Monday, July 19, 2010

Hip Hop Be True To Yourself by TEC

The Journey
On our journey since the early 1980's, WandeePop and I had a vision. We always built different crews through the years to be part of so we can create the vision.

We played behind the scenes for many years and in many cases let opportunities pass us by. Even with many lectures (good ones) from Steffan (Mr. Wiggles) Clemente trying to persuade us to step up and stop the bulls** ;-) He, as well as many other family/friends, saw something we did not see at the time.

Somewhere along the line we lost the motivation. But we would get charged again when Steffan (Mr. Wiggles) came into town to teach. Or PopMaster Fable called us of a gig. Or if the Electric Boogaloos were on the East Coast we would travel to take their classes. Since Wiggles and Fable have been our teachers since our dance birth, they motivate us to want more in this culture. We just did not know where to start or where to rediscover our drive/motivation.

Why did we lose the motivation?

When I think back to my childhood I was fearless. So I was in search for that same fearless experience when you really connect with who you are, what you want and the music that drives you. When everything makes sense. I was lacking that emotion of connecting on a spiritual level. Where the music takes over. I did not know it at the time. It took many years of soul searching and rediscovery due to tragic losses in my family plagued me with a deep depression and I lost my expression. Losing my sister and brother through illness had me at a stand still.  There were also very huge influences in my life personally.  Always taught me to go after my dreams with no limits

The Auditions
Along the line we became discouraged. Going to auditions and watching dancers wearing nothing or being labeled 'Old School' for our original overall Organic NYC Hip Hop Style. We did not do the booty shaking, stripper moves so we lost many jobs. I remember we walked off a video set when they bought booty shorts for us to wear for a dance combination.

There is nothing wrong with street jazz or in the choice of clothing dancers wear. It was a choice we made not to represent the Hip Hop Culture or BGirls in that light. We were not comfortable. We knew from that point we needed to create our own opportunities and make our own moves if we wanted to express ourselves artistically.
The Classes
Taking dance classes were another disappointment to some respects. Most of what is taught is choreography No real education on the Culture of Hip Hop. Teachers label themselves as teaching hip hop, but it's street jazz or street funk. We enjoy street jazz and street funk.  If you watch 'West Side Story' you will see Street Jazz, it's the Bob Fosse style of raw expression.  
Hip Hop is an experience. Freestyle Party Dancing, Rocking, Popping, Locking, Waccking, Voguing, Breaking is what you Do, Hip Hop is who you are and how you live. Students want to learn more about living the Hip Hop Culture, learning about the elements, dance movements/styles and how it was created, not just random movements to counts. The element of freestyle (on the spot creativity) completely taken out of the equation.

But a higher power kept calling us to really get something dope together, but we still were not sure what we wanted to do with dancing or hip hop. But we knew we were tired of letting it go. There was a void and we wanted to fill it.

The Birth of TEC
So then came the birth of Tru Essencia Crew with Miss Twist, Pauline and HoneyRockwell originally and Seoulsonyk joined us not too long after. We were already hanging out, practicing and had the passion to dance. So Twist created our official Tagline 'TEC 2003' for the year we formed.

We did some performances, some auditions and landed dope gigs. But after sometime the practicing slowed down, occasional hang outs and gigs. Motivation lost, we continued our lives with the occasional workshop here and there. But nothing that sparked the fire that we will come to know if a few years.

The amazing thing is we kept getting opportunities come our way, even if it was a few gigs per year. The gigs were great to fuel us, make contacts, have fun performing and practice. But, then there is the added pressure of the negative self talk

'OK, you have not danced in how long, and you have not taken any classes in how long and you have not freestyled in how long.' Then there goes the confidence level...

Do you notice a pattern here... The vicious circle we torture ourselves with when you don't take a stand, look fear in the eye and go for it..

'Do What You Fear.. and the Death of Fear Is Certain'

No one should allow themselves to be paralyzed by fear of the unknown or of what people will think and say about you.

The Legends
So when PopMaster Fable called in 2006 with an offer from Rennie Harris to perform a popping piece in his next 'Legends' show we could not pass it up. Again, we were faced with another grand opportunity to get focused. Talk about the pressure when we heard about the lineup of dancers in the show. Great talent and we are honored to have been part of it.

So all through the negative self talk, late rehearsal nights, pressure to live up to being Mr. Wiggles sister, pressure to perform well, nail my solo, focus, get creative, flow free, connect and face my fear.. we are grateful we were given the opportunity to perform the show 'The Legends of Hip Hop' at the Victory Theater in 2006. It was not long after we knew what we wanted to do.
Snap, Pop n' Rock
In 2007, Snap, Pop & Lock was brought to life. The name was always there, created in 2001 when I was working at Equinox as a certified personal trainer. A very reputable group fitness instructor that taught for the company gave me advise about creating a class that only I can teach.. brand it and make it yours. So there went the brainstorming and who would guess one of my favorite cereals would pave the way.

Crazy thing is I wanted to teach, but I did not enjoy teaching at that time. It took me awhile to figure that one out, but I did eventually. Everything in your life is given a divine time to present itself. Patiencia Y Fe (Patience and Faith) will guide you.

So teaching bootcamps, sculpting classes, hip hop fundamentals etc.. was not fun, it was a choir something I did because I needed the money, which is a really WACK way to live.

So when I created the name it was for the right reasons, but I knew the timing was not right to develop the structure. I was NOT ready.

So WandeePop and I wanted to create something that reminded us of our days on Fox street in the South Bronx; dancing in the streets, parks jams, house parties, playing beats that rocked your soul, not feeling intimidated to dance because everyone was there to have fun. No pressure.. except for when the battle erupted. You had to school whoever entered the battle cipher with intentions to burn you.. School Em' It was Sooo much Fun. That's was our goal.. create an experience, a fun atmosphere where you learn about the Hip Hop Culture and all it's elements and get a kick ass workout in the process;-)

The Rewards
Our students learning, appreciating, building and coming to class every week because they are dedicated. We want to teach anyone who wants to learn or drill what they already know from the absolute novice to the ultimate professional.

The Conclusion
I write this to say.. Be True to Yourself' If you know what it is you want start building on it now. It will lead you to your goals one step at a time. Do not just think about what you want.. Act on it. Invest 20% of everyday to your dreams and it will lead to 80% of your success.

Along the way we received advice from a few people we looked up to. Some advice we took and some we did not.. You have to go with your heart. And thank god we did..

We were told.. The name 'Tru Essencia' should be re-considered.;-/ because of the spanglish. It was labeled confusing.. Not clear on who we are.
But we felt the name represented us perfectly.. The True Essence of women. The spanglish represented the Nuyoricans in us. That fine line between Puerto Rico and New York City.

We were told the name Snap, Pop & Lock would confuse people and we should change it to Hip Hop Basics.;-( to get students in the door and change the name later.
But we wanted to build something of our own. Anyone could teach 'hip hop basics or fundamentals'. So what we did instead is create the tagline 'Organic NYC Style Hip Hop for Health' so there were no questions about what we were about.

We were told teaching True School Hip Hop party dancing/Latin rocking combined with health and wellness wouldn't work;-( because people don't want to work out they want to dance. What do you think moving your body on the dance floor is to begin with... I hate to tell you but you are already working out. Elevating the heart rate, contouring your body in moves that require strength, maintaining balance using your core muscles. But what we give you in conjunction is injury prevention. Strength training, endurance and flexibility. Is it challenging.. sure, but NOT unattainable.

We were told we should follow the trends of the more popular classes by teaching some street jazz to get students in the door then add our hip hop party dancing later because our style was considered 'Old School' and no one was really interested or knew what it was.

Would you go into a beginner's ballet class and ask for 'Old School' ballet? Hip Hop is Hip Hop and it has basics and techniques you should know because nothing today is NEW it's all recycled or fused together. SPnR is a workshop needed and it is not a problem for us to build it from the ground up weather we had 50 students or one.

It's a challenge you consider when it comes to paying dues. We paid our dues on the streets of the south Bronx from early 80's until today. Now we have the pleasure of teaching our students what the Hip Hop Culture means to us.. it's not a gimmick.. it's who we are.

Patience is a virtue. Nothing worth while and brings happiness is overnight. Don't Give Up and Always Listen to Your Heart. There is nothing better then Being True To YOU!!
We Don't Regret it!

Hip HOp Arts in Schools

Do we as a society truly understand the importance of the arts in our schools?
Really take sometime to sit & think about the cause and effect it has on our children... especially the children in the urban communities (The Hood).
Which is the only community really effected by the budget cuts in the schools.

Arts help to promote self-esteem, self pride, confidence it also gives the children a sense of being; the ability to use their mind while creating a wonderful and positive thought process, which will allow them to evolve into mature young adults (and responsible adults) with a zest for life!

The more we teach SNAP POP n' ROCK workshops in schools in the NY/NJ areas we're finding that these kids have low self-esteem issues, don't believe in themselves with No real dreams and aspirations.
Some of them even question whether they have a right to have any wants or needs. They are angry, sad, depressed and many complain about the absence of their parents in some form.

This is heart breaking, how can such young kids feel like this at such an early age.
How can we make a difference to change this, and why do we as parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc continue to allow this to happen in our communities?
It's simple because the parents are younger and younger every year. Growing up with the kids they bare... not knowing or understanding what it takes to be parents let alone a productive member of society.

The concept of self-respect for themselves and others has gone right out the window.
Why is it that we are so complacent as a society? Everyone is busy pointing the finger and no one is taking any responsibility.

Well here's a thought... spread the word to your family and friends!
Write our local congressman (or woman) go to any district meeting...
ask anyone that is a parent to make sure to attend any and all parent teacher conferences in the schools there kids attend and actively participate on behalf of your child/ren.
I'm true believer in (the old school thought) it takes a village to rise a child (within certain limitations).

Lets start caring about our kids again; Let us support, encourage, and applaud our kids for there successes, and not beat away at their spirits for any mistakes or mishap.

In these challenging economic times some parents are forced to work two sometimes three jobs to provide for their families and can be challenging to keep track of what your child/ren is doing and how he/she is doing in school. You must re-assess this and ask yourself is it working. Are you spending the quality time with your child/ren asking the right questions about his/her future and what they want?

Giving them the outlet with arts is the perfect way they will get to challenge themselves, feel good about something within them, have some sense of accomplishment, pride in there work... and this in-turn will give them the power to overcome, with-stand any kind of negative peer pressure.

The key is to give the kids of today, who are the future of tomorrow structure, foundation, a reason for being and a sense of belonging, to someone, something.

The Arts are a gift that should not be taken for granted these abilities are a magnificent form of self-expression.

Let us take on the task to spread the word. We have power in numbers the more we show interest in our community and our kids... they will have no alternative but to review what is happening with the funding, government grants to help support the arts in the public school system.

Our government is slowly but surely pulling a blanket over our eyes. Even some of the principals in the schools are aiding them! They setup programs in the school systems with one thing in mind (Program Failure).

It's a shame but we have been in meetings with the so-called powers that be in many schools only to be disappointed by their lack of enthusiasm in getting the dance programs off the ground. Without the proper support in these schools it is a dead end. As long as they are collecting the government money to run these programs they can care less who or how many students show up.

How do we stop things like this from happening? Simply get involved. Understand this is not going to get better unless, we take matters into our own hands. Show our government that we will no longer sit by and take all that they say without questioning the cause and effect it will have on our community.

Even take it a step further if your child ask you to sign him or her up for any after school programs, please take sometime to mention to your child, or children it is a privilege to be able to take part in any of the arts programs and take the time to go to the school and introduce yourself to the teacher involved in teaching your child art, dance or music just as you would with the academic teachers.

I ask you now to help save the arts in our community!!!

If it were not for the PAL Center in the South Bronx we would have never met our dance teacher Re-Run, who then formed our dance crew 'Unique Force'.

At this time I would like to thank my teachers from St. Anthanasius who taught dances from their country that I remember till this day because of the impact it had on my life in the third grade:
Ms. O'Neal who taught me the Jig from her native country of Ireland.
Ms. Aquino who taught me her native dances from the Philippines.
And the countless other teachers that always let us express ourselves with art, music, dance and sports.


Hip Hop Freestyle Groove vs. Choreography by Tru Essencia

Do you know the difference between grooving to the beat of the music through your Freestyle, and picking up choreography?

To Groove is to have the ability to bounce and rock while dancing, rocking is the first original freestyle form of party dancing...

Freestyle is to flow with the rythms of the music and let the music guide you to create your movement.  'Freestyle is the Key Style' as many pioneers of the Hip Hop Culture say and thats with all the Elements:  DJing, MCing, Dance, Graff Arts.

Bodyrocking and Groove is the main ingredient missing in much of choreography you see today on television, dance competitions and at jams today.  Unfortunately many dance teachers that label themselves hip hop dance teachers are actually teaching street jazz and street funk, which was originally created by Bob Fosse and Frank Hachette.  It's a beautiful style and I enjoy watching it.  My favorite movie is West Side Story and that is the style they perform int he movie.  But it's NOT Hip Hop.  So through much filtering and misinformation from many dance teachers today it has evolved into what you see today disguised as 'Hip Hop' and it's the main difference between The Hip Hop Dance Culture here in NYC and anywhere else in the world.

Why do students travel to NYC from around the world to learn about the Hip Hop Culture? It's not to learn counts to music or even to learn how to pick up choreography.

They are in need and hungry for the Organic Essence/Flavor/Style in which this culture was created.  It's an experience and they want to hear the stories, visit the landmarks, learn from pioneers and teachers that are responsible to give them the truth, the facts and actually teach them of the culture.

Back in the 70’s the dance culture was rocking at parties all night long. to groove is to listen to some dope hot fire music and allow your body, heart and soul move you to a point where all you want to do is play with the beat of the music. It’s simple your just dancing and getting your vibe on. You have no counts in your head or executing a choreographed routine and calling it a freestyle... but at the same time you have this natural ability to rock and bounce while dancing!

You go into such a zone that you are totally un-ware of when the music stops! You still continue to hear the beat of the music long after the music stopped playing.  And if the DJ is rocking you are not leaving the dance floor.

Its raw authentic human emotion... that started out with a hunger of unexplained powerful feelings, that came out of poverty and pure artistic self-expression.

Counts of 8’s in choreography are good and needed when learning and creating routines for performances.  If you become dependent with a need and want for the counts to guide you this doesn’t allow you to the freedom to Freestyle and just play freely with the Music! Some people thrive on the choreography and the counts of 8’s then you ask them to freestyle their solo and they start to sweat. 

It's also important for all dancers to have the best of both worlds the ability to freestyle groove and pick up choreography.

The new generation of dancers look the same.  We had the great pleasure of judging a dance competition in February 2013 at Lehman College, which was a great opportunity.  But out of 16 groups that performed 3 groups had some Foundation, creativity, style and attitude and stood out because they were not running the same moves.  These are the same groups that have no history or core foundation of what Hip Hop Dance Foundation is. 

Someone that can groove is going to be able to translate and execute those moves in so many ways and still have the ability to breath while dancing. It’s a discipline, a lifestyle, a practice of evolving as a creator of the elements of the culture.

The Hip Hop Culture has evolved from the Native American Pow Wows and African ceremonies in our history.  They had all the elements.  It's translated today into the culture as a gift for humanity to keep it's rich natural roots expanding.

There are many pioneers and teachers today that are sharing the authentic building blocks of the Hip Hop culture.  Tru Essencia's signature dance class Snap, Pop n' Rock is based on these building blocks.  We drill foundations like groove and bodyrock.  We purposely start our drills with freestyle.  When we are drilling the routine it starts with Freestyle.  Amazing to see people freeze in their place because they have no idea how to connect to the music.  But that's why we do what we do.  So we can help our students grow, take the chance and face their fear.  If everyone knew how to two step we wouldn't have a career or a chance to give back.  We give Hip Hop Culture history and share Hip Hop Trivia 101 for our students to get involved in the conversation.

To those teachers that are not stepping up.  I strongly suggest you do our homework, research, investigate and come to a better understanding about the dance, and the culture! Even as teachers of our Hip Hop Workshops we are avid students as well.  There is always something New and Fresh to learn about the history.  The kids are less informed about the culture here than anywhere else. It was born here in NYC lets preserve it.

There should be no separation between 'Underground' and 'Commercial' if it's Hip Hop.  It makes no sense.  Hip Hop Culture is Hip Hop Culture.

What makes something commercial?  From what I see its Street Jazz/Funk being labeled Hip Hop because it sells more.  Choreographed routines on television being 'cleaned up' to look cookie cutter and very organized.  Nothing wrong with it, but call it what it is.

To the pioneers we plead to you to have more panel discussions in our own city (NYC) especially in the five boroughs and try to make it affordable for all.

To the dancers we plead to you all to seek out the information and stop calling yourselves HIP HOP dancers and/or teachers unless you have the ability to Groove, Rock, Bounce, Freestyle and know the History and Foundation.

That is the difference between Organic NYC hip hop Style and hip hop anywhere else.

Paz Amor Luz