Big Heart, Big Hugs, Big Poppa

I first “met” Allan Frias (aka “Big Poppa”) through a video of his So You Think You Can Dance audition. His fluid moves and fierce attitude distinguished him, and the judges noticed.

They took turns praising his performance, but the comment that stuck most in my mental grooves was this:

“You’re such a likeable person”.

I finally met Allan a couple years ago in his Mon class at Dance Mission, which was one of my first dance classes. As a novice, I was intimidated by his signature “boom ka-ka” counts and his company dancers in the front row.

However, to my surprise, by the end of class my bruised ego still wanted to return. While dance was alien to me then, even I could sense there was an underlying flow and smoothness to his moves — they not only looked good but were meant to feel good.

I also wanted to return because there was something very special about the instructor.

At first glance, Allan may seem like a walking contradiction.

He calls everyone “biiiitch”, yet you somehow know it comes from a place of acceptance and adoration.

He regularly insists that if he could move his “big ass, you skinny bitches certainly can”, yet you never doubt the depth of his patience.

He sometimes pushes through the crowded class to give you a 1:1 on how to gyrate less awkwardly, yet you always feel more supported than embarrassed (okay, still a little embarrassed).

He’s like a big teddy bear. With a ratchet edge.

Allan is one of those people whom you can not know very well but still find yourself falling in deep adoration. His classes are an extension of him. As they say,

“Happiness is the desire for repetition” (Milan Kundera).

This is exemplified by the overflowing sea of regulars in his often jam-packed classes.

I think I speak for many that despite pressures at work, misunderstandings with friends, anxieties in the mind, a good day can still be salvaged by going to Allan’s class.

I know from personal experience that even if I enter class with my mind spinning, as long as I draw my attention to the present when Allan’s music comes on, I always find myself back to center.

I am deeply grateful for and indebted to Allan, because his class was the first that I ever experienced deep, finally-out-of-my-head joy while dancing. In fact, his choreography and personality are such a double whammy that it’s difficult to not be joyous in his class.

Some of us have known Allan for the many years that he has been a staple of the Bay Area dance community, while others have recently become his kinetic devouts. Some of us express ourselves through movement, while others are still learning to.

Yet we share a common respect and adoration for “Big Poppa”, whose moniker is a reflection of his biggest attribute — his heart.

Through the way he moves and the way he simply is, he doesn’t just teach choreography. He gifts joy.

Allan — in your latest FB update, you noted:

“This hospital…they’re guessing. And my life is not a guessing game.”

Many of us deeply wish we could end the guessing game and bestow relief through answers. Unfortunately, we can’t.

However, we can at least deliver this:

Something you never have to guess is how much you mean to this community, how big of a presence you have, and how much you have moved us, with and beyond your choreography.

*If this piece resonated with you, please donate. Any amount helps. I know sometimes we hold back because we feel like a “drop in the bucket”, but remember, a bucket is nothing more than the bunch of individual drops.