© Image courtesy of the artists
Jacob's Pillow East Coast Styles Showcase: meet the crews
Don't miss this celebration of hometown pride at the East Coast Styles Showcase on August 19.
The Northeast United States is an incubator for some of the country’s most globally influential street and social dance styles. Red Bull and Jacob’s Pillow—the longest-running dance festival in the United States—have teamed up for the very first time to pay homage to the culture bearers and contemporary innovators of dance forms that were initially cultivated in the Northeast United States.
Curated by Jacob’s Pillow’s Associate Curator Ali Rosa-Salas, Jacob’s Pillow will be hosting an East Coast Styles Showcase on August 19 featuring Breakfast Club E.A.T. (New York City), D.R.E.A.M. Ring (New York City), Bmore Than Dance (Baltimore, Maryland), and Beat Ya Feet (Washington, DC).
On August 20, Jacob’s Pillow and Red Bull will co-present a Freestyle Dance Battle, which will feature dancers from the East Coast Styles Showcase, as well as dancers from across the region representing a diverse array of styles. Participants will dance it out with the chances of winning a first place cash prize in this battle hosted by the legendary Princess Lockerooo! The winner will be determined by leading social and street dance culture bearers Maria Torres, Buddha Stretch, and Michele Byrd-McPhee.
Ali Rosa-Salas Sat down with the leaders of the East Coast Style organizations to learn more about their dance forms, the cities they proudly represent, and the songs that are keeping them inspired to keep moving.
Breakfast Club E.A.T.
- Daniel “Chrybaby Cozie” Holloway
- Harlem, New York
Lite Feet is a high-energy dance form born on Harlem basketball courts in the early-2000s. Popularized globally with songs like “Chicken Noodle Soup”, Lite Feet is known for signature moves like the Harlem Shake, which emphasizes swift mobility of the shoulders, as well as the Tone Wop and Bad One, moves that share the physicality of jazz dances like the Charleston and the Lindy Hop.
Harlem-born and raised Daniel “Chrybaby Cozie” Holloway has made himself legendary in New York City and around the world. Through his prolific dancing during halftime shows at Rucker Park and Kingdome, Holloway danced to the now infamous “No Music” clap made popular by Harlem MC AG The Voice of Harlem. Now a globally renowned dancer, teacher, and culture bearer of Lite Feet, Holloway is committed to Harlem and the preservation of Lite Feet dance and music.
Founded in 2005, Breakfast Club E.A.T. is a “community center without a facility” Holloway says, serving as a hub for Harlem youth to learn Lite Feet, participate in its innovation, and take pride in Harlem's important role in arts and culture both historically and contemporarily. Today, Lite Feet is a global movement, with Holloway hosting workshops and events around the world through his international consortium of Lite Feet crews called Lite Feet Nation. When asked what is one thing he hopes people understand about Lite Feet? “Lite Feet is Harlem culture, a living culture, and even though Harlem is rapidly gentrifying, Lite Feet is not going anywhere.“
Beat Ya Feet Academy
- John “Crazy Legz” Pearson
- Washington, DC
Washington, DC is not only the United States capitol, but the home of go-go, a highly percussive form of call and response funk music birthed in the late 1960s by the late Chuck Brown. By the late 1990s, a new style of dance coined “Beat Ya Feet” for its fast footwork, emerged prominently on the go-go scene thanks to the late Southeast DC dancer Marvin “Slush” Taylor. Beat Ya Feet helped usher in a new era for the culture wherein dancers were prominently recognized as an extension of the go-go band.
John “Crazy Legz” Pearson, DC born and raised and leading culture bearer of the Beat Ya Feet style, is motivated by his hometown pride to celebrate go-go and Beat Ya Feet at home while expanding the culture internationally. His organization, Beat Ya Feet Academy (BYFA), teaches technique classes and hosts events locally, nationally, and internationally; as far as Poland and Peru. Bearing in mind the legacy of commercial co-opting of Black dance forms, BYFA has adopted a certification model for those who want to teach Beat Ya Feet. The certification is a 90-day commitment that includes not only technique classes but extensive historical contextualization of go-go music in DC.
As far as the dance form migrates around the world, John staunchly believed that DC can and must directly benefit from its growth. His goal? to sustain a global network of BYFA that is dedicated to the innovation and preservation of go-go music and culture while supporting the local DC artist economy.
Bmore Than Dance
- Errigh “Neek B.” Laboo
- Baltimore, Maryland
In the 1990s, when House music and dancing was reaching global audiences, a new electronic music sound was being conjured out of Baltimore, Maryland. That sound, which incorporated House’s R&B influences but cranked up to a faster BPM akin to UK breakbeat hardcore, would come to be known locally as “club music.” An aerobic dance style evolved along with the music, which incorporates wide legged foot work and shoulder isolations resonant with House dance movement vocabulary, but at a much faster tempo.
To Errigh “Neek B.” Laboo, Baltimore Club veteran, the Club movement tells the story of life in Baltimore— of the passion, aggression, and fast paced energy of a struggling city. “Super Sunday'' a weekly Baltimore Club event hosted by the legendary DJ K-Swift, was a critical creative and social outlet for Baltimore youth like Neek in the early to mid-2000s, which came to a devastating halt following K-Swift’s untimely death in 2008. Neek channeled the city’s grief into the founding of the annual King and Queen of Baltimore competition, followed by opening his own project Bmore than Dance. Bmore than Dance is a multi-hyphenate organization that comprises a dance team, record label, artist management, and arts education that is dedicated to the preservation and innovation of Baltimore Club culture. Documentaries like Dark City Beneath the Beat and albums such as Drake’s Honestly Nevermind demonstrate just how globally significant this regional movement is. “The current generation is putting their spin on it,” Neek says, “but for 30 years, we’ve been here!”
The D.R.E.A.M Ring
- Regg “Regg Roc” Gray
- Brooklyn, New York
The golden age of public access television in New York City was the 1990s with shows like “Flex-N-Brooklyn,” a talent showcase that featured the creative ingenuity of Brooklyn’s West Indian diaspora. Through the competitive circuit that was Flex-N-Brooklyn, Caribbean New Yorkers began developing a movement language all their own, one that was informed by bruk up, but was also driven by lyrical storytelling, facial emotivity, and hypermobility. Referred to “flexn” after the show that gave rise to the culture, flexn is now a global phenomenon with organizations like Reggie “Regg Roc” Gray’s The D.R.E.A.M Ring, leading the charge in the form’s international reach.
Getting his start as a dancer on Flex-N-Brooklyn, Gray’s talents brought him to the west coast as a contestant on “America’s Best Dance Crew,” officially ushering flexn from public access to prime time. Like many dance artists, Gray was confronted with the dilemma of life in Los Angeles or New York City but realized he needed to return to his hometown to build infrastructure focused on preserving and innovating flexn culture. Founded in 2011, his company, The D.R.E.A.M Ring, has done just that by hosting battle events, workshops, and theatrical performances through Gray’s long term collaboration with director Peter Sellars.
As for the cultivation of flexn’s future, Gray is inspired by youth arts education initiatives like AileyCamp, hoping to launch flexn programs in all five boroughs, and in cities like Chicago and Los Angeles: “We need to continue building with our communities.”
Who gets to tell the story of a city? In New York, DC and Baltimore, griots can be found on the basketball court, the community center, and the club. They are children, teens, and elders. They are the Flex, Lite Feet, Beat Ya Feet, and Baltimore Club culture bearers: a prismatic community of stakeholders who are just as committed to freedom of movement as they are to staying grounded in their cities.
About Ali Rosa-Salas
Ali Rosa-Salas is a curator whose approach is rooted in the belief that curatorial practice must serve the public good. She finds inspiration from the cultural ecosystems of Lenapehoking (currently called New York City), where she was proudly born and raised. Ali is the Artistic Director of Abrons Arts Center/Henry Street Settlement and Associate Curator of the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival. @prdiva09
About Jacobs Pillow
Jacob’s Pillow is a National Historic Landmark, recipient of the National Medal of Arts, and home to America's longest-running international dance festival, currently celebrating its 90th Anniversary Season. Located in the beautiful Berkshire mountains of western Massachusetts, Jacob’s Pillow is celebrating its 90th Anniversary Season this summer, with U.S.-based and international dance companies bringing world-class performances to indoor and outdoor audiences. For more information, visit www.jacobspillow.org.