View Full Version : Capoeira and House Culture
I'm reposting this from dance.net my boy lare posed a interesting topic. For those who know I study Capoeira as well as house so its definately something I think about often.
"Over the weekend I took a capoeira regional class with 2 homies. While training, our instructor was just teaching us basic movements, the jinga being the main one along with some offensive and defensive moves. While practicing, he made us incorporate what we learned in a mini roda. He basically said that we needed to free ourselves and be loose and incorporate what we have learned. It really felt like we were practicing house at this point because alot of people don't understand why we do drill foundational steps alot. I hear alot of people talking down upon naming moves, drilling steps, but in reality, I can break down what they are doing because of this. What we do is practice talking a certain language and we try to use all of the vocabulary we learn into a response statement that we write. Just because we learn to pronounce and spell words correctly isn't a bad thing and no matter how alike we may become, we'll eventually develop our own slangs thru time. How can a dance-form be taken seriously if we have no base? Within every dance style resides freestyling no matter what one is doing it comes from an influence, an idea, an inspiration that led you to feel a certain way. I can't wait for that moment where I can drill my kids and pass the knowledge to the next generation because I don't want people to forget what else was going besides the hip hop culture.
How about I put a twist to this conversation real quick. In house as a culture we vibe and learn from all in the clubs etc and just move to the music, some of us seek teachers who in their life have experianced more and have passed that knowledge down. In house though there are many dancers who don't respect the existance of teachers they say simply in house you don't need a teacher. "Just do what the music makes you feel" I THOUGHT ABOUT THIS OFTEN AND LONG. I use to think this way to a certain point also may I add that was until I seen the higher level of dancing and knew once I saw it this is what I must study and learn.
I think this is true to a point, I don't think you need a teacher to feel the music and connect with it. I didn't have a teacher when I fell in love with house. I don't think you need a teacher to call yourself a house dancer either. But on the flip side you do need to understand the vocabulary to "speak" with others on the floor. Once I started studying the dance (thanks Brian) I started understanding the history behind the movements and also was able to communicate with other house dancers that didn't even speak english but our vocabulary is what we communicated with. I don't think someone who decides they don't need a teacher should try to put down others for learning from teachers this is not good for the culture. There is knowledge that can be passed from one generation to the next if you don't feel like learning thats ok thats your choice. In capoiera it was kinda the same before Mestre Bimba created Regional(pronounced He-Gi Nal) style of capoeira in the 1940's, this is the structured fast dynmaic style of capoeira that most in the world know today. The old style was angola more closer to its african roots a slower style based on trickery and lots of expression. Angola was played on the street it was actually illegal because it had its african roots and slaves in the past were not allowed to practice their Martial Arts that is the reason it was hidden and as a dance and developed the way it did.
I think house as a culture is going through the period now that its being structured just as Capoeira Regional. With the world of YouTube and large events foundations such as stomping, jacking, skating, lofting are spreading to all corners of the world. Their are those who specialize in certain styles and they have their students. If we as a dance community come to accept more of whats being taught by all the existing great dancers. At the same time not to lose the connection to the vibe, and feed off the music this dance will develop and grow in the right direction.
Definaelty first and foremost is the music and the vibe before technique but if you want to call yourself a house dancer just as a tap dancers calls themselves a tap dancer you must learn the techniques otherwise your just dancing and should call it that.
05-10-2007, 10:05 AM
Just read this post; sorry, I would've responded to it earlier...
First off: I COMPLETELY AGREE WITH YOU! I think the way you laid it out in this post is quite brilliant... Succinct and to-the-point...
People who disrespect technique in ANY artform, whether it's house dancing, popping, bboying or film making, painting, singing, etc. are ultimately not helping to progress the artform.
The example I've used before: two kids learning to play the piano.
One kid just sits at the piano for an hour a day and bangs away on the keys. Maybe he tries to play melodies he's heard before, maybe he just tries to make stuff up--but he's completely "free" to do whatever he wants with the piano. And he does, everyday, for an hour.
The other kid sits at the piano with a piano teacher once a week and then practices technique, drills, scales and little songs that the teacher gives her. She practices for an hour a day, but she's actually being shown "how" to play the piano. She does this for an hour a day.
Fast forward five years.
Now the two kids are older and both have had quite a bit of experience playing piano. However, the first kid has a very distinct style that isn't very "varied"--he can do what he does and does it "well"... but he's limited. He can only create things like what he's already done before and there's lots of piano techniques that he can't do b/c he doesn't know how.
On the other hand, the second kid is now a budding concert pianist. She can play everything from Mozart, to Lizst, to Chopin and even Count Basie and Duke Ellington. She can improvise solos and has an impressive range and knowledge of her instrument. She can do everything the first kid can do an even more. She has complete freedom of expression and is even composing her own pieces.
Now, the question: which one of these pianists is more "free"?
If you look at them when they were just beginning, then of course you'd say the first kid.
But if you look at them five years down the line, you'd DEFINITELY say the second kid.
Ultimately, the person who has more knowledge of HOW to do something (like play the piano or dance to house music... or dance period...) will have a greater ability to freely express themselves AS THEY WANT TO.
Picasso painted some strange-looking paintings in his life, but he had already put in years of practice painting still-lifes and other more traditional kinds of art before he went his own way...
So, the whole "just do what you want to do" or "just do what you feel" approach really doesn't help someone--at least, definitely not when they're "just starting out"...
I think the best time for the "just do what you feel" is when the person has enough knowledge under their belt of the basics of any artform and then needs to start practicing creating new combinations or whatnot so they can more effectively express their ideas...
Also, knowledge of technique allows you to better cooperate with other creative forces.
For example, with our two pianists: the first kid would have great difficulty performing with a symphony-orchestra as a featured soloist. Why? He doesn't know how to read music and he lacks knowledge of certain techniques he might use when playing with a large ensemble. The second kid would probably do just fine. Why? Because she's been trained to read music and perform with ensembles by her teacher.
Anyway, those are just my thoughts on this idea of "training" and freedom in arts and creativity.
Very thought-provoking post, Odie, thanks!
05-10-2007, 01:12 PM
I agree with your last statement Odie, and I believe that more dancers should recognize and respect housedancing as its individual artform. Housedance deserves more reputability because it has a history and originated somewhere, just like how bboying, locking, popping and the whole hip hop culture originated somewhere. However, I don't think many people know that. We know that there are clear distinctions between housedancing and simply just dancing or freestyling to house music, that's because we are part of this "house culture." People just need an outlet, and I think a good example would be me!
From the get-go, I didn't really think about the background of house culture. I was just concerned about freestyling and dancing to house music, and I thought I was actually "house dancing." However, I was fortunate enough to meet people who know and live this house culture (thanks SD folks, Lare and Odie esp.) Now, I am happy I know more about certain aspects of the house culture. As a house dancer, fundamentals have helped me improve and I am glad the opportunity has come my way.
Anyway, I gotta go to class... I just wanted to put in a few words/thoughts.
Whats up Boogie and Mr Houston!!! Good seeing you all this past weekend my short trip to LA was fun. Inspiration is a cool spot, nice dance floor good music, and free!! Viktor Duplaix had a cool set I was feeling it fosho. I'm glad that our little house scene on the west coast is growing well I should say our house dance scene that is. Now when I travel up and down I have the opportunity to get down with more and more heads. 5 years ago when I started really trying to get into this dance the scene it was way different most of the kids I knew at the time came from other styles and got pulled into the house scene from the raves and what not, it was a different time back then parties were different as well. But as everything things changed the large massives aren't the same rebellious sub culture it once was and the people are all different. Most of us were just dancing mixing different things we knew all together having a good old time believing we were starting something new haha little did we know we were just a branch of a larger tree that had roots from a older generation of clubs and parties such as the loft, paradise garage, warehouse. But we weren't thinking about history and foundation at the time we were just feeling it and getting down.
Now think about this in the early 90's (from my understanding I was not into house culture at this time shiet I didnt even start dancing seriously till 95 and that was bboying for me) a lot of hip hop dancers from that era that were killing new school hip hop/freestyle started venturing out to house clubs before this it was mainly a gay thing and therefore not really somewhere hip hop heads would go. Hip Hop was dangerous at that time people getting shot stabbed at hip hop clubs so house club offered a safe haven for dancers to do their thing.(this is what I get from speaking with different dancers from that time) Different house tracks mixed with hip hop were being released creating the hip-house genre. I'm not sure but I think hip house tracks were being released even in the late 80's but you can talk to some older cats, Djs or dancers to get clarification on this.
Well this mixture of hip hop culture with house culture created a new style of dance that now falls under the house dance umbrella that we call hip house, accenting the down beats as well as the up beats. I wonder at the time when all these rough young kids showing up to the gay house clubs doing these mixture of hiphop party dances with house steps did the predominatley gay culture except this as house dancing at the time?? Or did they say thats hip hop and not house??
Fast foward to now, hip house is very much excepted into the umbrella of house dance which encompasses a lot of the club dance styles from lofting(even though we call it loft those from that club and time never called it lofting they just called it dancing now us younger cats see that style and refer it to "lofting"), jacking (or juking as I've also heard it called), NYC footwork (which also borrowed from other styles such as lindy, hustle, disco and tap), So my real question is how long before something new is being explored and developed will it be consider a new style under the house dance umbrella? In the 80's it wasn't even called house dancing even though it was house music they were dancing too, it was just called clubbing. Lofting is older then house music itself.
I ask this because I don't want those out there to be discouraged from trying new things and I don't want those who understand foundation and history to look down upon others doing new things. We should all respect the past and look towards the future of this dance but to communicate and become more of a culture we need to understand each others vocabulary for this to be really solidified.
05-23-2007, 05:47 PM
I'll admit that I really don't understand the foundations of house. I always thought footwork and jacking where two seprate areas of house dancing. Now I'm not too sure. I can thank my mom for this. I swear the following isn't made up.
Last year I fllew back home to visit my parents for Thanksgiving. Anyhow, my mom had asked me what house dancing was. I said "I'm not too sure. I have some video clips on my laptop. I think that is the best way I can describe it." So I started to play some clips of people up in the New York area doing some crazy footwork. About 30 seconds into the clip my mom goes "So house dancing is just basically moving your chest in and out to the beat of the music."
I find this sort of embarrassing, because to my knowledge, my mom has never taken any kind of dance lessons in her entire life. I just shook my in head in disbelief. The only thing my mom told me afterwords was "God never gave you the coordination. Just keep working at it."
As for the rest of this thread, I really don't follow all of it. Maybe I'm just stupid in that respect.
On a brighter note, I managed to find Lucas Lounge in Oakland. However,I don't have no clue where to park my freaking car. I think I just might have my roommate drop me off there Thursday night then either take a Taxi or hitchhike it home.
HAha thats tight that your mom could see them jacking in the clips. Theres a parking lot right next to Lukas and a even bigger one across from there parking is never a problem. You can even park on the street the signs say you get ticketed I know but as long as I've been going i haven't gotten a ticket on the street and never heard of anyone who has. Its oakland and cops around there usually got real work to do.
I'll be there tonight got some homies from out of town coming through.
08-05-2009, 06:23 PM
dam ive read this thread when it was written 2 years ago and reading it now was just as enlightening as the last time.
i guess because now i understand it more.
08-19-2009, 01:19 AM
Hey guys, here's my first post.
This is really interesting, because all of the lessons discussed here I've had to figure out for myself. Almost opposite of houston, my introduction to house was through Marcus and Vinh, going straight into steps. I never really "felt" the music or danced in an improvisational capacity. I danced in middle and high school, but it was ballet folkorico, which is almost always choreographed, always the same - not like African styles where there is circling and improvisation.
The house steps that I learned and practiced were my introduction to house rhythm, and when I started, I thought that these steps were house dancing, and insofar as house is beginning to solidify into a robust body of movements with names and distinct rhythms occurring within a certain number of years, it was house dancing. But the steps - loose legs, pas de bourre, three step, scribbler, etc...- are really just examples of how to move to house music. The dance, to me, is a translation of the music into movement, with attention to the word music. Music is the rhythm, the harmony, the cultural milieu, the lyrics, and many other things. One of the most basic constraints is the bpm. House music is about 120-130 bpm. The dance is constrained by the bpm, and that's partly why it doesn't look like hip hop (usually slower) or faster styles like Chicago footworking forms. But that isn't all. If it was just bpm, why is there popping? It's because there's a lot that goes into the "feeling" of the music. Funk styles of music are a lot like house except without the hi-hat, leaving just the kick and the snare, with drier beats, and melodies and basslines filling in rhythm space in between everything else. Rhythmically, most popping reflects the basic beat, while flourishes that match melodies and other elements of the music are the proverbial cherry on top of a dancer's musicality. Poppers have developed a rhythmic vocabulary to fit this music. Elements of harmony provide the backdrop and mood of the music. I'm not a popper, so I'll end this discussion here.
House music has the kick, snare, plus the hi-hat. For whatever reason, house music tended in the direction of afro-latin rhythms, so we hear much more complex rhythms that include syncopation, polyrhythms, and swing rhythms. Factor in the melodies and basslines, and the rhythmic space is very dense. I think this is why we naturally developed the heel-toe movements, as well as farmer/stomping styles, because, like in a lot of Jazz, West African, and Latin music, the rhythm is denser, and these movements match the music a little better.
I think what I'm driving at is the idea that house music suggests certain types of body movement. There are no hard and fast rules that I know of, yet, but certain movements represent the music more accurately, while others don't, and the brain of a good dancer is pretty good about translating the movement in the music into movement in space. Some music and dance theorists believe that movement is intrinsic in music, like they couldn't occur without each other, as in drumming and tap dancing. In support of this idea, here's an excerpt from a news article (http://pn.psychiatryonline.org/cgi/content/full/43/11/4):
"Using the stories of curious and uncanny psychological phenomena for which he has become known, the author of the 2007 book Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain told psychiatrists and their guests that music is heard in regions of the brain that regulate both motor movements and emotion."
Meaning, that the same parts of our brains that operate on music are the same ones involved in moving and feeling, the two most key parts of any dance. So if the music "sounds" different, rhythmically, melodically, harmonically, or even culturally (think of aggressive hip hop forms, like krumping, the music to which they're done, and the social context), then shouldn't the dance tend to look different?
After a year and a half of studying house, I think I've arrived at the conclusion that there are rudimentary body movements that fit house music well, like putting a 3-dimensional block shape into a 2-dimensional hole, like when we were kids. And I mean rudimentary not like a basic step, as loose legs, but like, shapes the body can make, entering and exiting those shapes, and the rhythm with which it's done. The better it approximates the music, the "cooler" it looks, and the more novel (fresh), the more exciting. We dance in front of the mirror to associate how the dance "looks" with how it "feels", so that we can port it to the club and be confident with our pronunciation (to borrow Larry's analogy) of the movement, since dancing in the club is like typing with your eyes closed.
Dancing house has been a very liberating experience for me, and it's forced me to think about how I approach music and dance. In the end, I agree with Larry, Odie, and everyone else that drilling movements in house is an important foot in the door, a way into reaching a greater awareness of one's body, house music, and the dance possibilities that it presents. Drills are empowering in the end, but stifling initially, like one person said earlier. The real danger is that it can encourage repetition when what the dancer may really want is liberation (but like Brian Green says, even repetition is OK if it makes the dancer happy). I know a few concert musicians who can't improvise or hear music outside of their rigid classical repertoires. So whenever I teach house dance, now, I make a note of not just breaking down the basic elements of a step, but showing how it could be modified, then putting those steps into a choreographic context so that students get a broader understanding of how house movements are strung together in sentences (borrowing larry's analogy, again), hopefully graduating to their own style and way of improvisation (diction, syntax, pronunciation, etc...). I think this goes for any style of dance. I also think it's important to think about the dance like everyone in this post, because it can turn into real changes for the better in your approach to teaching and dancing.
I still consider myself a beginner with house, but these are my observations so far. And, uh, I didn't mean to write a five page essay and stuff, but I wanted to be thorough.
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