B-boy Ray "Nasty Ray" Mora demonstrating toprocking (photo by Josh Salcedo, courtesy Mora)
For most people, the word "breaking" brings to mind flashy feats on the floor. But those eye-catching tricks aren't the whole picture. Breaking actually features four different categories of movement: toprock, footwork (or "downrock"), freezes, and power moves. And while toprocking—the part of breaking that's done standing up—is often overlooked, it's one of the most critical parts of the art form.
"As b-boy Mr. Wiggles taught me, breaking is like a sentence, and toprocking is the introduction," says seasoned street dancer Valerie "Ms. Vee" Ho, who teaches at Broadway Dance Center, Pace University, Peridance, and Juilliard. So how can dancers start their sentences off in a way that'll keep people listening—and watching?
Dance BFFs Findlay McConnell (left) and Payton Johnson (courtesy McConnell and Johnson)
Two dancers from different studios on opposite ends of the country meeting at a dance competition may sound like the formula for a cheesy teen-rivalry movie. But it's actually real life for lots of dancers on the comp circuit. Meet four sets of adorable BFFs who found winning friendships at a competition.
With several Shaping Sound tours and TV credits like "So You Think You Can Dance," "Dancing with the Stars," and "Boardwalk Empire" to her name, you wouldn't expect Kate Harpootlian to be refreshingly down-to-earth. But that's exactly how she is: As soon as you start talking to the gifted dancer and choreographer, it becomes clear that she doesn't take herself too seriously. And she's happy to tell hilarious stories to prove it. (Ask her about the time she did a Mr. Peanut impression when Mia Michaels asked her to improvise, or the time she starred in a Japanese makeup commercial and had to do grand pliés wearing one pointe shoe and one flat shoe.)
That mixture of humor and grace is evident in Harpootlian's growing body of choreographic work. Her one-act show Better Late Than Never, for example, which premiered last summer, has a jazzy, West Side Story vibe, offsetting heavier moments with touches of whimsy. "There's always a balance in my work," Harpootlian says. "I want to use humor to balance out the darker aspects. It's like one of my friends once said: 'You make me laugh, and then you make me feel bad for laughing.' "
Much of Janelle Ginestra's career has been about helping others shine. She's dedicated herself to supporting and cheerleading her partner, WilldaBeast Adams; the emerging talents in their dance company, ImmaBEAST; and the countless dancers she inspires at master classes and conventions. Her YouTube channel has become a launching pad for young talents like "Fraternal Twins" Larsen Thompson and Taylor Hatala, thanks to viral videos featuring Ginestra's creative vision.
But Ginestra's a skyrocketing success in her own right—an in-demand choreographer, a social media influencer, and a dance entrepreneur, building a legacy one eight-count at a time. It's time for her turn in the spotlight. And she's more than ready. "I want to be a legend in whatever I do," she says. We'd argue that she already is.
BODYTRAFFIC has arrived. The edgy contemporary troupe, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, has a repertory stocked with works by choreographers like Kyle Abraham, Loni Landon, Sidra Bell and Richard Siegal. The New York Times has praised its "wonderfully precise dancers"; the Los Angeles Times has called it "one of the most talked-about young companies nationwide." It attracts top-notch dancers from all over the world. And it's helped put L.A. on the map as an emerging concert-dance destination.