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EXCLUSIVE BY: Adisa Banjoko
A-Game is one of The Bay Area's most notable bboys. Hip-Hop dance, (well, dance period) is in his blood. He moves with a passion that electrifies the floor. His movements reflect a connection beyond foundation or fundamental mastery. They reflect a respect for tradition of those that have come before him. For those of you who compete, or plan to compete, this is a fantastic interview to read. More than that, you will learn about the beauty of dance beyond dance itself.
HCD: How did your passion for Hip-Hop dance begin?
A-GAME: Family. My cousins, Ratha Nou and Helena Hong, came to the US in the 1980s as young Cambodian refugees. With no identity to cling to in this crazy country as Asians in American, they, like many others before them, found solace and community within Hip Hop which is all inclusive. They were into dancing, whether B-boying or straight hip hop freestyle. When I was 5, I was in the backseat of the car when they played Pharcyde – Otha Fish in the Sea. That song, sound, vibe, everything immediately drew me in, and I was forever connected to the music since that day. I began b-boying in 7th grade when I was 13 years old. Picked up some tapes at Great Mall with my friends (I think they were Mighty4 tapes) and just started to try and learn.
HCD: When did you start to take it on as something you would really do? Something more than just a fad?
A-GAME: It got serious when I was 16 in High School. I had an experience with Déjà vu and Roe from a San Jose crew called the Headhunters. I was at a point in dancing where I was about to quit. Didn’t feel any progression or as much fire, while friends were fading out from dancing or graduating. Vu and Roe had just gotten back from Evolution Florida and had an absolutely crazy experience out there. They came back and told me about how deep the scene goes—knowledge I take for granted now but at the time was mind blowing. They told me about the difference between cypher bboys, competition bboys, and performance bboys. The value of Pro-Keds for dancing lol. Just putting me on game to some bboy shit. I got super inspired after that, and eventually with time I got asked to be a part of one of the hottest San Jose crews out at that time, Hybrid Crew, whom I still rep with til this day. My relationship with them emboldened and solidified my passion for this dance. Training for jams, practicing 5-7 days a week, pouring our everything into it. That’s when it all became clear to me how much I was in for. I could on and on about how many times I’ve re-fallen in love with the dance (and out of it) but I’d say this was a pivotal moment in my young dance career.
HCD: Do you remember your first battle? Tell us about that?
A-GAME: I do! Haha it was a VERY special day. I went to a small 1v1 jam at the MACLA in Downtown San Jose. They had an 18 and under battle, and I ended up battling my future crewmate Mad Tek for like 3rd place or something. I had a black hat, jeans, and a black polo with the collar popped. That was a great day. Woo! I also think that was the jam that my future crewmate Drift of Hybrid Crew noticed me, and then wanted me down with the crew. He was the only one who had faith in me while the rest of the crew didn’t want me to join (I kinda sucked) and now look at me! Thanks Drift! Forever thankful!
HCD: Where do you try to put your mind before a battle? Do you do anything to mentally prepare besides the physical practice?
A-GAME: I’ll be honest. I used to have way more of a warrior vibe than I do now. I’m more peace & love now, and barely enter battles, and when I do, I have to work to get myself back in the zone for it. I guess I’ve reached a peaceful, zen place in my dance evolution and I imagine in some time I’ll return back to the warrior vibe. I’m just not as angry as before, and have less of a desire to prove myself even though I have so far to go.
I used to recite a mantra and pray before each battle. I won’t write the entire mantra but essentially it boiled to the line “I am an unstoppable being when I connect to the music, let no one deny my truth.” I learned from my first mentor, Kwon138, to “see nothing”. Meaning, when you battle, it doesn’t matter who is in front of you. It could be Kmel and Ken Swift or some little newbie kid. In my mental prep and actual battle, they’re just shadows. B-boys that represent a reflection of myself as represented through my own conscious experience, and only that. To never let someone famous win before the music even starts. When you give them a staredown, you must reflect in your being that you aren’t some chump and that they won’t beat you with their reputation. Even if they smoke you, they’re going to go hard on you out of respect and reaction to your presence. It’s hard to keep this mentality if you do not practice it however. You can’t just turn it on when it works for you. It has to become a part of your everyday existence. That b-boy tenacity and fearlessness.
HCD: How many styles of dance do you do or teach?
A-GAME: I have been b-boying for 11 years and that is the only style of dance I will teach. It is the only one I feel proficient enough and versed enough to teach. Otherwise, I am a straight freestyle dancer. Meaning I take from everything to create my movement to whatever music moves me and I emphasize whatever. Rock, House, Hip Hop, Dubstep, FutureBass, Moombahton, RnB, Jazz, everything. I value honest communication slightly above effective communication, which is why a great number of people do not understand me. But I’m fine with that. They always come around. It’s usually the younger dancers who don’t get my style, and the older dancers who show me love and respect. This is reflected in my freestyle dancing. Otherwise, I dabble in all sorts of other styles but never commit myself to training with dedication. So little time
And I guess you could say I house dance as well. I just love housing. I tell people that B-boying is my wife and house is my mistress. House is where I go for spiritual upliftment. The whole b-boy agro aggressor vibe doesn’t do it for me anymore. Like I said, I’m less angry and feel like I have less to prove nowadays. With that said, I go to these house clubs here in the Bay and around the world to let go and just bug out. It’s meditative. Beautiful.
HCD: You have a great reputation as a teacher. Were you always good at it, or did you have to grow into it?
A-GAME: Hmm I guess you could say I’ve always had a knack for it. It is definitely a skill that took a lot of practice to get good at though. I’d say the knack came from an already developed attention to articulation (I’ve always valued communicating myself clearly and eloquently) as well as the patience for it. Now that I think about it, I’ve done a lot of teaching. I got my first teaching gig through my friend Tek at the YMCA. Then I taught a year long course at a dance studio. And now I’m teaching all of my own self-developed workshops around the world (which is crazy to me).
I learned the most from taking classes though, especially watching my mentor/sifu Poe One teach his workshops. Poe has one of the most coveted classes around the globe, and will regularly get 20-30 people in his class, unique first timers or repeats, because his knowledge is so vast and his ability to articulate and communicate so developed. I saw him in his element when I brought him out to San Jose to teach some workshops. I picked up on his lessons immediately and saw what he was asking of us and how it was challenging us to get better. I think I’ve been at like, 10-15 of his workshop either taking them or helping him teach it to other students. It’s watching the masters at work that teaches me the most I would say. I’m still developing as a teacher and student.
HCD: Hip-Hop dance has allowed you to travel the globe. Can you tell me some of the places you have gone to battle or teach? Also, what has that traveling taught you about dance and the world itself?
A-GAME: First and foremost I am so thankful that I’ve been blessed to travel like I have. A lot of elements came together in my life, and with such opportunities placed in front of me, I took them to live my dream and travel the world. Let’s see, I lived in Singapore and Korea for about 9 months altogether in 2011. I’ve been blessed to visit Argentina, Netherlands, France, Spain, Sweden, Cambodia (5 times), Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Hong Kong, and some more I can’t immediately pull to mind. In each of these places, without even a structured event to attend, judge, battle in, or work at, I’ve found the bboys and a hip hop scene. In most of these places, I’ve been backpacking really. That’s what I love to do. I love being relatively unknown in these places and showing up, and blowing people away. It’s scary when you’re alone. I imagine, had I gone with my crew or in a large group, I’d have been different, but being solo in all these different countries is such a crazy experience, and huge in developing me into who I’ve become.
More than anything, I learned to be a man and a better human being. Traveling and seeing all these bboys and bgirls and dancers from around the world is great and all that, but at the core of these traveling experiences is the soul itself. Feeding it; nourishing it; evolving it. I am a huge proponent of the philosophy that if you want to develop an original style and be triumphant with it, then you gotta be triumphant with your own life. It’s followed with me, in my life, that every single time I make a major leap or jump in my actual life--whether it be accomplishing goals, dealing with personal traumas and issues, or just learning huge life lessons-- my dancing evolves with it. It’s the confidence of having challenged yourself at a deep level. Traveling is a struggle often. Trust. Especially solo. Especially when you don’t speak the language. Jesus LOL . Shit gets crazy sometimes. But all of that is a struggle and an obstacle in the best way possible, because it’s facilitating your growth and you’re having a blast while you’re doing it! What I can advise is to not just travel and dance to get better at dancing. Trust me when I say travel to get better at life and everything else will fall into place :]
HCD: Tell the people about Style Elements and Hybrid Crew? Where are they based, who are the members? Why are they important?
A-GAME: Hybrid Crew is a San Jose based crew, formed from members of X-Force, Falling with Style, and Fortune Cookie Monsters, established in 2003. We were one of the hottest crews in the Bay, definitely a force to be reckoned with, that left a considerable impression on the Bay Area and San Jose. We have a strong legacy around San Jose from a long series of jams thrown by my crewmate Tek, who helped develop the scene and allow the youth here to develop at such a high rate. We’re still active, with some members in Korea, a few here in the Bay Area, and some in LA.
Style Elements was established in 1994 (originally Stockton and Modesto and eventually San Jose), and would go on to become one of the most influential dance crews of all time. It’s very difficult to summarize the crew’s achievements, but I can say it like this. Style Elements was to the second half of the 90s what Rocksteady Crew was to the 80s. They literally had a run where they were number one and they achieved it in the traditional way: battling anyone who was dope. They’re your favorite bboys’ favorite bboys. Remind, Crumbs, Poe One, JayRawk, Superdave, Ivan, Quali-D, TommyBoy. The first US crew to win Battle of the Year in 1997. Contributors of the airchair, stacks, air flare innovations, the infusion of 90s hip hop freestyle into b-boying, and the list goes on. I am blessed to be a part of their family, as the only younger generation member. I learn from them everyday.
You can learn a great deal more about the crew from our website www.SECrew.com . Check the bios, the portfolio, our media, etc.
HCD: Any last words?
A-GAME: Thank you to for this interview opportunity. Shout out to my crews Hybrid Crew and Style Elements. To my family and friends and the global bboy scene.
I live in the San Jose, CA area and always open to traveling to different places around the US, Canada, Mexico, etc. If you’d like to contact me about classes, private lessons, panels, workshops, writing, or other projects, you can reach me at
Facebook: Andrew A-Game Mam
Two teams showcasing the strength and power of American cheer teams!
These teams have shown amazing skills year after year. Two things to look for in this clip:
Truth is there are so many amazing skills to point out in this video. Our favorites is the wild stunt transition in the beginning (check out video at 1:34. The tumbling and dance were pretty amazing too!
Wow, their stunts had a crazy fast pace. Anyone who cheers knows these stunts are amazing. Then add speed and you truly see what it means to HIT it as a team!
EXCLUSIVE BY: Adisa Banjoko
It is very rare that a person who can master a thing, also has the ability to teach that thing well. Not all great teachers are the best dancers. Not all the best dancers can teach others to do what they do. Dennis Infante is one of the few who can master movement and teach others how to embrace Hip-Hop dance beautifully and powerfully. More importantly he helps them find their own way inside the groove. In this interview we talk about how his love for dance began, the pros and cons of competition and some of the essential elements of being a great teacher.
HCD: When did you first start dancing?
DI: Growing up in a Filipino family, dancing is always encouraged especially at a young age. At family parties parents would usually have their kid dance in front of everyone, even if it's just jumping up and down haha. But I'd say the first time I was actually coordinated enough to freestyle using different steps I knew was when I was 10 yrs old. My cousin Jon Liberato who was in High School at the time was watching Yo MTV Raps and him and his friend were trying to practice some of the steps they'd see in the music videos. They had me try it with them and that's how I learned my first hip-hop dance step.. the running man lol.
HCD: How did the initial passion for dance grow to where you started taking it seriously?
DI: I think I started taking it more seriously once I got into my first dance group, Nu-Origin (but called Chain Reaction before we changed our name). I never thought we would get the exposure we did, being able to travel to do shows, opening for a few artists, etc, I'm very thankful for that.
HCD: When did you start teaching and how hard or easy is it to actually teach someone to dance? What styles of dance do you teach?
DI: I started choreographing routines in high school, but teaching at a studio officially was probably around 2005. I think the difficulty in teaching can vary with each student. Some people have more rhythm or coordination than others, that's when you have to adjust.
Currently I teach Locking and Old School Hip-Hop.
HCD: Tell me about your crew GroovMekanex? Tell me about them?
DI: GroovMekanex is pretty much the Bay's only Locking crew. We specialize in that style as a group, but everyone can do other styles individually. Here in the bay, the members are Charlie Hustle, Doc Lock, Jaypee, Lil' B, and myself. It started in DC when Charlie Hustle lived there about 13/14 years ago I think. Other members from all over the world include Esperonto, Mimi Lock, Mikey P, Lockin' L, Wigout, Loko, and Rowee. I joined the group around 2006 or 07. I love dancing with these folks, everyone is so unique. GroovMekanex also hosts open practice sessions at City Dance SF on Monday nights. Lot's of dancers from all over come to visit. Great place to vibe out with everyone. I'm also in another group called MuthaFunkers with Bionic, Ynot, and Kool Raul. It's a bit hard for all four of us to get together though because our schedules are always different.
HCD: Your classes are really diverse, fun and your students seem very supportive of one another. How do you manage class attitudes and egos with so many different personalities in one room?
DI: I've been very lucky to have had a diverse group of students in a lot of the classes. Some having been dancing for a long time, some of them are just starting, but they still give it their all and have fun with it. That's what I like. For bigger classes like that, it's all about the tone you set with everyone first. Can't be too serious, but also have to show them you take the dance seriously as well. Can't be too goofy, but if they see you having fun, for some reason it kind of makes it fun for everyone too.
HCD: You once battled in Korea. Tell us about that experience.
DI: I entered the North America prelims for R16, an international street dance competition originating from Korea. I won the 1v1 Locking in 2011 and got a free trip to compete in the finals. It was a great experience. It was probably the biggest jam I've ever been to. Met a lot of great people during that trip, and learned a lot more about the battle scene. I battled two really dope Japanese lockers there at the jam. Maru (Majestic 5) in the 1st round, and Kenzo (Shuffle) in the quarter finals round. We didn't get to stay in Korea much outside of the event. They had something scheduled for us everyday. I would love to go back just to experience dance and the culture there again though.
HCD: How important is competition in terms of helping to improve a persons overall performance level?
DI: I think competitions are good in terms of learning how to be strategic. It's like chess. For some, competitions motivates them to train and get better. So I guess in terms of gaining stamina, practicing technique, and moves, training for competitions help because you are working towards a goal. I had a phase where I was kind of into that, but the past couple of years I've just been having fun wherever the music takes me, win or lose, my main goal is to just support the jam, connect to the music, and dance with everyone. Unfortunately for me, if the music is terrible, I will also end up dancing terrible because the feeling just isn't there for me lol. Some people can fake it and/or do sets. I can't do that very well. The music and the moment is what I really live for now.
HCD: What are some of the music videos or battles you have seen recently that inspired or impressed you?
DI: Old videos of the Nicholas Brothers, Berry Bros, Al Minns & Leon James, Frankie Manning still amaze me to this day. Link of Elite Force and Brian Green are probably my favorite dancers, I could watch those guys get down all day.
HCD: Is there any style of dance you have yet to try but really want to, if so, what is it?
DI: I've always wanted to get better at popping. I still enjoy learning partner dancing like Salsa, Hustle, and Lindy Hop. I wish I could put more time into practicing all those, but there's only so much time in a day!
HCD: How can people contact you?
DI: Stop by my site www.soulo1200s.com to learn about upcoming shenanigans, past dance footage, and free downloadable DJ mixes by me! There is a contact page there if you'd like to inquire about any class or bookings.
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