I stumbled across information on the Who is Who? dance battle on another blog (thanks Raeana!) before I came to Paris, and knew that I definitely had to check it out when I arrived. For its third year, Who is Who? brought together top hip-hop choreographers to lead a week-long series of open dance workshops and training sessions in various hip-hop dance styles including Popping, Locking, House, and Krumping. After five days of open courses that went from 10:30am to 7pm each day, there was a selection round for those who wanted to compete on Saturday and the final battle was on Sunday, judged by a diverse and international panel of instructors: Tony Gogo (Japan), Brian Green (USA), Niako (France), Gucchon (Japan), and David Colas (France), four of whom led sessions during the previous week.
After a few days of Fulbright orientation sessions, I was able to make it to watch the final dance workshop led by New York based dancer and choreographer, Brian Green, and quickly interview him and some of the dancers who came to take courses throughout the week. While I assumed that most of the people there would be French, I was really impressed by how international the crowd was— a fact that was reinforced when I asked a random sampling of people some questions about the event and just the four of them represented three different countries. When I asked cousins Bly (who specializes in House) and Calvin (Locking) why they came from London to participate in the Who is Who? workshops, they told me that there was a better opportunity in Paris to take hip-hop classes. Venla, 28, from Finland told me that she thinks that Paris is the best place for hip-hop dancing because the atmosphere is really supportive and she especially appreciates opportunities like this because there isn’t a real hip-hop scene in her home country. After I asked how she started dancing, she reminisced about how the first time she even heard hip-hop was when MTV first came to Finland and remembers watching it all night long and being inspired to take classes. While it took Venla a few years to discover hip-hop, French teenager Jeleesa, 14, started dancing when she was “toute petite” in the womb according to her mother, Anik, a dance instructor and coordinator of Who is Who?.
Once the class was over, I talked with Brian Green whose courses, I could see, really made a big impact on his students. As people came up to him to thank him, one French woman was nearly in tears and told him how much the class meant to her, and how she could really feel what he meant at the beginning of the week when he expressed how the body is an instrument. When I finally got to speak with him, it was also clear that he has an immense respect for both dance and for his students, regardless of where they are from. Although he said that he does not have a favorite country to online casino teach in (he appreciates the “love of dance” wherever he goes), Brian did comment that, in France, his students were very serious and cites the language barrier as one of the reasons. He explained that when they can’t understand his words, their only connection is the movement so they have to really pay close attention in order to follow along.
At the actual battle, Brian brought the same positive energy to the court and at one point, even asked the MC to remind the audience that just because one dancer might win a certain event, it didn’t necessarily mean that they are a better dancer than their opponent and that everyone should be celebrated. Although I wasn’t feeling well, I managed to make it to most of the event and what I saw was pretty amazing. There were several categories to compete in but during breaks, nearly everyone in the gym was on their feet (or backs or hands) dancing and enjoying themselves. This was also a great opportunity to find out more info on upcoming battles (I got a ton of flyers and even copies of dance magazines) so I will definitely be posting more on the dance scene and doing interviews. Hopefully, I’ll also get back in the studio and take some classes!
Check out more video/pics of Who is Who? at www.myspace.com/whoiswho2006.