Monday, November 23, 2009

Funky City: Los Angeles - Community, Part 1

Since this week is leading up to the Thanksgiving holiday, we wanted to share our thoughts on what we're thankful for in the street dance community of Los Angeles. There's plenty to write about and of course, we can't cover every aspect. But the most important thing is the spirit of doing it and the hope that our collective thankfulness will extend beyond this holiday and through the years to come. LA's dance community has been through a tumultuous year with everyone being affected by the economic downturn. Now more than ever is the time to unite and carry each other forward into a new decade. (Photo above is from a Getty Images archive.)

Community is today's theme. In a year when there were so many ups and downs, sometimes we just needed a place to go to and be with our friends. Whether it's practice sessions or club spots, these "homes away from home" are a blessing to us. Poppers, lockers, bboys, and bgirls always find a free session spot at Homeland Cultural Center in Long Beach on Monday and Tuesday nights. OG BBoy Iceman has supervised this practice spot for several years with the help of the City of Long Beach staff, including Steam. We also saw the opening of Saint City Session in Santa Ana this year, bringing a focal point for Orange County's bboys, graff writers, and emcees. The Bea Hive Dance Studio in Garden Grove also became a home for bboy crew Killafornia on Wednesday nights. The Groovaloos continued to host their Groove Nights at Debbie Reynolds Studios in North Hollywood. CSULB Breakers kept their session alive on Friday nights at Cal State Long Beach. And BBoys Anonymous hosted practice sessions at UC Irvine, keeping the OC college community alive and kicking. These are just a few of the practice sessions that were going on weekly or biweekly in LA and OC. Many more sessions occurred in other venues as well. But overall, the proliferation of more practice spots showed how much we love to dance together. We can all practice on our own, but there's something magical that happens when you bring dancers together in a communal setting. Ideas are exchanged. Mentors teach their students. And we support each other through tough times.

Club spots also continued to thrive. Carbon continues to be the go-to spot for poppers and lockers on Monday nights after sessioning at Homeland. On Tuesdays, dancers head to Focus in Newport Beach. OC and South Bay dancers line up for Proof on Santa Ana Blvd in Santa Ana on Thursday nights. And plenty of street dancers mingle over at King King in Hollywood on Saturdays and Deep on Sundays. The list goes on and on. Having these regular club spots are crucial for many street dancers who want to grow in their dance and their musical appreciation. After all, there's a different feel that you get when dancing in clubs versus in open practice sessions. The club setting also keeps us grounded in cyphers and battles that are raw and unaffected by judging politics. There's a historical link to this tradition as we learn about how our predecessors - the original street dance generation - carved their place in history by dancing in clubs in the 1970s and 1980s. Knowing that connection helps us to remember how we're connected to that lineage.

And finally, we appreciate our dance studios all over LA county, the OC, and the Inland Empire. Where would we be without you? Millenium, Debbie Reynolds and Evolution Studios are popular spots in North Hollywood. There's the Edge in Hollywood. Jayvee Dance Studio holds it down in Alhambra. And there's Focus in Irvine (near UC Irvine) and Hype in Torrance. There are plenty more studios as well. The owners and staffs of all these active studios have created a network for us to train and congregate in classes. They're keeping our teachers employed and giving a platform for many street styles to be passed on to a new generation in a formalized setting. Our street culture may not have institutionalized academies like our ballet counterparts, but we have these studios as our refuge. We know that 2009 has been a tough year for business with budgets getting slashed. Sometimes we have to think about whether we should spend much needed cash on a class. But we're thankful for all that you've done.

Community for us is an extension of our family. As street dancers, we inherently know that we can't fully enjoy dancing alone. We want to share it with others in some shape or form. So as the greater Los Angeles community continues to grow, we look forward to fostering more community in this coming decade.

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