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Pioneers of Freestyle Dance

First things first ...

There are so many genres of dance that encompass what many call "House Dance."   Several Elders from the Dance Community along with myself, call it Freestyle or Free Spirit Dance that is done to all kinds of music.  Just for the record the information in this blog relates to this Freestyle dance that many now call "House Dance" ONLY.  For detailed history on other Urban Freestyle Dances (Waacking, Popping, Locking, Voguing, B-Boy, etc.) see other Dance Community Elders and pioneers of that particular style.

So, the question that's been coming up lately is: Who started all of this?  

Did it happen at the Garage, did it happen in the 90's?   There are so many people both active and missing from the scene who have made contributions to the dance and it's current evolution.   Just for the record however, there is nothing new under the sun.  I learned from watching dancers at the clubs, jams and from kung fu flicks.  A lot of my friends also learned the same way.  For the new dance generations of today,  I suggest that you do your research and double check anything that you consider a fact.  

  

There are many style innovators but few pioneers. (read that statement twice)

 

Just to prove my point, here are a few videos from the 1800's and 1900's: 

 

 

 

As far as the history is concerned I'll break it down as far as I know:

 

FIRST GENERATION:  City Steppers & Maboya Dancers

Started: Early 1970's NYC

 

Here is an excerpt from an original member:

 

"Conrad, as per your request to continue this venue, first of all, my name is William Robert (Rob) Fulton . I was referred to back in the early 70's as Smooth. As a part of the Maboya Dancers, which I joined in 1973 (I thought it was 72 but reflecting back it had to be 73), I along with James Merritt (June Bug), Bernard Hanna (Juicy), Lonnie Smith, Lucien Lee (Wiz), James Simson (Big Boy), James Stafford, Nick and a whole host of females like Kim, Pandora,  DeeDee, and many others performed at many, many venues. These ranged from Community events to Universities. Among some of the more notable events were, Utica College, S.U.N.Y. Old Westbury, Eastern Parkway Labor Day Parade, Large Company New Years Eve Office parties, Frat Parties, Boat Ride events (several in the Summer season) during the years of 73 - 75. For the most part, it was the guys mentioned above that performed. At the time that we started going to the loft (75), meeting Coco , we had just about stopped the performances as a Dance troupe and began utilizing the Loft has a hangout as opposed to the various hangouts we had as the Maboya Dancers prior. It was also during that time that some of the guys began dropping off leaving the core nucleus of the Maboya Dancers to James, Juicy, me (Rob), Wiz and inducting Coco . It was in 1976 that David began speaking with some folk from London to build a show around us, the Maboya Dancers. We had the task to formulate new routines, which would be incorporated with our old routines to help the few others we chose to be a part of this new venture. As mentioned in the interview, it didn't work out. I just equate it to, it wasn't time for it.

  

With the above, I just wanted to give you some names and a little timeframe as to what we did and what we began as a dance culture that centered around us, the Maboya Dancers more than any others. We did not have a term for what we did other than freestyle. Technically, it was acrobatical freestyle. We were very flexible. We were able to put together a combination of spin, dip, forward to hand (like being in a push-up position), to leg over to form a back bridge to up on your feet again in the same position you started, all in one continuous movement without skipping a beat. The term "breaking your back", which James, Bernard, Coco , and I did was given as a style by others. While dancing at the Loft, there were some who said, we move like snakes, not indicating a deceitful person but because we were able to move and bend like a snake. Again, this was not what we referred to ourselves as doing, but what others said.  And I must say, we too had some who were jealous of us. But isn't that the case when you're the life of the party. We were so popular at that time that others wanted to not only do what we did but also be a part of who we were. As a matter of fact, the first party at the Garage was by invitation only with about no more than twenty-five to thirty people. Of course you know we, James, Juicy, Wiz, Coco and I were among those who were invited. Again, looking forward to meeting with you sometime in the future and I will make myself available at the end of the month as that I'm sure the rest of us will also." - Rob

 

In addition to Rob's list of Maboya Dancers, there are many others from this generation.  I will clarify what groups they belonged to but I will just name some of them for now:  Gregory "Flame" Seeley (City Steppers), Willie Pinedo, Rick, Tyrone Proctor, Rubber Band,Tony Otero and many more.  My father, Conrad Rochester Sr. also danced with these brothers at different times and was also part of this generation.  My dad is in his mid-sixties.

(Video of some members of Maboya Dancers & City Steppers - Rob Fulton is the main person speaking) 

  


SECOND GENERATION

Started: Mid 1970's NYC  

 

(Image of BREED of MOTION This pic is I'n Philly say 1992/93 On July 4th Bravo, Archie Willi and Tyrone Proctor)

Willie Ninja, Archie Burnett, Brahms "Bravo" LaFortune, Perry, Henry, Chino III, Roger White, Oumar K Doxen, Panama, Nestor AKA Neco, Carlos Sanchez, Louis Baez, Basil Thomas, Desiree, Karen, Fella, John Tate, Will Lamberty Jr., Angel Ravquee Mendez, Jeff Selby, George (G Studios), T2 (Angel Rivera),  Edna Rivera, Rican (Coney Island Dancers),  Louis "Loose Lou" Kee, Evelyn Santos, Kris "Kung Fu Kris" Bauxenbaum, Selia, Peaches Rodriguez and many many more ... I will add more names

These dancers, amoung others use to frequent various clubs like Studio 54,  Bonds International, The Loft, Paradise Garage, The Ones, Two Steps, Funhouse, Danceteria, and Area during the mid 1970's - 1980's when they where open.  These clubs are no longer open except for The Loft and The Paradise Garage who have various events and reunions till this day. 

(Image of BREED of MOTION This pic is In Philly say 1992/93 On July 4th Bravo, Archie Willi and Tyrone Proctor)

 

 

 

 

Shelter 1990's

THIRD GENERATION

Started: Early 1980's NYC

  

Conrad Rochester (Me aka Split Pants, Mambo King), Courtney French, Barbara Tucker,  Paris Hairston, Anthony Poteat, Frank Thomas, Pebbles, Christine Walker, Majory Smarth, Valentin AKA Kid Flow, Keith Thomas AKA Cool C, Georgie AKA Jem, Henry Selby, Kim D. Holmes, Cesar Valentino, Pee Wee, Stretch from Scrambling Feet, BVD Crew, Jeff, Inch Worm AKA John John, Felix, Non-Stop Rockers, Voodoo Ray,  Shaun, Joey, Ron Paisley, Brian "Footwork" Green and many, many more ... I will add more names  

 

(Image at Club Shelter courtesy of  Louis "Loose Lou" Kee with Barbara Tucker, Melvin Moore, and me among others)

 

 


FOURTH GENERATION

Started: 1990's NYC

Ejoe Wilson, Dance Fusion (Tony McGregor, Caleaf Sellers, Shannon Mabra, Tony Sekou Wiliams, Shannon Selby, Mike Clark, Marjory Smarth but she was originally Third Generation because she started clubbing at a very young age.), Elite Force Crew (Link, Buddha Stretch, Brooklyn Terry, Bobby Mileage, Loose Joint), Kevin Selby, Cebo, Hiro (From Japan), Cyclone from X-Fenz, Jesus, DJ Q, Tone Bones from X-Fenz,  Peter Paul Scott, James "Cricket" Colter, Conway, Byron Cox II and many, many more ... I will add more names    

This generation is special for many reasons but most importantly because they brought commercial awareness to Freestyle dance.  They took basic hip hop steps and infused then with different Freestyle or Free Spirit Movements so it made sense to Hip House Music.  They took this movement that they evolved and taught it all over the world as House Dance.   They also went on to choreograph videos and dance for major artists.

 

(Image of Elite Force Crew with all original members courtesy of Elite Force Crew)


THE FUTURE

So I put this all together even though I talk about it constantly because there are many new kids coming in to the scene that have no idea about our history.  They are watching youtube videos, entering battles and taking classes from people who lack credibility or misrepresent thier place in the timeline.  There are many styles, style innovators but few pioneers as I mentioned before.  If your taking classes, entering battles and your not hearing the names starting from First Generation you really need to question those teachers.  You shouldn't be entering battles that are being judged by people who have no awareness of our culture.  The history is there, it always has been out there but you have to put yourself in contact with the right people to get the truth.  

**If you are reading this and I forgot to mention your name or noticed a misspelled name please leave a comment or send me and email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .  I know so many people and I just named as many as I could off the top of my head to get this blog started.

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Comments (11)

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  • Thank you for Educative!!! Because many dancers and teacher no Reality information !!!this change now :)

    Jonatan Pikolé -Ritmos Family ( BRAZIL)

    from Brazil
  • Guest (carlos henrique)

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    como é bom saber de toda a verdade ,pois muitas pessoas omitem. mas ao mesmo tempo é um privilégio conhecer todas as gerações.

  • Be nice if you correct the many inaccuracies,& mistakes in this blog!those generations need TWEEKING..before you have these young folk QUOTING this blog as gospel!..peace

  • Chicago house broke through very specific clubs here in NYC in the early 1980's. This blog is a record of fact based on the movements, the essence and experiences that occurred before and after The Loft and The Garage eras. To my knowledge, you did not go to these clubs or were part of this particular scene. Just for the record, it was very gay, artsy and you had to know someone to get you in. I'm not saying that you were not relevant in another scene but as far as the underground house scene is concerned, you and the majority of the fourth generation were not present. If this is a mistake feel free to email me with your biography so that we can place you accurately.

  • Guest (Micaela)

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    thanks for all the info, all the respect from Argentina.... Like one of my favourite Argentinian guides told me, the fifth element is to SPREAD THE KNOWLEDGE.

  • Muchas gracias por esta informacion!!! thak u!! ChileHouse Represent

  • Thank you so much!!

    from Portland, OR, USA
  • thank You for spreadin the knowledge ..i have just a concern of why i don t see any Dancers' names From Europa in the 3th and 4th Generation , Do You think any dancers from Europa re worthy? ... thank you in advance

    from Italy
  • Hi Cristina, Thank you for your feedback! As you may have read at the beginning of the blog our primary aim is to trace the history. There are many many names missing from not only the 3rd and 4th generations but from the 1st and 2nd generations. This has been our primary concern as these elders are slowly disappearing due to health and other issues. In general, this is a big project! The diaspora of this dance culture abroad in Europe and the rest of the world is also of great importance. We are slowly gathering information. If this is of interest to you, I urge you and anyone else that reads this blog to begin cataloging the history within your own country. We will be happy to review the information and make additions. Remember, it takes a village ... Peace Conrad

  • Guest (david usry)

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    When i was asked to go to London was summer of 1978 to dance on a tv show called the winner circle. i was in the james gang before we became the maboya dancers. my brother kenny usry (trans Am man) and james stanford both said they will bring there little brothers to meet and battle on the dance floor. The little brothers, were Lonnie Smith and me David Usry. it was 41 years ago wow. Lonnie and I are still good friends now to this day. i like the blog, a few names have been left out. bernard (juicy)"s little sister Juanita (boo boo). creg and jeff to name a few. and some sattlelights i called them that because they werent always there but they were good dancers and part of the group when they where there. like bubby and others. when the original group begain to break up creg and Jeff moved out west i was told. and big boy moved to Florida. lonnie and me made T shirts that said LAST OF THE MABOYA DANCERS. im glad theres a next gen. keep it going guys.

    from Syracuse, NY, USA
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