Flex Dancers Pause The Battles To Train As Teachers And ‘Get Low’
Meet Droid and Karnage: They’re experts in flex dance, the Brooklyn-born street style that evolved from hip-hop and b-boying into a genre with highly controlled, tight movements, a few contortions and optical illusions.
Here, they share six essential styles of flex usually applied to competitive dance battles. But dancers Rafael “Droid” Burgos and Quamaine “Karnage” Daniels, plus Calvin “Cal” Hunt (not pictured), paused their fierceness this summer to spend two weeks in a teacher training program at the National Dance Institute in Harlem.
“We have training intensives, so we can be better teachers,” said Droid, age 23. “We are going to use some of the techniques from this.”
NDI, founded in 1976 by former New York City Ballet star Jacques d’Amboise, has developed an accessible method of dance training that reaches 6,500 children in 41 New York City schools each week.
Its teacher training program started in 1988, and now attracts teachers from a variety of backgrounds: At the 2017 training in August, the flex dancers were joined by a collegiate contemporary dancer, an aerialist and an Indian dancer.
The trio of flex dancers are sharpening their teaching skills, as part of Reggie “Regg Roc” Grey’s dance group The D.R.E.A.M. Ring (Dance Rules Everything Around Me) which leads classes and workshops.
The D.R.E.A.M. Ring is engaged in a three-year residency with a major new cultural institution in midtown Manhattan’s far west side , The Shed, though which it will lead free classes for young people around the city.
Their students will range from about age 5 to early teens, and while the NDI method is based on the younger set, Quamaine, age 27, found that he was able to adapt techniques to his high-school students.
Among a key take away, he said, was simply breaking up a room of students in a game of “Around the World,” in which each of four groups learns a piece of choreography, then perform, one after the other. Then the groups rotate and take a new piece of choreography, until everyone had learned and performed all four pieces.
“It has worked,” he said. “And I’m having fun.”
While Quamaine and Droid have individual goals — such as directing, choreographing and dancing, or starting their own companies — their work with the younger generation is their focus now.
“When I was growing up, dance class was out of the question. My family couldn’t afford it,” said Quamaine. “I want to help a lot of kids with the opportunity to dance.”