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TRENTA’Y TRES #throwback – HOW I BECAME HIP HOP

.los angeles.ca.

Since I am in that retirement road already, I wanted to share this to the kids who are just starting out. I actually just bumped into this as I was cleaning my email Inbox. This was a submission I did for a friend’s blog back in 2009, months before I was to turn 33.

Trenta’y Tres, by Michelle “Tzy” Salazar (Dance Artist)

I am Tzy, the oldest member of Philippine Allstars. I think that I am even the oldest female who dances hip hop in this country… that I know of. But I am not a pioneer. I am merely a toddler. I was not there when hip hop penetrated the scene in the 90s. Back then, I knew Francis M. as a “pop” singer who sang the only rap song that I’ve ever memorized in my life (Cold Summer Nights). Jmasta (bboy) & breakdancing were non-existent. If he did headspins in my face I would just ignore him. I thought hip hop meant donning a huge shirt & pants that barely holds on to one’s boxers. And back then, the object of my pubescent obsession was the Eraserheads (a rock band that defined the sound of the 90s in the Philippines).

Hip hop came late into my life–when it was already associated with sex, drugs & violence, when the OG’s (dance pioneers/legends) have gained weight & when dance was started to be boxed in the studios & not danced in the clubs/streets anymore. It came even AFTER I was already dancing hip hop (with the Philippine Allstars).

Among all the members in my group, I think I am the most “non-hip hop”. The rest have been living, breathing & eating it. When hip hop began thriving in the Philippines in the early 90’s, Lema Diaz was one of the few girls who were dancing to its music in Club Mars. She is still in the scene now, so technically, she is the oldest female hip hop dancer.  Some of our boys have been bboying (breakdancing) since they were little. Chelo Aestrid & Kenjhons have been pursuing music all of their lives. And Sheena Vera Cruz, for me, is the ultimate dancer with hip hop attitude. I have always thought of myself as a “rakista (rocker) who loves to do breakdance freezes.” My ipod had consisted of songs from genres of rock & alternative. And I would wear urban/hip hop clothes only when I go onstage.

Now 4 years into being an Allstars, after having won 4 world hip hop competitions in 3 continents & putting Philippines on the map, it is only now that I am starting to really delve into the culture, history & foundations of hip hop dance.

In July this year, I was given the privilege of being one of the 6 people (from 5 countries–Lebanon, Palestine Territories, Argentina, Vietnam & Philippines) sent by the Kennedy Center (Washington) to go on a Hip Hop Tour. It was an eye opener for me.

I met some of the few important figures of hip hop dance  OG’s like Buddha, Marjory Smarth, etc. They told us stories of their experiences back in the 80’s, when this was all just starting. They shared their principles about dance; how very disapproving they are of students just learning dance inside the four corners of the studio & not in the clubs/streets anymore. I have also attended workshops where I have finally learned the foundations of dance which is very important for every dancer. Allstars’ style is so 90’s and for years, that was what we were good at. Those workshops made me understand dance more. I’ve found meaning on why we do certain moves. Like there is this move we do for Locking called the Muscle Man. Skeeter Rabbit told us that it was his way of saying “What’s up?” until it evolved & was combined with his move, the Skeeter Rabbit.

The most important part of our tour was the immersion in the places where hip hop started. I have discovered where the roots of hip hop music was found, which was in Washington DC, where the African-American music flourished in the early 20th century. There was this place dubbed as the “Black Broadway” which used to be an entertainment hotspot to African-American community back then, even before the Harlem Rennaisance in NY. This was home to a lot of great musical artists like Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong & Billie Holliday.

We have also threaded on the streets of Harlem, the Mecca of black culture, where 30 or 40 years ago, no other race than black could walk. We have experienced a jam in the park, right in the heart of Bronx. When I was there, I smelled hip hop in its raw & purest form. That time, I was so lucky to have seen in person hip hop’s godfather, DJ Afrika Bambaataa. It was so surreal listening to his music and dancing to it. It was like performing a contemporary dance with a live accompaniment of the orchestra.

In that park, we kinda stood out because most of the people were black. So there was this one time when a man named Ron from Universal Zulu Nation approached us and said, “Don’t come out here with your booty shakin.’” He then went on to say something like, “You can’t fake hip hop. It is not made, it is not taught. You are born with it. It is in the heart. You breath hip hop. & it is here in Bronx.” I told him that hip hop has actually spread around the world, that was why were were there. & he says, “You know how it has spread? You spread it here (points to his heart). For me you can’t fake it. I don’t care where you’re from. You can’t fake hip hop. You’re born with hip hop. Some have it, some don’t. They got school for scratch, they got school for this & that, but hip hop is not an act. It’s from the heart.”

Word. 🙂

Actually I just realized that I may have been “hip hop” after all. Hip hop in heart. Its journey is my journey too. Embracing undaground & not losing the whole essence of hip hop is what Philippine Allstars is all about. Keeping it real to the heart. Not being too technical. Expressing emotions in its truest form. Standing up for the undadogs. Sharing & spreading the word. Fighting for the movement. That is real hood right there.

I am turning 33 next year. Too old to start learning new styles of dance, some might daresay. But for me, this is only the start of my never-ending quest for knowledge & truth. You might say, “pinapalalim ko naman mashado, sayaw lang yan (It’s only dance, why complicate it).” But dance has stopped being simply a form of art for entertainment purpose. It has gone beyond being just a medium of expression. On our part, we have been using dance to spread nationalism. We have undoubtedly created change among the hearts of a lot of Filipinos & has inspired them to be proud of our country. Through our dance pieces, we have traveled to different parts of the globe & have gathered not just rave reviews but love from even people of different races. And dance has also helped us spread positive messages to the world, even daring to break barriers and inspire people to Point Up (to give glory to the Man up there). [Philippine Allstars blog]

It is never too late to start dancing hip hop (I started dancing, from zero, when I was 23, doing jazz, and hip hop when I was 26). There is actually no expiration to learn anything! It is never too late to start being someone who you want to be. What is important is how far you want to go with the things you are passionate about. Just like the philosophy from Pablo Coelho’s The Alchemist & Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret, when you want something really bad, the universe will conspire to help you achieve it. I may be too old to learn airtracks (barrel turns with hands), but I know that if I put my heart & mind to it, I may even become the first Lola (Gramdma) to do it.  But for now, I gotta learn. Coz ultimately, I will always be a student. Every one of us should never stop learning new things, even at 33. Or 45. or 77. 🙂
* * * * * * *

Read my full blog about the Hip Hop Program here.

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December 8, 2013 - Posted by | Blogroll, breakdance, hip hop, learn & unlearn, Philippine Allstars | , , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. […] Reposting this from Michelle Salazar’s blog. […]

    Pingback by LOST KID | Are you happy? | December 9, 2013


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