Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Youtube Effect

(Note: For this article, the terms "street dancers" and "choreo hip hop dancers" are used to describe different groups. Street dancers indicate folks in the underground battle scene. They compete in solo, partner, or crew battles. Dancers show command of their technique in breaking, popping, locking, waacking and other styles. "Choreo hip hop dancers" describe folks who compete in team routine showcases, judged by panels. They have a broader use of different styles within the larger "hip hop" umbrella. Much respect to dancers in all circles.)

Do you remember learning breaking, popping, locking before Youtube became popular in 2005?

Prior to 2005, it was challenging to learn a lesser known popping style. You'd have to seek out an experienced teacher, take private classes, or trade video footage on miniDV or VHS tapes of inspiring dancers. In Los Angeles, street dancers were in their own world, relatively invisible to the larger non-dancer population. There were few TV shows and movies that showcased street dancing. Also, at least in LA, there was a general feeling to respectfully avoid videotaping each other as it might leading to someone biting specific moves.

Nowadays, the game has changed. It's hard to imagine a world without Youtube. The past four years has seen an explosion of dance videos online. We see people showcasing their skills in their bedrooms or garages to eyewitness accounts of battles and showcases. Youtube has become the place for street and hip hop dancers to search for anything dance-related. This coincides with the advances in video/filmmaking technology. There are more affordable digital video cameras and camera recording features in cell phones and still cameras.

There's also been an influx of new blood into the global street dance and choreo hip hop scene. Boys, girls, men and women are being exposed to these dance styles for the first time online. Meanwhile, more choreo hip hop dancers and street dancers are appearing on mainstream television shows such as MTV's America's Best Dance Crew and Fox's So You Think You Can Dance. In 2003, it was easy for a friend to say that "popping and locking are played out, no one does that anymore." Now, it's not unusual to talk with a friend's grandma who knows how to strike a bboy pose.

2008 seems like a watershed year in terms of street dance and choreo hip hop dance breaking into the pop culture radar. This was the year of the ACDC vs M&M Cru online battles with Miley Cyrus, Adam Sevani, and Jon M Chu. MTV premiered the first season of ABDC, introducing middle America to the Jabbawockeez. And the World of Dance Tour started in Pomona, California, bringing the street dance world and choreo hip hop dance world together under the same roof.

And for those who didn't attend, you could search for clips on Youtube. Concepts, routines, styles, and movements are more accessible to see online even if you're not involved in a street dance community. But is it harder now for a new style or culture to mature under a larger public eye? Are street dance trends popping up and then being tossed aside because they're replaced by the latest trend?

It's hard to say at this point. We're still in the middle of this evolution. What's clear is that we can embrace the Youtube effect and allow it to open up new areas of creativity for us.

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