Friday, July 17, 2009

The Evolution of Popping in LA: 2008-2009

We seem to be seeing an evolution of popping in Los Angeles in 2008-2009.

What are some of the factors? There are several and here are just a few:

1) a younger generation maturing in their craft

2) a changing music culture

3) a hybridization of different popping techniques

These thoughts are only based on personal observations and a few testimonies. Los Angeles is a large city and there are pockets of dancers spread out across the county. So, it's difficult to encompass all dancers. This is just an attempt to put a few thoughts out there and encourage discussion.

Poppers that started in the late '90s to early 2000s are coming into their own. They've formed their own personalities, have command of various techniques, and are more experienced in battling and showcasing routines. Whether they started as boogaloo-based dancers or illusional styles, it's clear that there are well-rounded, fully-formed personalities in the LA scene. Funny Bones Crew, Machine Gone Funk, Funk Assassins and Foreign Exchange all have members who represent this development. After 5-6 years of training, these poppers are setting the bar for others dancers in the community. They're not mimicking their mentors. Instead, they're expressing themselves more uniquely in their dance. 

Now, it's commonly discussed how specific dancers of this generation are getting known for their technique. Tetris is known for taking the artform of tutting to a new level. Madd Chadd embraced the character of a real robot in his botting, animation, and bopping. Jsmooth has popularized finger tutting through his participation in international battles and also made advances in the form. Our impressions are that several of these young generation dancers truly studied their specific techniques from mentors (like Tabo, Boppin Andre, Jr Boogaloo) and then built on that foundation.

Meanwhile, we're moving away from the traditional old school funk and g-funk music usually played at events.  Parliament and Zapp & Roger are now making room for dubstep and glitch music. Los Angeles' musical landscape is always evolving. Drum n' bass and electro were already making headway in the early to mid 2000s. Now, dubstep is really on the map for poppers. Two events come to mind as signaling a change. The first was Battle Royale hosted by Robert "Mr Fantastic" Muraine on Saturday, January 31, 2009 in Eagle Rock. Muraine was DJ for that night and played dubstep and glitch all night long for the battles. Then, there's the Soundproof 2 Jam on Sunday, May 24, 2009 where Machine Gone Funk and Funny Bones Crew had a much talked-about battle that's now online on Youtube.

With this changing musical atmosphere, our movements have changed. Faster, quick movements drawing from animation and dimestopping along with bigger hits with different muscles all over the body are being seen. It's expanding the palette for poppers. Even the surreal, dark feel of dubstep has inspired movements that are far from the groovy funkiness of Zapp & Roger. 

This development coincides with more younger generation dancers developing their craft by hybridizing different popping techniques. Now, you see dancers using big chest hits from bopping while animating their waves along with boog style leg movements. The combinations seem endless. No longer is there a strict separation between boogaloo dancers and illusional style dancers.

It's not clear yet if the dance world outside Los Angeles is taking the same steps. Although Youtube has brought exposure to the LA culture, the popping community is still small enough that much of the artistic exchange and discussion still remains insular. The sensibilities of LA poppers are diverse and complicated, so it's hard for someone outside that circle to be aware of all the details. 

Musicality and "dance feel" are hotly debated topics within our local community, especially with so many dancers coming from different perspectives. Our diversity and individual uniqueness sometimes makes it harder to pinpoint terminology. What are the definitions of "musicality" and "dance feel" that we can all agreed upon?

One thing for sure is that the popping community in Los Angeles has become a thriving, progressive artistic culture. New ideas are being created daily and it will be compelling to see how it translates over time and to other communities.

This is a topic that surely hasn't concluded. It's still in progress and needs to be re-evaluated in the future.

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