Monday, April 25, 2011

Party Among B-Boys on May 4th!

It's almost time for the big screen premiere of Global Pinay Style and Among B-Boys! Chris Woon (director of Among B-Boys) and FilAm Funk Productions are gearing up for an explosive evening that we hope will be a memorable experience for all. The Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival begins Thursday, and we are honored to be featured during prime time on Wednesday, May 4th.

Breaking news! We invite you to enjoy delicious food, refreshing spirits, and impressive dance performances at our pre-screening reception (located at the same venue-CGV Cinemas) beginning at 7:30pm! Get down with some of the world's most talented b-boys and b-girls, including stars of the documentary Among B-Boys, members of Culture Shock-LA, and other world-renown dancers who have declared their attendance.

Be sure to check out the premiere Facebook Event page to RSVP!

Global Pinay Style + Among B-Boys
Wednesday, May 4th 2011 @ 9:15pm (reception @ 7:30pm)
CGV Cinemas 1: 621 S Western Ave. (Between 6th Street and Wilshire Blvd) Koreatown, Los Angeles, CA 90010

In AMONG B-BOYS, director Christopher Woon explores a movement of Hmong youth with a starting point in the California Central Valley. Just like the rest of the B-Boy/B-Girl world, many of them are on a quest for respect and even fame through their skills. In this search for success in the Breaking world, these youth must also navigate their way and strike a balance between their identities as Hmong and B-Boys.

GLOBAL PINAY STYLE documents the rich hip hop dance scene that Filipinas are creating in the Philippines and their creative influences around the world. Focusing on members of the Philippine All Stars and Stellar, the film shows how Pinays are central in carving out spaces for a vibrant dance subculture, proving their skills for a global audience.


Sunday, April 17, 2011

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Artist Spotlight: Build foundation with Dennis Infante

We have yet another elucidating interview this week! Dance guru Dennis Infante (DSPlayers/Groovemekanex/MuthaFunkers) graced Rock the School Bells with his Freestyle and Party Dance workshop. Yours truly had a chance to sweat it out to Dennis's boot camp class and get a solid cardio workout to the trooper, party machine, etc.! I'm glad to say I survived (and maybe even outlasted some of the young kids in) the class.

In seriousness, it was an honor to witness the sharing of dance knowledge from a dance veteran to a new generation. RTSB and the recent Culture Shock Hip Hop Has History conference in LA (where I got a chance to learn some popping techs from the legendary Flat Top) hosted some very young (and very talented) people-- who were born after we lost Tupac and Biggie! And some were embryos when hyphy was at its prime! Events like these prove that certain styles are still alive and thriving.

Dennis brings knowledge to eager dancers of all ages. His helpful instruction and breadth of wisdom makes him an effective and meaningful teacher. In this interview he talks about the importance of knowledge in dance--not to dance just to move, but to engage with history. In other words, to learn foundation. Let's start building:

Why do you feel it is important for you to teach street dance styles?

I feel it's important to teach the street dance styles to help preserve them, especially with today's generation. Foundation of any dance style is key in growing as a dancer. Oftentimes people just want to learn moves and don't really care about the dance. I feel that knowing how a certain move was created is just as important as the technique. When today's generation learns the foundation and how to apply it to dance, then they are able to advance the style to the next level once they gain that understanding. At the end of the day, this is still a DANCE, not just moves.

So it is more than just moves. As an instructor for Rock the School Bells, what can young people (some born in the late 1990s) learn specifically aside from the dance itself?

Young people can learn the social impact the dances had on society. These dances were created during rough times in rough cities, when people didn't really have anything else. That creative outlet that dance gave them brought something new to the table, and now you can find dance in everything from movies, to commercials, to ads, etc. I was originally thinking about doing a Locking workshop at RTSB, but I felt that there aren't enough Hip-Hop classes in the Bay Area that teach Hip-Hop. A lot of the classes will teach a short routine, but not really show the students how to dance using certain fundamental moves of the Hip-Hop dance style. So I decided to do a Hip-Hop party dance class instead. Especially since the vocabulary of that era is somewhat being lost in some areas.

What I like to show students however is the relation of the different moves within other styles from other genres and eras. I'm discovering more that a lot of the moves are the same, but the feel of it is just different when done in other dance styles. One documentary that really opened me up to this is called Everything Remains Raw, by Moncell Durden. I saw it a few years ago in SF and it is amazing! It really shows the lineage of a lot of the moves and just social dance itself. I highly recommend anyone who loves dance to check it out. After seeing this documentary, it really motivated me to research more on a lot of older footage from Jazz, Tap, and African dance and really try to trace the lineage of the moves that we do in Hip-Hop. Even with a lot of the names of the moves, I'm finding out more and more how different areas may have different name for the same move. The history of these dances aren't usually the focus on a lot of these dance driven tv shows, so I feel it's important for us dance teachers in the community to share with the students it's history and background or else it would just get lost somewhere down the line. This way, it can help the students learn as much as possible and keep an open mind about all styles of dance, not just the one that they're into.

RTSB had a noticeable amount of Filipino American representation in terms of the participants, facilitators, and the concert line-up. Do you feel that growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, that the Fil Am representation at RTSB reflected the dance community in the Bay in general?

Although I feel that there are many Fil Ams that represented at RTSB, I still think the Bay Area dance community is very diverse. There are many Fil Ams in dance, but it also just depends on which city is being focused on, and also which styles of dance. From what I see here in the Bay, I see more Fil Ams in the larger dance teams that specialize in choreography. But say for example in the street/club dance scene, it is a bit more diverse with African Americans, Latinos, etc. The Fil Am community in the Bay has always been around representing in dance for quite awhile though.

In what ways do you think that the music popular today matches bodily movement? Is it similar or different from the way you group up with hip hop and dance?

I think the body reacts to sounds naturally the way it should. The way the music is now is way different that the type of Hip-Hop we listened to growing up, and I think that's why people in this generation move differently, because of the music. I see that it is a little harder for the younger generation to pick up the feel of an old school hip-hop move, and vice versa where it is a little harder for an older person to do a move from today (like the dougie for example haha).

You have a picture of "Boogie Down Manila" in your Facebook photos. How did you link up with the hip hop folks from Manila?

The Boogie Down Manila shirt is a brand design from a bboy crew in PI called Funk Roots. The particular shirt that I have is a collaboration Funk Roots did with the Know Your Rank Brand here in the Bay. I don't really have any role with any dancers in the PI. I have however participated in an outreach program teaching free workshops the youth at various schools out there and met a lot of amazing local dancers during my stay. In terms of Fil Ams in the PI, what I heard through friends is that P-Kid (who is a dancer from the US) was one of the first Fil Ams to bring the raw Hip-Hop dance culture over to the PI. Also, one of the locals who has really been holding it down out there is a bboy named Jay Masta. I was in the Philippines in 2009 at an event called All The Way Live. Jay Masta received an award from the event for all his contributions to the dance community out there. I'm sure there are a lot more folks in the PI who have been instrumental in the game. I am still very interested in learning more about the growth Hip-Hop in the Philippines, so anyone who can share with me what they know, please feel free to hit me up!

Ok Philippine hip hop heads, you heard the man, hit him up! Thanks Mr. Infante for an illuminating interview! Dance is knowledge and knowledge is power!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Activist Spotlight: Learn your lessons from Nate Nevado

Visionary educator and organizer Nate Nevado chimes in on hip hop pedagogy

Hip hop over homework? How about both? Reflecting on the success of another great Rock the School Bells conference, visionary RTSB organizer Nate Nevado breaks down how hip hop can work as an educational resource. In Mr. Nevado's world, the choice between hip hop and academics is not one of contradiction as naysayers in the hip hop over homework debate would have it. RTSB provides evidence of Filipino Americans are merging their passions of hip hop, social justice, and education, thus transforming a "hip hop as pathology" to one of "hip hop as pedagogy."

After all, why deny Fil Am youth the language that they speak? Why not talk with them instead of down to them? We talk with Nate to figure it out.

Why do you feel the need for an event such as RTSB at this moment in time?

We feel that RTSB is crucial in today's education for several reasons:

1) Because of the many misconceptions that are associated with hip-hop, we felt the need to educate and empower our youth and communities what hip-hop is all about. Hip-hop has grown into a global phenomenon where it is recognized universally around the world. We felt it was important to teach the youth and community about the history and origins of hip-hop. In any culture, misconceptions and stereotypes exists through the passage of experiences, opinions, and biases of other people. In order to alleviate these misconceptions, one must learn about the culture - language, customs, etc. We treat hip-hop the same way. It is a culture so instead of having to defend hip-hop, we challenge others to learn about the culture of hip-hop; to be educated and empowered by those who practice and experienced hip-hop firsthand.

Nate Nevado being interviewed by Pacific Rim Video in anticipation of RTSB 4.

2) To illustrate that hip-hop can be used as a tool to teach life skills, such as reading and writing, to think critically about issues that impact their communities, and to be health conscious. Hip-hop should be a part of the educational curriculum across all campuses from middle schools to universities. We've got today's youth attention locked into hip-hop. Since we've got them listening, why not use hip-hop to empower and educate?

3) Having this event allows us to continue to preserve the culture and history of hip-hop. Hip-hop was created for communities who were experiencing poor social and economic conditions in their communities. It gave them a voice. Because we live in a society where we receive information at such a rapid rate due to the usage of digital technology, we sometimes forget to educate ourselves about the history and culture of hip-hop. For example, we have seen significant increase of dance crews within the last 5-7 years even though dance crews have been existing longer than that. With Youtube and other websites, the youth want to be the next JabbaWockeez or the next Super Cr3w, that they focus primarily focus on dance moves rather than why the dance moves even exist in the first place. Because of the advent of digital technology, sometimes the history gets lost. RTSB provides the linkage between the youth and hip-hop practitioners to maintain and preserve the integrity of the hip-hop culture.

How do you make hip hop a medium for education and social justice?

As mentioned before, hip-hop is a global phenomenon, a recognizable universal language that many people around the world can relate to. In the same way we have poetry classes or literature classes or sociology classes, students engage in discussions that provoke critical thought in the books that they read and the lectures/presentations that they have listened to. Hip-hop, being that it is universally recognized, can be used to analyze the current issues in education and social justice.

One of the workshops that we have constantly is the Hip-Hop and Social Justice workshop. Our first year, DJ Sake-One was our facilitator followed by Kiwi/Nomi/Pele of FCC/ALAY for RTSB2. Gabe Delrokz Delacruz has been our facilitator for the past two events. The workshop is designed to discuss many issues that occur in our communities such as immigrant rights, human right violations, teen pregnancy, drugs, etc. Students, then, will write verses on any topic that they feel connected to. After which, they perform in a bigger group. The exchange of thoughts and experiences between youth and students is always amazing to watch. They are able to walk out of that workshop educated and empowered to become solution-seekers.

What makes Skyline College, host to RTSB, such a unique campus?

Skyline College is recognized as the most diverse community college in California in that Filipinos represents ~25% of the total student population, followed by Caucasians at ~20%, Asians at ~20%, and Latino/as at ~20%. The rest of the campus is divided among many other ethnicities. As a result, we have several learning communities which include the Kababayan Program, Puente Program, ASTEP (African-American Success through Empowerment and Persistence), Hermanos and Hermanas Program, TRIO, and many others. Each learning community is designed to provide students with a specific cultural theme that is integrated in their core courses such as English, Math, Sociology, etc. In these communities, students learn about different cultures, leadership skills, mentoring opportunities, and career exploration.

In conceiving of the event, how did you connect with people in order to plan and prepare RTSB?

We've been connected to many hip-hop circles as well as educational circles and where both circles converge, we were able to identify those who would be down to present and/or plan for RTSB. It's no coincidence that we are seeing more and more of these types of events being produced because when many educators alike were growing in our generation, hip-hop was considered at its purest. Because of this shared love and passion for hip-hop, to maintain the history and richness of the culture of hip-hop, we have many people interested in being a part of RTSB. Through RTSB, we have been able to meet fellow educators who would then recommend other educators and hip-hop practitioners to present and/or plan RTSB.


Monday, April 4, 2011

Global Pinay Style big screen premiere at 27th Annual LAAPFF!

Global Pinay Style is coming to the big screen! Photo courtesy of Sheena Vera Cruz.

FilAm Funk's
very own Global Pinay Style is coming to the big screen! Along with the homey Chris Woon's world premiere of the documentary full-length film Among B-Boys, which offers an amazing account of the little-known world of Hmong b-boys in California, GPS will be gracing the silver screen one month from now (Wednesday, May 4th) at the 27th Annual Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival!

Global Pinay Style
(2011, 5 mins, Philippines/USA)
Wednesday, May 4th 2011 @ 9:15pm
CGV Cinemas 1: 621 S Western Ave. (Between 6th Street and Wilshire Blvd) Koreatown, Los Angeles, CA 90010

"Global Pinay Style documents the rich hip hop dance scene that Filipinas are creating in the Philippines and these dancers' creative influences around the world. Focusing on members of the Philippine All Stars and Stellar, the film shows how Pinays are carving out spaces for a vibrant dance subculture and proving their skills for a global audience."

Screen shot of the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival film schedule. Browse the full schedule here: Film Listing

The Pinay hip hop dance crew Stellar spotlighted in GPS. Photo courtesy of Bea Lesaca.

Dancer and studio-owner Madelle Enriquez Paltu-ob points out what the Capital G Shop in San Juan City has to offer in a scene from GPS.

GPS front-woman Chelo enjoys a laugh. She is telling a story of how the janitor won the emcee battle hosted by the Philippine All Stars Dance School.

If you're in LA at this time, make sure you support your independent filmmakers! Come see GPS and the long-awaited debut of Among B-Boys.


Sunday, April 3, 2011

Sunday Cipher: The Filipino bboy x Philippine unrecognition

Why isn't hip hop big in the Philippines while it is "common sense" for Filipino Americans? This wonderful mini-documentary created by the folks at Strife TV offers a brief glimpse of the challenges among bboys in the Philippines (what city is this?!) and their global unrecognition.

Director MisLee raises some interesting questions about this circumstance of Filipino bboy invisibility and advocates for the raising of awareness of the rich scene in the Philippines. In her blog post about her documentary, she describes Project: P-Noise, the organization which she is involved, and identifies the interesting phenomenon of Filipino Americans who have gained international fame and "come back" to the Philippines (referred to as "balikbayans", such as Bboy Dyzee) in order to help build the bboy scene:

The Project P-noise is a charity mission initiative to develop the bboy community in the Philippines by reaching out to the already existing bboys, especially the impoverished. The goal is to inspire the bboys of the Philippines to become world-wide contenders, by teaching them multiple free workshops, developing relationships with them and sharing with them the knowledge of how to make a living from this world renown dance. At the end of the workshops, a bboy battle is held for the bboys of the Philippines to put their skills and knowledge to the test, and giving them opportunities that they have only dreamed of...

It is a wonder why Bboying and Hip Hop has not flourished throughout the Philippines, which has almost the same type of situation, as the state of New York City, in the times of the birth of Hip Hop. Especially with Bboying which is the least expensive art form of Hip Hop. All you need is good music, and the floor to begin your release. It is also a wonder how Balik bayan Bboys all over the world have become legends in bboying: granting inspiration in the evolution of the international Bboying scene across the entire world, except for within the Philippines. Although Pinoy bboys are aware and inspired by these international Balik bayan legends, there seems to be a gap in national growth and creativity, because of limited opportunities and/or support."

This documentary makes a direct connection between the Fil Am bboys whose international fame is unquestioned and the Filipino bboys whose incredible talent does not match with international recognition. But that mismatch may soon be minimized. In a prophetic gesture, Bboy Hogan from the documentary states:

"We will practice more effectively so we can achieve what we want. So wait for us, Filipinos there [Fil Ams]. We're going to be facing each other soon."

Can't wait!