Street dance has blown up over the last five years, thanks largely to YouTube and shows like So You Think You Can Dance, America's Best Dance Crew, and America's Got Talent. While YouTube and the BoobTube might have gotten a few details wrong here and there, it's hard to argue that the attention hasn't been good for the scene. Old school hip hoppers made it on MTV when the running man was reborn as shuffling; turfing is finally getting props outside of Oakland; and the Bay Area's own "Bionic Man" is in the lead role of Cirque du Soleil's Immortal Tour. But mainstream trends come and go -- and before all the hype -- local dancers and scene makers Groovmekanex were holding it down with good vibes and open practices for all.See also:
Snapback to Reality lifetime cultural achievement award-holder Chaz Cabonce founded Groovmekanex in 1999, and started hosting open practice sessions at a small studio in the Sunset during the early aughts. At first the sessions were focused around locking, which is the original street dance -- done to funk music -- and the style the Groovmekanex specialize in. But over time, dancers of others styles started to attend as well. "I love to play funk music, so the lockers came through, and we pop, so the poppers came through, and it was open to everybody," he told me at City Dance recently. "We didn't turn people away 'cause they were doin' other styles."
That open door policy and the low cost of their Monday night sessions -- a $3 donation -- has helped to incubate and support the local locking and street dance scene in a way that no TV show could. Groovmekanex Funky Mondays are known all over the Bay Area as a good place to get down, and now there are lockers everywhere. When the group moved to City Dance last year, more dancers of other styles started dropping in, and the night expanded into a truly mixed practice session. "I still play funk and funky music, but it crosses over into other styles like house, hip hop, and electronic stuff for the poppers," says Cabonce.
Through it all, the group has insisted on a welcoming attitude for advanced and beginning dancers, and when I asked Cabonce about the best place to learn locking he didn't hesitate. "Right here at Monday night sessions because it's a relaxed attitude. You can learn technique and not have to pay too much for it."
So there's one for everybody looking for a healthy way to get in shape next year, and all those people that pester me about the best place to learn some moves: Swing by City Dance on a Monday night, or really, on any night; they have tons of classes. And if that's not enough to give you a warm fuzzy, check out this funky Santa video featuring Groovmekanex member Sal "Doc Lock" Barcena:
Now tell me you don't want to dance after watching that.