The Loft Practice Organization, Inc. (TLP) is a 501(c)3 Non-Profit Organization that provides historical and educational instruction on the various genres and cultures of Urban Dance within urban communities. TLP hosts workshops, lectures, performances and competitive events in New York city and abroad. The Loft Practice Oganization is highly recognized for its contribution and preservation of urban dance styles practiced during the 1970's, 1980's and early 1990's.
One of it's best known events is The Loft Practice Open Session. The Practices aims to re-enforce floorwork, power movements, fluidity and dance etiquette. Many of the movements are inspired by Legendary Dancers from the 1970's - early 1990's who would often be found at various venues such as The Paradise Garage and the Loft. The Practice aims to not only teach these movements but to also share the history and social etiquette as it relates to the dance and it's current evolution.
The Loft Practice is also known for it's annual Dance Festival and Competition House Dance International. The three day event features face-to-face dance competitions in the categories of House, Vogue Waacking, Hustle, and Experimental as well as the First Group House Battle (5×5), workshops, film screenings, discussion panels and parties.
Growing up in New York City’s Artsy Lower East Side during the early 1970’s and 80’s, Conrad Rochester discovered his passion for music and dance. Initially, at the age of 9 with the Hustle, then later as a young teenager, he became involved in the B-Boy Scene. Self taught and motivated through competition, Conrad’s movements were elevated through local battles and inspiration from Martial Arts films. He was enticed by the fruition of this form of dance into Breaking and House through the incorporation of more foot and floor work. It was no surprise that at just 17, he was already accepted and known as a member of the Loft and Paradise Garage Movements.
Through his movement, Conrad has continued to mesmerise and entice audiences on so many levels of life. He has had cameo appearances in several dance films including "Wild Style", "Maestro" and the most recent "Check Your Body at the Door." Conrad has also performed and choreographed for various dance companies and artists including Dance Warriors Project, Vissi Dance Company, Louie Vega, Mr. V, Mrs. Patty, The Martinez Brothers , The Legendary House of Ninja, Niles Ford's dance-umentary "In Search of the Invisible People," and James "Cricket" Coulter's , Astral Kinetic Urban Project. He is constantly judging and teaching locally and abroad for various annual events such as Meeting Hip Hop Brazil, Vibrant Flow Escape and his own weekly practice The Loft Practice. In early 2007, he and his partners launched House Dance International (HDI), the first Urban Dance Festival designed to provide unity and leadership in the global House Dance Community. A year later he along with a set of new partners established The Funk Box, NYC. His most recent venture is the Hangtime Party which is a free event for dance expression and community building.
Conrad is best known for his signature handstands, dives and mesmerizing fluidity. His teaching style incorporates athleticism and an emphasis on free spirit movements.
Haitian-born Brahms “Bravo” LaFortune, grew up in Brooklyn. LaFortune blends fast-footwork (“freestyle jazz” he names it) inspired by older styles of bebop (or scat) dancing, and “People just walking down the street – but the bad part of it,” then he finishes with a floor dive.
Self-taught, he studied TV movie re-runs of Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Nicholas Brothers, and Sammy Davis, Jr. Clubbing by 14 years old, Bravo hit all the mainstream clubs in the late 1970s and early ‘80s (Studio 54, Bonds International, Melons, Kilimanjaro, The Loft and Paradise Garage among others). LaFortune is also an architect, music producer and occasional DJ. He acts as on-site DJ and co-teacher with Archie Burnett at NYC’s Peridance.
He has toured worldwide and has performed at NYC dance venues such as Dance Theater Workshop, Joe’s Pub, the Guggenheim Museum, PS122, working with choreographer David Neumann and Doug Elkins. LaFortune was also an actor/dancer in XTRAVAGANZA a 6-month international touring production of theater company, “The Builders Association.” Most recently he appeared in the documentary "Check yourBody at the Door."
His dance and teaching style is a brilliant mesh of ecclectic and practical. Often using floor tape, his aim is to not only teach the movement but have students master them with grace and fluidity while always having fun!
The Loft is the name of a Club. It was the residence of David Mancuso, the innovator of the Tweeter and Legendary DJ. A collective of people from all walks of life would gather at David's house which was located at a very underground location on Prince Street in NYC. From Prince street, he moved to other locations ending finally in Alphabet City in the late 80's early 1990's. His home was called The Loft.
When I went to David's house (at the Alphabet city location in 1983/84), it didn't matter what genre of dance you came from, (B-Boy, Modern, Burner, Top rock, Hustle, Up Rock, African, Martial Arts, Ballet, Tap, etc.) you would end up doing various Floor Movements. We used to do Power Slides, Chest Glides, Spinning Tops, etc. It was a very eclectic gathering of people and there were many cliques but everyone found their own unique style. The dance that we were all doing was a Freestyle Dance. The energy there made you dance different. It was an ambiance like no other and it made people express that feeling through some incredible movements. Because David played the songs from beginning to end you got to appreciate the music fully.
So Lofting is a Free Spirit Style. It is an experience. At the Loft Practice we don't teach Lofting we teach our experience in Dance and Culture. A fusion of all of the styles that we have mastered. We build on Rhythm, Floorwork, Footwork, Conditioning and everything that we know will push you further in your movement and growth as a dancer because that's how we learned. It's a life experience.
Here's some more info from Loft and Garage Head Luis Baez:
As I can best remember there were 2 places or more at the time that many of us frequented, but The Paradise Garage and the Loft was/were it . You had Fri and Sat for the Paradise Garage, and Sat for "the Loft". But if you wanted the 2 you would visit the Paradise Garage on Fri then Hopefully recover early enough to Make David's Loft. Why I say this, "recover", is because breaking Friday night at PG was a lot, and I mean a "lot" (to me at least). How much can a body take in this indoor environment while under the spell of an incredible sound design by RLA via Larry Levan? Fast forward to visiting "the Loft". David's sound was just as incredible too, not as loud or heart thumping but wonderfully pleasing to the ears (especially after an all-nighter at the garage) He would sound ck til it felt right. The two were unique in sound, Larry Levan's PG did it for me though. Yes, I would go to "the Loft" but not nearly as much as I did the "Garage". I was a "Garage head" from 81' til the "final nights" of 87'.
Now, keep following me readers.
Loft hours if I remember right were midnight(Sat) to Sunday's last record to play. These hours weren't set. Meaning the closing would vary depending on David, Friends, and members. When I did go to "the Loft" I would do my best to "recover" for Sundays wee hours of the mornings' David's music. My first visit was the one on "Prince st", 2 floors, the main and downstairs. The downstairs is where I took notice to the "dancing". Wow! The music and the dancing! wow! freack'n holy cow! NO COMPETITION! if anything it was friendly. Pockets of sharing and good natured love for movement ... at peace with oneself. The relocating to the east village changed a bit, but the intentions from David were still the same. Love to all who entered his home and may all the "dancers" continue ...
I have great memories from "the Loft" and I want to thank Theresa Fernandez for pushing me to go after those long Fridays to Saturday afternoons.
Conrad Rochester and I first met at the Paradise Garage. A young quiet guy, wanting to roll, eager to say the least. Circles were different then , still "no competition". Just the love for the dance. He along with the likes of Chino3, Son, and Carlos Sanchez(LES) would dance. There were others too, loyal following(members) from Bkln, Bx, and even strong island! Again, sharing the floor for " THE DANCE ". But Conrad, whom many of you know, has been trying to keep this 'ALIVE'. Possibly frustrated at times simply to pass along to those who have invested countless of hours in our "historic dance culture". He's everywhere and will be everywhere til he's done his part ... and that is to handover to you, The following generation(s).
As for "What is Lofting?(the big debate)"... Who really named it "Lofting" and when ? To this day, I(we) old timers never really called it anything back then. Myself as early as 81' for sure did not label.
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)
As far as the history is concerned I'll break it down as far as I know:
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.
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 up top of BREED of MOTION This pic is In Philly say 1992/93 On July 4th Bravo, Archie Willi and Tyrone Proctor)
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)
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
Some where out there, in the intangible universe, there's this really vague idea of what House Dance is. We know we can do a lot of different movements, we know we will drive OOoo's and Ahh's when we do tricks but really, What exactly is House Dance? We know what Breaking is and Popping, Locking. We know Vogue and Waacking ... What is it then? This obscurity when it comes to this one particular genre that we call House Dance? Yes, it's Freestyle/Free-Spirit, etc. And yes, it draws on many different forms of dance. But can you do whatever you want to do in the dance and call it House Dance? No. Absolutely not and a lot of my elders will agree with me on this ...
First of all, let's take a moment to talk about the origins of the term House Dance. If you read our previous blog on the Pioneers of Freestyle Dance, you'll notice how this was a steady progression. There was a particular sound that started in Chicago at a Club called The Warehouse. This music broke through very specific clubs here in NYC in the early 1980's. Prior to this time, people were already doing "Freestyle" dance, based on their various inspirations/activities (Breaking, Martial Arts, Tap, etc.) The music evolved and the dance evolved with it. We we're always free styling but as times changed and new dances and cultures arose, we incorporated them into the dance.
We became more fluid in our movements, we incorporated all of our inspirations and we evolved our rhythms & syncopation. We never called it House Dance, we we were just Freestyle dancing to "Club Music.". But times have changed, this history was rarely documented in detail, these movements were taught globally with out much attention to the origins and hence, there is a new generation that hears a music and labels a dance after it. So here we are.
So getting to my point, these are the factors that I use to determine if a person is dancing house:
Now here's the key:
One of the most important things to do in this dance is to know yourself in the movement. It's not like a lot of other types of dance where you can find a good teacher, practice hard and develop good technique. You've got to immerse yourself in this dance to really understand it and grow. Take a waacking class, take a footwork class, take a martial arts class, hip hop, etc Take them all ... Then come see Bravo and myself at the Loft Practice and we'll help you put it all together to develop your own style. Your dance should tell a story, it should tell me about who you are. You have to become well rounded and you have to acquire an extensive vocabulary in the movement along with many layers of conscious and subconscious understanding to really grow in this dance we now call HOUSE ...