Poppin'C poses for a portrait during the Red Bull Dance Tour France 2021 in Bordeaux, France on February 24, 2021
© Little Shao / Red Bull Content Pool
Dance

Into the groove: develop your musicality with advice from Poppin'C

Learn 10 ways to improve your musicality and express your uniqueness with one of the most fly and funky dancers on the planet – Poppin‘C.
Written by Tracy Kawalik
7 min readPublished on
Music is what moves us all to dance. At its core, dancing is showing music in physical form. The way your body moves is an unspoken story or conversation – it becomes a 3D artwork communicating your unique interpretation of a track. In a battle and a cypher a dance can impress the audience with power moves or intricate combinations. However, when you truly feel and catch the beat of different types of genre, that takes not only your performance but more importantly your experience on the floor and your connection to your craft to another level.
Go out and listen to different styles of music, as many as you can
Deepening the relationship between your dance and the music is a lifelong individual quest. Here, Poppin'C shares 10 pieces of advice to help you advance faster.
01

1. Music is everything

"First things first, the music is everything for me. The way my body adapts and moves is because of the way I feel the music. I feel some difference on the scene now because when I started popping, the music was more funk and g-funk-based than now. Today the music sometimes becomes too much like something you'd hear from a Game Boy! Some music, I cannot feel the vibe at all because it's just chopped samples, bleeps and effects – like video game music. With the old school music, before you could feel the vibe, the music made you dance."
02

2. No genre is impossible

"My mom was a dancer from when she was very, very young. She danced hip-hop but had to stop because she got pregnant. Then she restarted dance when I was 10 years old, going back to hip-hop and picking up dancehall and sometimes popping. So I was exposed to many different styles of music. I knew I wanted to follow in her footsteps. I listened to West Coast rappers like Snoop Dog, NWA and genres like funk and g-funk. But there isn't any single genre out there that's difficult for me. I can dance to every type of music, however it's more that my dance won't look the same when I move to music I’m not as passionate about. When I dance to the more popular electronic beats now, it looks and feels really different. So because of that, I have to practise more on this type of music to feel the vibe and understand the connection with it. That way when I have to dance to it, I can catch the feeling genuinely and it's not forced.”
Poppin C poses for a portrait during the Red Bull Dance Tour in Zurich, Switzerland on September 2, 2020
Poppin'C can dance to any genre of music
03

3. Killing the beat isn't everything

"Today, when a lot of dancers listen to the music, all they want to do is 'kill the beat'. Some poppers look more like machines and robot dancers. They learn every track and every music style and every beat. They just remember everything. It's more like memorising and technique-driven, whereas before, popping was focused on feeling and grooving and dancing. When these types of poppers dance, they don't look natural or groovy and when you put some kind of old school music on, they can't dance at all. They look strange because they can't feel. So for me, the musicality was better before."
04

4. Take your time and feel it

"When I teach, I always help my students to feel good with the music. I tell them, 'Don't rush, just listen.' Take your time, even if it's only 15 seconds, listen to the record until you feel it. Then from there, follow the music, let it make you move and feel groovy. It's so important to listen to different styles of music. Even within hip-hop music, there are so many variations of the genre to listen to. Explore them all and experiment with them. I always say to students in my workshops, 'Go out and listen to different styles of music, as many as you can!' Don't just be focused on popping, popping, popping, or only new beats. Because your mind and your body feel each one differently. "
Poppin C poses for a portrait during the Red Bull Dance Tour France 2021 in Bordeaux, France on February 26, 2021
Poppin'C
Don't rush, just listen
05

5. Pick a style of dance that you love

"Some dancers choose a particular style because it looks good, but without considering whether they like the music that comes with that style. The first thing you have to do is enjoy the music that comes with it and the technique first. Otherwise, you won't ever enjoy this dance, no matter how many moves you lock down. Also, when you find the style and music you have a natural passion for and love, that's when you look the most magnetic and talented when you dance."
06

6. Freestyle flow vs choreography

"You know, when I started popping, there was a lot of focus on foundation and theory and being really, really strong on that. Now a lot of the new generation focuses only on choreography and what I call 'swag popping'. It's more immediate than what we were doing and even though it's not what I consider the real popping foundations, I really respect that. These dancers look good and they're making something new."
Lilou, Poppin C and the Red Bull Dancers rehearsing at the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris during Red Bull Dance Tour in Paris, France on October 2, 2020
Poppin'C rehearsing a choreography with his fellow Red Bull Dancers
07

7. The new school hype

"Again, like I said, I like the new generation because they're trying to create something fresh and do different steps and unique ways of interpreting popping. The new dancers are constantly creating new variations of what we did and you can see and feel that they really want to push popping into the future. Today you see popping integrated so much more into other genres, which I think is so sick."
08

8. A musical mindset in a battle

"If you ask me how does my musicality change in a battle vs a jam, a cypher, performance or something, that's a nice question. The vibe and the feeling are really different. It's not that I don't enjoy the music when I battle, but I have a lot of things on my mind and the main thing is, 'I have to fight the other dancer.' I listen to the music, of course and I'm trying to express my musicality and look natural and really feel it, but I'm thinking so much more."

1 min

Poppin‘C

Poppin‘C is well known as an outstanding popping dancer and in this clip he shows exactly why.

09

9. Improve your skills in the cypher

"When I'm in a cypher, I'm on the beat, but I'm also focused on how to develop my foundations. You have to make a lot of variations and you're trying to push yourself and grow your freestyle over your opponent's, which can also include the way to interpret and experiment with the music. You have more time to enjoy it than a battle. It's good to always do cyphers to improve your musicality so it looks natural and you really catch the feeling. It's not fake. The more you do them, the more you learn to put that flow and playfulness with the beat into your freestyle."
10

10. Real-life energy

"For this year, I really hope to get back to how it was before when we could all cypher and get down together at the events. I don't want to do any more online classes or things like this because it's just not natural to feel the moves, the music or the energy. For me, it's really important to keep the exchange with people in real life and connect with the beat together, not only this exchange on the other side of the world alone in front of your camera from a tiny speaker. Here in China now, I can give the 'real' workshops like before and the feeling and the energy when I press play and the class starts, it's so high! "
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