When you want to drill one specific move: take only this move inside the rectangle and find all directions and rotations possible.

Or be free in the selection of your moves and use it as the design criteria for your freestyle.

The concept is very similar to the Pendulum, that I covered earlier. Both give you a guideline for your dance by defining the directions. If we look at this idea close enough we see that the geometric shape does not make a difference. You can use a triangle, a star, an octagon or whatever with the instructions above. Play with it or make it a group activity and challenge each other.

The cocky battle attitude

A dude showing a middlefinger

Let’s talk about attitude, more specific the attitude people bring to competitions. For the sake of my post I will refer to battle attitude as the character and manners that we display in the battle when interacting with our opponent.

Everyone has his own battle attitude, that is defined by who he or she is as a human. It’s built from experiences and how we approach the dance. So far so great. But there is one thing that really bothers me: the cocky battle attitude. It’s still the prevalent way most people go into battles. And it does not make any sense, that it is this way.

Being cocky and aggro towards your opponent is fine when you have beef. That’s as far as I know the reason where this attitude comes from. But we don’t have beef with most people we battle, do we?

A lot of people think, or are maybe thaught, that this attitude is a part of the game and they take it and put it into their dance without thinking about it. I want to challenge this fact and tell you that there are actually more reasons to avoid that attitude, than to use it.

But hey, let’s take it the other way around. There is one very specific case where it makes sense to act cocky and maybe even to be an asshole towards your opponent. This is when you and your opponent are on the same level and you have a chance to mess with his head so that he cannot perform at his best.

Now some points against it:

  • When you are better than your opponent and you can simply outdance him, being unnecessary cocky only leaves a bitter taste behind after the battle and makes you dislikeable in the minds of the crowd and judges.
  • When your opponent outclasses you and you act arrogant, it simply makes you look stupid.
  • If you are young on the scene or in a foreign place and are cocky to some cats that you don’t know, it might happen to you that you give someone a dick who is a local pioneer. And despite these guys probably not having an issue with it, everyone else who knows, will just be like: “WTF”.

I am sure everyone can see the pattern above. If it is not part of the strategy that makes you win the battle, it works against you, every time. And while judges try to be objective and not consider things like this most of the time, the subconsciousness still factors sympathy in.

My suggestion: be confident with your skills and beat them with a smile.

What’s your take on this? Did I miss something crucial? Pop me a comment if you think so.

The 8-ball concept

sketch of a figure 8 pattern on the floor

The 8-ball is a concept to create new patterns of steps based on figure eight. I heard about this idea the first time from b-boy Alieness who taught an 8-ball six step at Circle Prince Croatia. I can not remember the exact year, to be honest.

While there are multiple different 8-ball steps (like the aforementioned 8-ball six step), the concept follows only one simple rule:

You take a series of steps/moves and combine them in a way that they flow in both directions without interruption.

In the original idea, the creators tried to emulate the figure eight as a path on the floor. Today most people consider a step to be an 8-ball when you follow the rule above.

And because it is easier to understand when you see it, I embed a video from Poe One, from Style Elements crew, below. He demonstrates multiple steps that were created with the 8-ball idea in mind.

Poe One teaching 8-ball footwork

This concept is a perfect match if you are looking for a way to drill your footwork both ways.

Fact-checking for the Win

Google search mask with the text: "is it true?"
Fact-check 101 - step 1: google it

In my early days of blogging I was known for sarcastic rants about every topic I disliked. I stopped this because I did not do any good. Today I have a relapse because I need to get something out.

There is one thing that gets more and more uncommon in our society which leads to more and more stupid things being said and later to even more stupid actions happening. This rare thing is called fact-checking.

It means that you don’t run off to tell everybody everything you heard without checking if it is true. I am guilty of this as well sometimes, but at least I try. When the BC One Cypher UK went down, I heard that B-Boy Sunni lost in the first round and I told it to other people. Later I heard that he won the first round but pulled out of the competition due to being sick. So the guy who lost against him could continue and win the whole competition. This second version of the story is the truth. Approximately a dozen people heard that he lost in the first round and this info was out. But it was wrong. Luckily, in that case, no real damage was done. But I was responsible for that false information being around.

Dance teachers, battle dancers, promoters, everyone who might be a role model in our scene: there are people who look up to us and treat everything we say as the truth. It is our responsibility to check that the stuff we spread is true.

Everyone has a right to his own opinion, but nobody shoud abuse this to spread lies or fake news. So when we have something we want to rant about: breath in and check

  • if you have the news from somebody who was acutally involved
  • if there is maybe the same info from different independent sources (me and my cat saying the same thing are not different sources as my cat gets the info from me)
  • if you are not entrapped to believe something because it plays well into a story that you want to believe
  • if you want to get this out because it fits well into your agenda

More often than not a shitstorm on social media happens because someone says something wrong and then the mob jumps onto it without checking or reflecting. If it’s wrong on purpose – means a lie – or just because this someone doesn’t know, does not make a big difference in the end. Don’t tell/post stuff that’s not true. If you don’t know, don’t post it. Don’t jump on a hate-train and demand to stone someone without checking if the claim is valid.

Shit like this happens enough in politics and the economy. Hip-Hop can do better than that. We can do better.

Where to dance in Vienna?

Usually when a dancer travels to a new city you already have a contact from some dancers there who shows you around and introduces you to the best places. As I took a break from dancing in the last two years due to becoming a daddy, I am trying to catch up with what happened in the Austrian scene and which places are a must-know. I still can’t travel all the places myself and so I reached out to the community in person and on social media to find out where to go.

This list is for sure not complete but if you have spots or events to add, shoot me a message per email, in the comments or via any social media channel and I will add whatever you got. Thank you everyone for the support. Let’s check out Vienna and let me know which city we shall cover next.

Practise Spots

The first question that comes up most of the time: “where can we practise”? Here is a shortlist of places you can check out.

  • The skatepark at the subway station “Längenfeldgasse” is a spot that b-boys and b-girls from Vienna use for practice
  • Same goes for the halfpipe on the Donauinsel (thx for these two tips to Rudi Natterer)
  • There is an Open Floor for all styles, that is happening twice a month, most of the time with the support of a DJ. Dates are available in the Facebook Group. (thx for this one to Tina Rauter)
  • Tuesdays there is a breaking Open Floor at Fünferhaus. 18:00 to 20:00. (thx for sharing to Jan Janko)
  • Also on Tuesdays, there is another Open Floor at WUK. 21:00. (thx Maira West and Kai Vel)

Parties

Good parties are hard to find. For now, we have two of them to check out:

  • A party called Jack is a new monthly club night. Finest house vibes will make you move in no time. (highly recommended by Tina Rauter and Maira West)
  • Funk Food brings the music to the masses, so you can seriously get down. I quote from their own page: The crowd is a beautiful representation of New York City soul and Vienna home-grown urban style. (shared by Mark Rodriguez, thx man)
  • Eat Slay Love is Vienna’s premier Voguing Event hosted by Plenvm Ninja. Infos about it and more stuff on the thriving Vienna Voguing scene including classes, workshops and more parties is available on the facebook page of Voguing Vienna.
  • Rockstep is a monthly Swing and Lindy Hop Party serving the music and dance culture from the late 20s to early 50s. Check the events section of Aera Wien for the next dates. (thx for the recommendation to Arne Haubner)
  • New Style Hustle – Vienna brings you sessions where you can enjoy the free exchange of two beautiful souls unified in dance.

Studios, Classes and Workshops

Sadly I don’t know all of these studios by myself so I have to provide a simple list without comments. As soon as I find the time to check them out, I will add more infos.

And more to come

I hope this list will be alive and grow whenever I have the time to visit Vienna and when residents share their dance spots. I also want to add events and spot that are indirectly related like record stores and hip hop labels that have stores, but this is a work in progress. Whenever you have something to add, let me know in the comments, via social media or per email.

Thx to everyone for the support.
Peace

The Matrix Metaphor

Matrix code with the text "what has been seen, can not be unseen"

The movie “Matrix” from 1999 is referenced daily to describe moments where people are aware of or unaware of different situations. We use the Matrix Metaphor to state that some newly gained knowledge changes the way we think or radically perceive our surroundings.

Typical moments of insights in a dance career are:

  1. The connection to the music is more profound than the regular drumbeat.
  2. There is something like the quality of movement.
  3. It’s seriously interesting if people come up with their own creative moves.
  4. That music is telling a story.
  5. Some dancers tell stories with their dance.
  6. You can dance to multiple instruments at the same time.
  7. I must learn and master everything.
  8. (years later) I don’t.

Of course, everyone has his personal insights that transform his way of thinking.

In the dance field (and I guess in all arts), I feel the tendency that we want to consume the work of people that explore the same topics as we do. Another side of the matrix is that things, once understood, can’t be unseen.

You know… I know this steak doesn’t exist. I know when I put it in my mouth; the Matrix is telling my brain that it is juicy, and delicious. After nine years… you know what I realize? Ignorance is bliss.

―Cypher justifying his decision to betray his friends and re-enter the Matrix.

This means that we might perceive the dance of others who did not experience the same insights as we did as immature and unformed. And the more we learn about dancing, the more we take for granted and postulate it has to be a certain way. We neglect that others are on a different point in their development or maybe even on a different path.

This is one of the reasons why a lot of experienced dancers state that they are bored with events. The longer you are in the scene, the more you have seen and the further you move away from the average level of knowledge.

What we sometimes don’t think about is that the dancer we see might explore an aspect of the dance that is beyond our comprehension. So, let’s not be too quick to judge.

This article is a translation (and slight rework) of an old text that was originally in German. Comments might reflect that.

Supporting the community

A local clothing pop-up store at an event
The clothing Market at Circle Industry 2019 | foto: Christian Poschner

Hip Hop is a culture that lives and thrives through the activities of its members. So far so cool. When we talk about supporting the scene or culture most people think about big things like throwing a jam, founding a crew, organising parties, teaching classes and so on. Not exactly things that everyone is going to do, because of to little time, knowledge, money or other reasons.

What I want to talk about today are three easy ways that everyone can utilise to support and keep the momentum for everyone going. Things that most people don’t think about when talking about community backing.

Be at the events, take a class or visit a show

While a lot of people think about organising jams or teaching as a way of support, there is another side to it as well. Being at the events or in the class is also a kind of support? How so, you ask? Given that you pay for your entry or for being in the class you support the promoters or the teacher and therefore enable them to invest their time in doing what they do. This helps the scene grow. Same goes if someone has a gig.

On the other hand: If you could afford to buy a ticket but try to get on the guest list every time, you actually decide not to fully back the guys that are doing their thing.

Spread the Word

Often overlooked but it goes a long way. Tell people about what is happening. Do it in person if you meet someone who might be interested. Hit that like and share buttons on social media. It costs you nothing but a click but potentially shows the event to dozens of interested people, sometimes hundreds or even thousands.

If only one of the newly reached guys comes, it was worth it.

Buy from your community

This is not only true for food. Hip Hop has many small clothing labels, independent DJs, music producers and more creative peeps that create stuff. Buying their clothes, albums or whatever they are creating instead of the shirt at H&M or listening to their music only via Youtube, once again enables them to keep going.

Here you have it, three easy ways to support your community that do not require extraordinary amounts of time, skills or dedication.

If you can think about more of them, let me know in the comments.

Of Freestyle and Choreography

Foto von Expanding Energy
Expanding Energy / Davis Freeman - Random Scream / Sommerszene 2011

Sometimes people argue about stupid shit. A prime example for this is the discussion of freestyle vs choreography in hip hop dance. What this discussion misses is that freestyle and choreography are the same things but under different conditions. Both are about the creation of our dance, one of them is spontaneous and the other in a slow and very reflected process.

Before we jump into the topic itself: for the sake of this article I refer to freestyle as “improvisation within the boundaries of a dance-style” and not “do whatever you want”.

Here are my two cents why this discussion does not go anywhere and why you should be able to freestyle and create choreography. To make my point more clear, I will use my favourite metaphor where I compare dance to a language.

The moves we have in any given style are comparable to words in a language and therefore form our vocabulary. Our grammar is the flow of the style and how we connect our moves to form our dance being the text that has a meaning that is created by the combination of words. And finally in hip hop and it’s related styles, music is the topic we talk about.

The difference between dancing freestyle or a set choreography is like the difference of talking free versus reciting a poem. Both are fine at the correct time. You can make a serious impact by having the right poem at hand for the right occasion, but bringing a poem about the beauty of x-mas in a discussion about the ecologic crisis is just stupid.

At the same time, you miss out on a big part of the beauty of choreography if you don’t understand how the moves connect. This is the same as learning a poem in a foreign language when you can tell it to people but don’t know what it means.

And you can’t say you are a master of a language/dance if you can’t create a speech/choreography to a given topic.

This means: there is no “which is better/superior/whatever”. You need to understand both to master your craft. There is nothing wrong in specialising in one or the other if you want. But if you choose to do so, don’t divide what’s one in an artificial discussion and openly admit that you don’t care enough to put in the work to learn both.