I anticipated staying only a few hours. Instead I stayed the entire day. Thanks to Funk Fo Yo Feet, produced by siblings Lloyd Jackson and Boogaloo Storm since 2002, with their company Fantastic Poppers, this annual event is now in its 9th season. Not only do the Jackson brothers bring this often not celebrated dance to the Toronto scene, but they also have been offering aspiring pop and lockers studio space to freestyle or take workshops from master Poppers and Lockers.
As I make my way through the brightly lit, large space of Trinity St. Paul Church Centre, the day begins informally, with dancers warming up solo or free-styling in circles for the day’s competition in which various lock and pop dancers will battle one another. They stretch, move, socialize, high-five, and cheer each other on. Pop and Lock dance , styles which came out of the West Coast movement, though both considered funk, are technically two very different styles of dance – however, equally engaging and fascinating to watch!
Judging is evidently a major aspect of the competition. Intensely passionate and knowledgeable, they are looking for those who not only show technique and originality, but connect with the music, move to the rhythm and beat, and finally, master the elements of the art form.
The dynamic trio of judges, internationally known, are flown in from around the globe. First we meet Lock master “Gemini” from France, who is seen throughout the day graciously giving feedback to the competitors. The charming Gemini, who has been dancing since 1989 and judging since the early 2000s, continues to inspire others through his company Locking4life.
Next we have the strong “Jr. Boogaloo”, a native New Zealander, popping for 32 years and judging for 6 years. He’s looking for who best represents the style and their ability to maximize their skills to attack their opponent. No physical contact takes place. Attacking in a battle is part of the competition where dancers simply showcase their talent and dance ability to upstage the other.
Last but not least, we have one of the first female poppers of her generation, “Pringlez”. Clearly a male-dominated art form, Pringlez brings feminine strength and keen insight to the team. Undoubtedly a positive role-model for other female poppers, Pringlez hopes that more women will get involved.
As the day goes on, we see one on one, or two on two lockin and poppin battles. It takes a while to understand and identify the differences. Lockin, originally created by Don Campbell in the 1970s, involves energetic and exaggerated manoeuvers, emphasizes the use of arm movements, includes pauses, wrist rolls, bouncing and pointing.
As I watch the Poppers dance, I notice the quick tensing or releasing of muscles, often the arms, legs, back, chest and neck, which creates the “pop” effect in popping. There is also an element of pantomime in which dancers create animated gestures and facial expressions, adding humour, personality and spunk to the already funky music.
Music is a huge component of the dance as dancers have no pre-choreographed dance routine. As the host spins the bottle, drawing the first opponent, the dancer listens and feels his or her way through the DJ’s choice in music (usually funk, soul, old school or hip hop just to name a few) and spontaneously improvises dance movement.
My guest was astonished by the non-competitive atmosphere. Although these diligent dancers practice tirelessly to compete for these one- time events, there was a great sense of community and support amongst the group in spite of each person’s drive to make it to the finals.
At the end of the competition, the finalists are showcased. Winning the 2 on 2 Poppin battle are Tony Steez and Dementia while Scramble Lock wins the 1 on 1 Lockin challenge. From tutting, waving to animating, they are smooth, sharp, creative and simply fantastic!
Back in the ‘70s and ‘80s street dance was welcomed and celebrated by the masses. There was a greater sense of joy, optimism and freedom of expression. Today I felt very much a part of that. We also left with a greater sense of understanding and appreciation for this challenging yet exciting dance form. I only hope that its popularity will live on and grow in the decades to come.
–Funk Fo Yo Feet produced by Fantastic Poppers was presented at 427 Trinity St. Paul Church Center on Bloor Street West, Toronto, Ontario on Saturday, September 3rd, 2011 at 1pm – 7:30pm.
-Tickets cost $20.00 in advance and $25.00 at the door.
-This event is in its 9th season and will take place annually. All ages are welcome to watch.
-For further information on upcoming shows, workshops and events please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 416-562-8353
Photograph of dancers warming up taken by Simply Serene Studios