Friday, December 10, 2010

LA's Poppin' Scene: A Revival in Event Production

At the end of 2010, we're seeing a revival of jam & event producers in LA's poppin' scene. Street dancers of this style have never had any consistency in jams that they can attend. While bboys & bgirls have more recurring competitions catering to their tastes, poppers comprise a smaller demographic. So at times, it's felt like event promoters in the bboy world have treated poppers (and lockers) as second-hand citizens. For example, we just had Freestyle Session at the Music Box Theatre over Thanksgiving weekend and the poppin' and lockin' communities have criticized FSS promoter Cros One and Grass Roots Productions for putting them on the roof in cold weather on the first day while the bboys were given the full floor inside the theater. While the top 8 poppers were later given the stage inside the theater on day two, it was a gesture that came too late.

Support for the poppin' and lockin' communities has been sparse over the past ten years. The only internationally recognized event for these styles held in LA has been How Tha West Was Won (, created by Hugo "Mista Smooth" Huizar and Gerardo Meijia. The annual event started in 2003 but recently concluded in 2009. The other big event has been the Homeland Jam held every summer, but it has maintained more local notoriety than an international reputation. Only in the past two years (2009-2010) has the Homeland Jam gained exposure outside LA through a wide distribution of its battle videos online. And on occasion, there have been independent promoters like Preying Mantas who have hosted smaller jams at club venues like Respect, but they are a rare breed.

Maybe we're on the brink of a culture change. One of the most exciting local promoters in recent months has been LA Funky Soul. Check out their website at Based in a small dance studio in the heart of Koreatown, Funky Soul has breathed new life into the competitive formats by introducing new ideas like a call-out battle format for a top 16 selection of poppers. In such a format, any one of the top 16 competitors can choose who she wants to battle in a 1-on-1 face-off. Funky Soul also brought back a 2-on-2 format combining one popper and one locker as a team (we had seen this format in recent years via the Undadog bboy competition hosted by promoter Maximum Stylez, but that competition hasn't appeared on the scene in 2010). Funky Soul has also hosted classes taught by Slim Boogie and promises another event coming up on December 18 that will cater to both poppers and lockers. We like what Funky Soul is doing: they're prolific and hosting regular events.

Many of us know him as the dancer with flexible legs in a classic Levi's commercial, but Burst Rock is equally talented in producing events with his crew Funny Bones. Over the past year, we've seen several jams initiated by Burst Rock including the Funny Bones Crew 8th Year Anniversary which brought several hip hop elements under one roof: bboying, popping, locking, dj-ing, emceeing. It was a true hip hop festival that celebrated the greater community. More than Freestyle Session, Burst Rock's events have shown a deeper concern for community, younger generations, and legacy of our art forms. At their 8th Anniversary event, Funny Bones initiated several members of their junior crew - the Rockbots - bringing them into their fold. It was a clear signal that Burst and his crew are looking to invest in younger souls who can carry on the dance culture. Check out Burst Rock and Funny Bones crew on facebook.

A third promotional crew that has made a splash in 2010 is Keep It Live Productions ( They produced their first jam in early October during the same weekend as BBoy Summit, and generated significant buzz by gathering a crowd of over 100 dancers from multiple countries despite competition from Summit's event. Keep It Live has consistently built its media presence online through releasing Youtube videos of its battles along with regular promotional videos about upcoming events. They just hosted a cypher party in North Hollywood last weekend and are putting out the early word on future events in 2011. From their media representation online, it's exciting to see how they are bridging the gap between different cliques in the poppin' and lockin' worlds.

So maybe all hope isn't lost. When poppers and lockers aren't shown any love by bboy promoters, proactive individuals will take matters into their own hands. We encourage all promoters and go-getters within the poppin' and lockin' communities to stand up for themselves instead of letting others determine what they're worth. Who needs to pay $20-30 for a bboy event when you can pay $10 for a poppin' jam where you'll have a better time?

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