Called Out: Top 6 Pet Peeves of a Street Dancer

1. Racial Stereotyping.

Tellin’ black folks they should naturally be better than white folks. Tellin’ asian folks they should naturally be better than white folks. Tellin…okay seriously, white folks can dance. Bob Fosse, Barishnakov, Martha Graham. PIONEERS (none street dancers, but all still amazing). Not to take anything away from anyone (far from it). Just sayin’ — all people of all colors can dance. It’s about who gets their ass in the lab, not the ethnicity of your parents.

Then there’s the reversal of this. When people say “Oh, of course she’s a good dancer, she’s *insert ethnicity*…” Seriously, fuck you. No one is born a good anything. Everyone puts their work in and if you can’t respect that, it’s because you’ve probably never put work into anything yourself.

2. Instigators.

People who try to turn a friendly cypher into a battle. People on the sidelines that aren’t even dancing…scratch that — aren’t even DANCERS, tellin’ you:

“Ooooh, go get that dude! You’re better than him.”

GTF outta here. YOU go start some shit. Or…just dont be a dick. We’re out here trying to have fun.

3. Breaking Rule #1.

Physically pushing/pulling people into a dance circle — that’s a party foul. There are too many legitimate ways to coax a dancer into a cypher for you to be breaking rule #1. Try these first:

  • Be amazing. So amazing in your expression that you inspire the next person to get into the circle.
  • Lure with style-matching. Mimic the person’s groove who you want to enter the circle and hook them in. Back yourself into the circle and they might just walk in with you if you’ve gotten them to take the bait.
  • Invite a partner. Steal an old line from social dance and offer your hand to a person you want to dance with. This gives them an easy way to say “no” by simply not taking your hand. No harm, no foul, no getting slapped for being grabby.
  • Play a game. Seriously, make one up. Ask others to play with you. If your game is fun, people will be tripping over themselves to play. If you build a game that can have a winner, all the better, as people love a little friendly competition.

I know what you’re thinking. “Oh, but they’re my homies. It’s all good.” That might be the case in some instances, but you’re still being LAZY. Let’s keep it clean and maintain good cypher etiquette to set the best possible example for the people on the sidelines who might not understand the unwritten rules of a cypher, yet. They’re looking at you to learn from. Don’t teach them a bad habit.

4. A.D.H.DJ

It’s 2015. The above-average person has the attention span of the below-average fly. I get it. But DJs, if your songs are so boring that you need to change them every 32 bars, maybe you should just consider playing some better tracks. Because dancers want to dance to more than 30 seconds of a tune. We want to build. We want to break down. We want to set a mood and get into a groove. None of this can happen when you’re up there prematurely ejaculating all over the dancefloor with your “skills.”

This is, of course, the opposite of Practice DJ, who takes 6 minutes to mix the next tune in because he’s working so diligently to beatmatch his records and needs to stretch them out extra far because he’s only been able to afford 7 so far after splurging on the authentic 1200s to feel better about being a “real” DJ.

Newsflash: Dancers practice at home. You should too. I’m on the dancefloor to crush, not to hold your hand through mixes.

5. Spotlight Hogs.

Rule#2 — Cyphers have time limts. 64 bars? 2 minutes? 1/2 track? There is no set amount and that’s what makes having this conversation with people (especially homies) so difficult. The rule of thumb is that you are allowed to be the center of attention as long as you can actually hold the attention of those around you. That means going off. Doin’ your best. Killin’ it. Being all in. Breakin’ off. People respect passion and skill when the two meet. If either one of these begins to faulter when you’re in the spotlight, it’s time to gracefully step out of it. The best way to make friends in a cypher is to actually let other people dance. Sharing is caring. Kindergarten stuff.

Mind you! I’m not calling out folks who are jumpin’ into circles to maintain. Remember Rule #4 — Space must be filled. If the DJ drops a tune nobody’s feelin’, there’s a danger that the open, unoccupied space of the cypher will cave in against the pressure of a crowd wanting to reclaim that space (you know, to stand more comfortably or whatever muggles do on a dancefloor). A dancer who jumps on that grenade and takes one for the team, expending their energy on a wack tune just to keep things rollin’ for when the good tracks eventually come — that dancer is not a Hog, that dancer is a HERO. Big ups to my Cypher Heros out there. That shit is community service.

Types of spotlight hogs — because I love categorizing things and you love bullet points:

  • Mediocre dancers who spend more time in the limelight than the lab.
  • Thirsty bitches (male or female!) thinkin’ that shakin’ their ass is something anyone cares about. Spoiler alert: we dont.
  • Drunk bros who, after their 5th beer, think they suddenly know how to dance. Reality check: you still can’t.
  • Anyone who doesnt understand Rule#2 of Dance Cypher Ettiquette.

6. Puppeteering

You’re at your job. You’re at a family gathering. You’re on a first date. Somehow, the fact that you dance comes up in natural conversion. Guess what? Now you gotta dance. Why? Because someone is bound to ask you to. Either people want you to entertain them like a wind-up monkey or they’re looking to shoot you down in some way (dance shaming was a big thing before dance blew up in America just a few years ago, mind you).

The best part? It’s never in a situation where dancing would ever be considered appropriate by any social standard. There’s never music playing. The space is cramped. The floor is carpet at best and you’re sitting there with a fork in hand, mouth full of spaghetti like:

“Why do I have to dance right now? When you said you were an accountant, I didn’t ask you to balance my fucking checkbook.”

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