Parris Goebel @ Culture Shock Dance Center

 Not gonna lie, I went into this class straight up terrified. ReQuest had just taken the title of Body Rock 2012 last night with a FIERCE routine. I can’t be the only one who was scared of these girls after watching them on Youtube. Surprisingly, Parris is one of the bubbliest people I’ve ever met. She was super sweet, and her Kiwi accent made her even more adorable. Don’t get it twisted though, she didn’t go easy on us during class. She’s one of those teachers that doesn’t baby you by saying, “That was great! Let’s do it one more time for me.” She’ll say “Mmm… no. Okay, so this is what I’m seeing, but this is what I want, yeah?”

I prefer her teaching style simply because you learn more from going to her class. She pushes you, but does a good job of helping you along the way. Though, let’s be real, the amazeball quality of workshops in SoCal isn’t the choreography; if you want to learn  choreography you can do it off Youtube. What is actually life changing is being around people who can articulately talk about their craft and help you understand their philosophy to better grasp the nuances of their movement. To see what I mean, keep reading after the jump.

Parris talked about a lot of things, mostly because I think she likes sharing things with people, but ultimately it all came back to the concept of dance as a form of communication. ReQuest’s choreography includes a lot of dynamic changes. Parris made the point that when you’re dancing, you’re talking to your audience with your body. This is one reason why you actually do have to look at yourself in the mirror; you need to know what you’re projecting so that you can really feel what you’re doing and maintain that intensity onstage, no mirrors. The thing is though, if you’re just going hard all the time, it’s kind of like you’re just shouting at someone constantly. It’s really hard to understand a message if someone’s just shouting at you. This is where what Parris calls ‘teasing’ comes in:

Creators create
Followers follow
So lets change it up
and try something mellow.
To help you see
it’s not all about,
how hard you hit
when your body shouts.
It’s just as important
to do a little something.
To tease and kill
with doing absolutely…nothing.

A tease is what ReQuest calls the softer sections between the really hard/fast ones. These moments of softness help draw your audience in. It entices them, and makes your performance more interesting. At first, you may think that this sounds like a rationalization of a cop out, but it’s actually very difficult to execute a good tease. The difficulty of teasing comes in the body control required for that sudden change in dynamics. Ever find it difficult to go really hard and fast right after a smoother/slower section? The concept of teasing is best illustrated in the video below, ReDefined|Polyswagg Lesson 1.

Ok, another realization I had during this class is what separates ReQuest from Katalyst. The number of recent comparisons of the two has been bothering me, but I really couldn’t figure out what specifically differentiates the two crews. The answer goes back to the idea of projecting something to your audience that I mentioned earlier. Parris briefly mentioned ReQuest’s image as a really tough and hard crew and how it differs from who they actually are. She said that the girls of ReQuest “aren’t actually hard people.” The girls take a part of themselves, typically their frustrations with the concepts of femininity and uniformity, and draw on that for their choreography. That’s why you feel so scared sometimes when you watch them. They’re like reallllly mad about some stuff in their lives.

Parris also made the point that if you just make faces on stage without putting something behind it, making it genuine, you just look straight up crazy. In comparison Katalyst puts every part of themselves in their choreography. That’s why their pieces have more range, they’re pulling on their different qualities. The difference is that ReQuest is more about catharsis whereas Katalyst is more about showcasing every side of themselves. There’s not really one approach that’s better than the other. I think these two female crews’ different approaches are reflective of the individual dancers within the crews; in a way both these crews are big on expressing and establishing who they are, they just focus on different things.

P.S. The way Parris says swag is unfairly adorable.

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