What happens when street dance meets classical dance?
Du-Shaunt Stegall, aka Fik-Shun, winner of season 10’s “So You Think You Can Dance,” wants to expand that conversation by infusing traditional dance with the influences of street dancing.
“I grew up in the street world of dance, but I want to talk to the other dance (world),” he said. “I feel like it’s separated, and it shouldn’t be. Dance is dance.”
Fik-Shun doesn’t count measures; he listens to backbeats most people don’t recognize — until he accentuates them with his body. He moves spontaneously to the music, sometimes even surprising himself.
“You’re just living in the music and the moment,” he said. “The music tells you what you should do.”
Performing on the Las Vegas Strip quickly informed his showmanship; he had to learn how to compel people to stop, watch — and pay.
He believes all of these aspects could positively impact traditional dance forms. “When it comes to improv … (classically trained dancers) can watch where the inspiration comes from, from street dancers — just to see that they can do more to the music than they think they can if they just let the music take them,” he said.
Alex Wong, a former principal soloist of the Miami City Ballet and an all-star of “So You Think You Can Dance,” agrees — up to a point. “Dance influences dance, and sometimes you get great fusions where dance styles borrow from other styles to create something wonderful, simply just ‘dance,’” Wong said. “However, when you classify things into styles of dance such as ‘ballet,’ ‘hip-hop’ and ‘tap,’ if you fuse them together, well, then you really aren’t doing those styles anymore, now are you?”
That’s not to say Wong doesn’t love fusing dance styles together. In fact, incorporating styles like hip-hop into his repertoire on “So You Think You Can Dance” “pushed me to new limits I never thought I could achieve,” he said.
Breaking out of the full-time ballet world has opened up new possibilities for Wong, from helping choreograph Olympic champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White’s free dance to performing on Broadway, starring in “Glee” and commercials and now working on a Starz television series in New York City called “Flesh and Bone.”
BRIDGING THE GAP
Charles “Lil Buck” Riley grew up on Memphis jookin but has helped bridge the gap between street dance and traditional forms, partially by earning a scholarship with Memphis’ New Ballet Ensemble. His ballet training, combined with his characteristic jookin style, led to more than 2.4 million hits on YouTube for his performance with cellist Yo-Yo Ma of “Dying Swan.”
“I enjoy collaborating with different styles of dance,” Riley said. “So I help bridge the gap by being myself and being open to collaborate with people in the classical world. I hope to make a positive impact on the world and our future with a mass amount of inspiration. I hope to make a difference by helping keep the arts alive and vivid in this world by reaching the kids — helping get arts into education so kids have a clear vision of no matter what circumstances they are in, they can be a part of making a positive impact in this world, too.”
These three dancers are living, moving proof that when seemingly opposing dance forms meet one another, great things happen. From traditional dance, Fik-Shun has learned to “pick up the breath of slower music and use the floor space given,” he said, whereas Wong employs ballet’s “idea of perfection that you can never really achieve” while drawing from newer styles of dance to realize commercial goals. And as for Riley, he thrives on the seemingly opposite nature of different dance styles.
“The benefit is communication between two styles of dance that never really know a lot about each other,” he said.
But perhaps the ones who most benefit from the conversation between the latest moves on the streets and traditional forms are the audiences. After all, we just sit back and enjoy the rousing effect.