Zoom, November 2020
Clara discovered Street Dance in 1995 and started to train with her first mentor Karl ‘Kane Wung’ Libanius and in 1997 she and some friends created 'Septieme SenS'. After spending 3 months in New York attending house and hip hop classes in 1999 she was invited to tour worldwide as part of 'The Art of Urban Dance' directed by Storm. In 2007 she founded 'Indahouse' her own house dance project and since 2011 has produced the JUSTE DEBOUT UK preliminaries. In 2012, she launched and produced THE NEW KIDZ ON THE BLOCK, and was part of the professional cast in the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games, London. Since 2013 she is a House Dance technical teacher and lecturer at University of East London and became the artistic project director of Studio B (Brixton) in 2014. She started to work with Red Bull UK coordinating Red Bull Dance Your Style UK prelims in 2019 as well as teaching at Swindon Dance as a Programme Tutor on a pre-vocational training program.
IA: Could you introduce yourself and describe what it is that you do?
CB: OK. So I’m Clara Bajado. My parents are originally from the Philippines but I was born in France. I grew up in France, discovered dance in France and then moved here…it took me ten years to move here, so like being back and forth for ten years. I settled down here, since I would say early 2000s and then…just grabbed a few opportunities here and there, I was not really expecting I would stay, I just tried to carry on with all these opportunities. More specifically…I’m a dancer, I teach, I’m a lecturer at uni, a producer and I’m a mentor on a programme. I multi-task…I would say. I think I’ve said it all.
IA: The idea of crews and companies, they’re like a family that you choose, or that chooses you, they offer an alternate kinship. Could you talk a little bit about Quality Street, Septième SenS, IndaHouse - some of the crews that you’ve formed but also been part of and that sense of family and kinship?
CB: Yeah. I will start with Septième SenS cause it’s my roots. It’s my first crew, back in Paris, and…the sense of family was way before we actually made a crew. We were just friends at the beginning, just friends…friends that either I was already dancing with, or friends that I was skating with…or friends that were in the same class as me or same school. And then we started to all train together, at that time we were just…the idea of crew was really, really strong as well, in terms of representation and in terms of identity. We were quite young and being part of something was just like super important for us, that’s how we actually created Septième SenS first. That was early nineties, I would say early-mid nineties. And then…all of us we were already training, individually or together, with different mentors or teachers and one of them was Nasty. He is an OG in France, and he created Quality Street which is more of a collective than a crew. He tried to bring together people he was close to…different artists…just to get together. More than a crew, it was more a collective…it’s almost like those cousins that you never, you don’t really see often, but you know they’re part of your family. So a few of us in Septième SenS are also a part of Quality Street…there was also other crews that…again Septième SenS was really the base and all of us were in different crews or collectives if you wanna call it like that. Then IndaHouse was the first crew, was the only crew that I created…when I came here. Again it was…I never had the intention to build up a crew, or a company back then. Like, it was more…it was more the idea of having people I was always with, I was always either training or practicing or teaching with them. I think it was the same as for me and for them, it was really important to feel being part of…an identity. There’s different generations that go back from 2007…is it? Yes. From 2007 until now. I think the idea of the crew or the family…is roots really…it’s really the most important for me when it comes to a crew. You know? It’s not only the dance side, but it’s to be able to…for anything in life, to be able to go back to that root.
IA: Could you talk a little bit about lineage? Lineage in terms of both your Hip Hop lineages and your choreographic lineages.
CB: Lineage as in?
IA: If you imagine a Hip Hop family tree, your mother and father, brothers and sisters…your children. Who and where did you learn from with dance and Hip Hop?
CB: OK…so when I started…back then it’s about…it was more that my mum couldn’t really look after me because she was quite busy with work, so after school she would just put me in those youth clubs. That’s where I started to like sports, but also dance. As a kid, I just wanted to do ballet…because that’s what, for me, dance was…the only dance classes that was offered in those youth clubs were Hip Hop and street. Even before that, I would say, my first, first teacher was my dad. Back in the Philippines he was a ballroom dancer and in our culture and in our family, music and dance has always been around. But I grew up in a generation where pop music was really big, so dance was really related to pop artists, modern Hip Hop artists. Hip Hop artists and the dance that was related to it, I discovered it first through TV, through MTV and from music videos and all of that. Especially in the nineties, there was loads of dance in those videos. And then…yeah, I started to discover, I would say street in general…everything was more visual, either as I said like movies or music videos so with Septième SenS for example we were really watching VHS back then and we were just trying to copy and imitate. We would create through it, so there was absolutely nothing in terms of style, there was nothing that was said that made us like ‘OK, we are Hip Hop dancers,’ or ‘We’re B-Boys and B-Girls,’ or ‘We’re poppers,’ and things like that. We were just doing everything that we were seeing. Now, I would say, for Hip Hop, first it was really the relationship to the music, cause it was the genre that I was really, really listening to. So discovering a dance that was really based on that music, for me, it was natural. It didn’t feel like ‘Oh, I have to learn this?’ On the contrary, the other styles, either it was like…either it was B-Boying or funk styles or even house, these were music that I was really not familiar and that didn’t touch me at the beginning. So for me it was really hard to relate the dance with the music. It took me time and it took me…also like…just work and research and discussion and for mentors to sit me down and go like ‘OK, just so you know that everything that your listening to comes from this and this and this and this,’ you know? My first mentor was Karl Kane Wung back in France…who…same as Nasty, he was from the OGs in France. He was part of If, he was part of the Boogie Lockers. His generation was really based on New Jack Swing, but at that time when I met him he was more like…into popping and locking and through him, that’s when we met Storm as well, who would train us and introduce us to Hip Hop theatre but also like to breaking, going deeper and house and through Karl…our first house teacher was Zoheir/R-Zo who’s a DJ, but still a dancer, a club head. Basically he was just invited to teach us some basics and he ended up like…choreographing a show for us in house. It was the same for house, we started to research but at the time as well, there was more club nights because we were still young and underage but there was loads of parties, loads of Hip Hop parties, loads of like house parties that we could join and take part in…that’s also how it was easier to get into the culture and to get to know the community. And then…late nineties…that’s when Brian came, Brian Green was invited in France by Pambe. That was the first time that we were actually learning from someone outside of France and was part of another generation. I remember that that really made us want to go to New York and so our generation is really a generation from the nineties, the early nineties generation is the generation that learned from the OGs in France and the OGs in the States. We were quite lucky to have that…that information back then. So there’s a lot of mentors that really like…had an…input in term of either inspiration or activation or were informative. Karl was the first but more like in street, as in knowing the different styles…under the umbrella, the subgenres, the music, all of that. Then obviously Nasty…and then Yugson, cause back then, like in early 2000 he did a girls’ crew, called ‘Next Level’. Again Marion was dancing with me in Septième SenS, we were both in Next Level as well. That crew was like, mainly Hip Hop and house, like Septième SenS, but just with girls. It was another approach, another understanding. But as much as there’s really important figures that came along in my beginning, I would say…everything that was not related to education, as in class or workshop really helped me. So either going out, sessions, parties, clubs, like going to clubs and being underage, having big ideas like going to New York, not being twenty-one and going to parties…all these things…was part of my education…in getting to know those styles and the culture as well. For house…so, until now, if you hear most of the people that I came across, or most of the people…most of the figures that I had in my early career were men. But the first, first teacher that I had was Elsa, and she was teaching street and that’s how we met with Karl because Karl and the Boogie Lockers were just training in the other side, in the room next to her. So she’s really the one that put us with the basics…that’s how we discovered different styles. I think we stayed with her…we found her and she took us…it was more regular classes for a year or two and then after that we started with Karl, Karl took us under his wing. That was the first female figure right at the beginning, and then later on…early 2000s was Marjory Smarth, who passed away a few years ago, when she judged at Juste Debout. Again it was the first female figure on the judging panel and it was also like the first Juste Debout…that had overseas prelims as well. Even though we met her in New York back then, I think at Juste Debout just having a proper chat with her and also being less young and understanding more clearly what was the purpose and what was our purpose in this community and this culture, it really had an impact…in…in being a woman in this culture and this community. This is something that I didn’t understand back then, but now when I’m thinking of it, that was also important timing. Voila.
IA: We’ll get back to questions of women in Hip Hop later on.
IA: Within your current or past networks, who are the three people that have nourished and supported you most?
CB: [pause] Wow.
IA: This is about giving props, it doesn’t have to be within the dance or the Hip Hop world, it could be wider than that…but it’s three only.
CB: And it’s three only? [pause] That has nourished my dance?
CB: [long pause] I’m sorry, I have to think! [laughs] I have to think to choose properly. [long pause] I would go with…OK, two that are not related to dance and one that is. The first one is my dad, just because of everything I’ve said. Nourish because of how dance and music was really presented as something that not only nourished my growth but nourished my curiosity, like really. When I was young, I was always dancing and for me it was completely normal. Also the other side, why for me he nourished my interest in dance…I lost my dad when I was sixteen, so it was also a time where I was starting to actually really dance and knowing that it was what I wanted to do. He never got to see me as a professional dancer, so for me, always having that in mind has been a thing where I was like OK, knowing that he didn’t really see me, is even more of a driver for me to really…to push things even more in my art. The second one would be Karl…just because he gave tools and information, again I was really young and not ready to handle all this information, all this training and all this drilling. That took me years to actually understand the purpose of it, cause I always said …he trained us in a way that at some point, I didn’t want to dance no more. I didn’t understand the purpose of what we were doing. But I also know that the way I work now or even the way I teach is so, so much based on that. I always go back into thinking that it was a struggle, that it was a burden back then. To try and find the joy or the fun in something that we chose to do, but at the same time he really set an ethic, a work ethic, but also the curiosity…like just thinking outside of the box. Outside of just a simple movement. I think the passion of…cause we were training, we were training all night, we could train all night doing the same step. Who? Who does that? [laughs] Imagine like if you’re fourteen, fifteen and you’re just doing that…and all you wanna do is, do loads of things. I think that work ethic that he…put in us and the values of this culture, these are things that really nourished me when I started to teach. Again, these were not things that I understood as a student, but I understood maybe like ten, fifteen, twenty years later…when I started to teach and…related it to my approach, my approach to dance. Having taught I’m like ‘Oh, that’s what he meant now. I get it’. The third one…I really like…how do you say? It is between three people, three artists. Obviously I grew up with music on TV. Music videos. I really grew up with music videos, with CDs and music magazines. It means having the visual…video clips, having a CD, something that is real, that you touch, that you arrange, that you clean, that you look at, you know? Music magazines…we had something when we were young that was called ‘Star Club’. The two last pages of this magazine were lyrics of pop songs…so for me, all of this was a package like, ‘OK, we have the music video, and the CD that you would repeat and take care of it and then you have the magazine to actually learn the lyrics, learn your lyrics.’ But all of that for me really nourished my movement as in like working it, listening to it…listening repeatedly to it, but also learning it and go like ‘Oh, that’s what she’s saying, that’s what she’s talking about,’ you know. But I think… [long pause] Hmm. I think I’ll go with Janet, I’ll go with Janet Jackson. It was either Janet Jackson, Madonna or Paula Abdul. Right now I’m talking about mid-eighties, from eighty-seven to maybe mid-nineties. I think back then, it was also something that I was relating femininity with, ‘OK, they danced like this,’ and again, it was like, I think it was the natural balance of real life. I was trained by men and I was watching…what I was attracted to were woman movements or women gestures. I’ll go with those three.
IA: Thank you. What was the first Hip Hop theatre work that you saw?
CB: [pause] I don’t know if it’s the first one, but the first one that really slapped me was…the Storm and Jazzy Project, his ex-wife’s show. They came to France and I remember Choream was doing the first part and then…the second part was Storm and Jazzy but there was also Flying Steps already in there, in that show. That was mind-blowing. I feel like it’s not the first one because by then in France we already had two Festivals La Villette and Suresnes, who were really showcasing Hip Hop theatre work. But, with that first piece that I saw of Storm it was really something where I felt he didn’t compromise anything…from the movement, the music, everything was exactly what I’ve learned in class or dance with my people, or trained or seen in videos. For me there was nothing that shifted when it was put on a stage. But at the same time, it was the creativity of going so far with such simple ideas…I don’t know if that’s the first one, but it’s the first one in my head…and is late nineties or early 2000s? Maybe late nineties?
IA: You’ve explored it a little bit so far, but the idea of Hip Hop and house as craft, as a practice, could you talk about that?
CB: Already in France there’s always been something with Hip Hop and house where most of the Hip Hop dancers used to do house from my generation or even the elders. Hip Hop dancers were also doing house so it always seemed to be something that goes together, even though it’s two different styles. But also…many other styles would dance on house music…so there’s already that. In terms of craft, you mean in term of practice?
IA: Yeah, that constant practice, the building, getting it, drilling it, grooving it into your body.
CB: Yeah…I would say it’s finding the balance between…I wanted to dance because I wanted to move. My parents wanted me to dance because I was hyperactive, so it was the easiest ‘Get her tired, so she can sleep at night’. So…it was already liberating, that energy, too much energy…that’s already there. But on the other side there’s the fun, the fun of just moving to music that you like. The third thing is doing it around people that you like. If you connect to that, then for me, that’s the base. Then comes the content…as in drilling and that’s where it was something different because, before I was mentored, I just wanted to dance, I wanted to move and I wanted to look cool. I wanted to look like the people I was seeing on videos. That’s it. There was nothing more. I didn’t have any purpose or mission in my life. I just wanted to look cool, with people who looked cool. That was it, you know? I think what was important is having that before I started to really get into a deep training, cause if I started with a deep training, I think it would have been really hard for me to let go. Whereas here, because I came from something so careless and free, when it came back to this, all I wanted is to be free again. I think the thing that kept me like this for…for sometime was just the awareness, the awareness of like ‘OK, now that you know things, are you becoming more judgemental of the things that are not right?’ Because now it’s almost like, ‘OK, you know that this is right, this is wrong.’ Like kids…you’re always aware of trying to do right and you’re scared to do wrong. I think it’s…in terms of when you drill something so much, without having that recklessness or that freedom before, of just moving…then I think it can be really hard to find yourself. And to go like, ‘OK, this is what everyone is doing and this is what I’m doing, so am I wrong or am I right in my own bubble?’ When it comes to…house or Hip Hop or any style really I think what is important is to always go back to why we’re training, why are we even dancing first. I always think that technique is mandatory and important, especially if you feel the responsibility of it, if at some point you have the responsibility to share the knowledge. Just in term of clarity. I had this discussion not long ago about…elders, our elders. For them it was pushing us to do things without really explaining because they lived it. For them it was something so organic, you know it was…they came in a time where dance was revolutionary and it was their way to express it. But they’ve never really been asked to vocalise it, because it was just movement. So, when it came to pass it on, it was also like…’Do it!’ You know? And because we come from a different generation, it was like ‘We do it on our own but…if we come and we learn then we need a structure because that’s how humans go.’ I think that it is super important learning your craft, to be able to pass it on to people who maybe didn’t have the opportunity or have not had the opportunity to just dance, just dance for no reason, or go out for no reason…being able to be clear and articulate in a way that when you’re explaining it also makes more sense. Rather than just going in peoples faces and saying ‘Yeah be real,’ you know, like ‘What does it mean, be real?’ ‘Release!’ ‘What do you mean, release?’ like you know. ‘Have groove!’ ‘OK, but what’s groove??’ All of that, I think throughout the years the more you teach the more you see the gaps as in ‘Oh, OK.’ Of course I didn’t understand it because no one explained it to me like that, so now I completely understand that some other people have this interrogation. Did I go too far on this?
IA: No, that was great. We can go as deep and as long as you want.
CB: [laughs] Alright.
IA: How does house manifest on and in your body?
CB: It didn’t manifest a lot at the beginning to be honest, cause as I said it was something that was not touching me, the music was not touching me, so the movement was coming like…it was not bouncing on me, but it was like [makes noise] I was just doing it but I was not expressing it. I think my trip in New York was really…our first trip was ’98? ’97, no ’98 or ’99. Yeah ’98. I think it was watching and witnessing the social side of the dance, but also having people who were my mum’s age dancing, for me it was like, ‘Oh, that’s what they meant’. When our mentors are, when our elders were telling us like ‘Oh but you know in clubs and things,’ these were things that ‘Oh that sounds cool, that sounds cool,’ it sounds cool until you actually see it. So for me like…I don’t know…for a long time there was codes that I was learning, I was trying to express as much as I could in my own way. But I think it…I always say this about French dancers wanting to be so unique and so original, so for us even if we were looking up to someone, for us it was like ‘Uh, you’re dope but, I want to be like you but different’. Always like ‘I don’t want to be like you you, cause that would mean I’m copying you.’ Even though all of us copy and imitate at the beginning, so we’re able to embody and like release it in another way. But…at the beginning I was really trying to digest information, technical information, musical information and cultural information around me and see how it was going out. I think house or any other style, I started to embody when I started to make peace with myself, as in like… ‘OK, maybe I’m not moving like you, but it’s OK.’ Rather than ‘Oh they haven’t done this. They’re doing this, this is what I need to do.’ This thing of trying to feed or trying to adapt or to be part of something…as soon as I made peace ‘OK, this is me, you know, this is me, I’m not gonna get taller, I’m not gonna get more thin, I’m not gonna do this…I’m not gonna do some power moves,’ when I was in peace with all of that, then I was like ‘Oh’ I felt really comfortable with it. I remember something that Tijo/ Tijo Aime is a French dancer and DJ told me…in the late nineties or early 2000s, he told me something that it took a decade before I really understood it…it was like ‘Oh, but…when I see you dancing,’ he told me ‘When I see you dancing, I see you.’ I was like ‘Yeah, of course. You see me cause I’m dancing so. It’s me.’ But he was like ‘No, when I see you dancing…I can see that you’re…’ He was talking about honesty… ‘Because when I talk to you, it’s exactly the same as when I watch you dancing.’ That was too deep for me then… ’I’m not sure what you’re saying’. But again, when I started to teach, when I started to judge, when I started to watch people and watch people that I knew…that’s when it clicked like ‘Oh, that was what he was saying.’ Dance for a lot of artists is being able to express your alter ego. That character that can’t come out or is too shy to come out. Even your alter ego still has loads of your traits, for sure. As soon as I understood that, for me it was something, I wanted to keep that. At no point I wanted people to watch me dancing and if they talk to me, they go like ‘Woah, you’re so different.’ Here’s people that are like that, you know, you talk to them, they’re a certain way and then you see them in another atmosphere and it’s completely changed. I think for me it was really something that I wanted to keep in my dance, even though I didn’t really know how to do it yet…but yeah, I remember being young and go like ‘Did you find me honest?’ I didn’t even know what it meant, to be honest. But like…’Did you find me honest?’ People were like, ‘What do you mean?’ and like ‘Did you think that I lied?’ I don’t know, let’s say in the prelim, ‘Did you think I lied?’ But also thinking that I was more aware of…’You know what, today I’m gonna lie.’ And fully embrace it. It’s just same as when you wake up and you have a bad day but…you have to put a smile on your face and get going, it’s the same. That’s how it goes through my body and holds…that’s how it goes out, that’s how it’s being projected…but it’s super hard to think of…being clear, or being vocal on something that you feel that is organic. Cause you feel it…it’s a bit like falling in love, you fall in love…what does it…why do you know that you fall in love? I don’t know, I just feel like [makes noise] I just feel tense when I see this person or…I stutter or…but there’s no thing as in like, because my third vertebrae is going like this and I feel my neck is turning forty-five…there’s nothing that rational where I could say like ‘Oh, this is how it touched me’.
IA: In terms of you as a teacher and a sharer of knowledge. Can you talk about, both the formal ways at University of East London - you giving lectures and sharing that way, but also as somebody in the community sharing knowledge. What are your methodologies and your relationship to the idea of sharing?
CB: Teaching in an organisation or an institution, especially an educational institution, it’s completely different than teaching a workshop or regular class. First because it’s part of a programme so most of them might not even be interested in house or Hip Hop…Hip Hop yes, but house definitely not. They know that they have to tick boxes and it’s the same for…this is uni but there’s also Swindon CAT which is a pre-vocational programme. They’re younger so like…seventeen, just like before uni. Even for them, even if it’s under an educational format, it’s also different. Just because of the age, because of how they train outside, how they don’t really like house, it’s like ‘Oh, OK, it’s fun. It’s hard, but it’s fun’. At that pre-vocational age, ‘house is not my problem’. Like, ‘I just need to pass this…but it’s not my problem’. So even that approach for me was like really…I had to go for what they liked, to make them like house and not go like ‘OK guys, this is house. This is house music, this is the bpm of house, it’s fast yeah and the steps are just as fast’. But it was like to go back to the styles that they liked, which is mainly Hip Hop or Lite Feet or popping or B-Boying…to relate those things and relate the technique or content of my classes to some of the techniques or some of the vocabulary of those styles, so that they have something to mirror and bounce from…first it was that. Musically speaking, I go with Swindon again, it was more like ‘Research a house track that you like. What makes you like that track?’ And it doesn’t have to be deep but electronic music in the UK is big, any age, listen to any genre, any time, any electronic music whether it’s grime or trap, but just understanding that there’s so much more under the umbrella of electronic music than that, it makes you a bit more…affiliated to house as in like ‘Oh OK, it’s the same thing as this, OK’. So having that relationship to music, having that bridge between their own styles or the styles that they’re more familiar and comfortable with and house. So that’s Swindon…but it’s a lot of mental…psychological work. Because at that age you can easily go ‘Meh! I don’t like it’. OK, did you taste it? ‘No, but I just don’t like it.’ It’s also going to something as in not forcing it…but trying to find the things that they like. Just in general, in life, try to find even the smallest thing that I could link to house music or house culture or a house figure. For me I’m using house and Hip Hop for students to have a better knowledge of their body…more than becoming house or Hip Hop dancers. Every student can go to any class…outside of that educational format…so what is important for me is to deliver something that can complete that practice, that personal practice for them. Rather than do the same thing they could learn elsewhere. But having this approach to house dance, not only like a style that is being put in a box, but a style that is also related to other styles…depending on the year I can always relate what I am doing with the other styles that they are learning in that term. I can bounce back as well as in like ‘Oh, you’ve done this in contemporary, this in popping, this in dancehall.’ For them it’s like ‘Oh, OK. So maybe I didn’t understand…I don’t understand it with you, but because I understand it with them then now I can sort of embody it.’ For me uni is…the knowledge that I’m trying to share is having body awareness knowledge and music knowledge. When I say ‘music knowledge’ it’s not to be able to…learn how to read music, but to be able to read music through your dance. So…yeah, just, just, just that more than like…yeah being…just knowing how to read actual music. I’m using those foundations and foundational styles more towards that.
IA: And how do you share knowledge and experience outside of formal education settings?
CB: Hmm. I would say it depends, for example, after we got back to lockdown, I restarted to teach my monthly classes…before the first lockdown I was teaching one class a month and it was two hours…before the pandemic time I was like ‘If I do one class per month then I really want it to be a free session’. Sometimes two hours…you give as much as you can, but people might not have time to get really get into it or develop…myself, I can be frustrated if I cannot be able to go deeper than what I wanna do, so I was already thinking of ‘Oh, I think I’m gonna do four hours classes.’ Just so that we can really deep in. So now, people who come to class, they also know more or less how I work, how I train and how I teach. Even now my monthly class, even though I’ve stopped, I really fuse Hip Hop and house and when I say ‘fuse’ I fuse the technique. Not the vocabulary. The technique as in like, OK…how can someone who’s really into Hip Hop come to my class for four hours and listen to three hours of house without feeling that they are just doing house.’ And vice versa. So it’s like bridging those styles musically and technically…in a less informal way. I would say that it’s quite a lot of drills still, because as much as I hated it when I was young, I still think that it’s super-efficient. [laughs] It’s quite a lot of drills, a few musical exercises, but a lot about core control. Whatever I do, it’s always based on sitting, sitting and feeling your weight on the ground, feeling your pelvis on the ground…and then move around that. I would say that’s base, my pelvis is my base in my dance and in my teaching as well.
IA: From you as a teacher to you as a choreographer. There’s been things like…in the early days the duet with Cindy at Breakin’ Convention, ‘7STEPS Creation Lab, Black Jack Clubbing. Could you talk about some of those works that you’ve authored and choreographed?
CB: [pause] OK. So first, back then for example, even with Septième SenS…it’s how we used to train, we would train but it’s not we would just train, we would always end up doing routines. So I think the first steps of creating came from it, like ‘OK, we train. Let’s do a routine’. That was how training was going. whereas now it’s more like ‘OK, we train. Let’s go to a cypher’. Back then we would always end up like, ‘Let’s do two eights, four eights…’ So the idea of creating was already something there…throughout the groove it was also different, choreographing a showcase to…choreographing a theatre piece. I think these were the things that although quite young we were already quite aware of, ‘This is just a showcase…we go full out, blah, blah, blah…this is more of a creative work so we have to write, sit down, create this, this, and this’. I would say back then with Septième SenS we did Suresnes…so that was our first…Hip Hop theatre show, as in it was having a theme, having a scenography, having lights, all of that. After I came here…before that…working with Storm was something that really influenced my way of seeing Hip Hop theatre. I’m talking about the first one that I saw, but I also did two productions with him…I’ve always been amazed how he would come with the simplest idea and make it on stage. I think that that has always been something that really stayed in my head as an artist like ‘If I create, this is how I wanna create. I want to take the most simplest idea and turn it as much as I can on stage, creatively speaking.’ In 2008…we’ve been blessed with Cindy to be able to create a duet for Breakin’ Convention. For us it was ‘OK what is it that we want to bring?’ We were coming from two different styles, so it was like ‘OK, how do we show it? What’s interesting? What kind of storyline do we want to come with?’ Then the other one was ‘7 Steps’. I think that was a European project where they took different choreographers to work with specific crews in Europe. Is it that?
CB: I worked in alliance with X-Change group and what I did…they already had a performance…so because they already had it and it’s hard to come in as someone from outside and go like ‘OK, we gotta work on something. You don’t know me, I don’t know you and we have like a week…’ For me it’s so important to know people…and when I say ‘know people’ it’s to understand their energy. Cause I work with that, I work with bouncing energy from each other. I didn’t want to choreograph something that would be me on bodies that are not used to my way of moving or not used to my way of writing dance, which would have meant that they would be compromising their own artistry. So we reworked a piece that they already had and what I did is I took two elements of that show and developed it. I developed it and I really loved the process of it…it was intense but it was interesting. The first thing that comes to mind when I’m thinking of working like that is also the human side of it, the connection…from there I make new friends that are still in my life now. For me that’s what it is about when you start doing this kind of work. Then Blackjack…in Blackjack the main choreographer is Eric Rickysoul, but we all share different ideas…but the writing is him. It’s really his ideas as in he really has his own visions on things that he wants to see. Eric has a specific way of moving, that is completely different from what we could think of as house dance. So it was important that he could express that through different bodies, so it’s mainly him even though we had input here and there. I don’t know if there was like other ones?
IA: Is there anything that you want to talk about, again within this frame of you as author and creator of things? Are there other performances from your archive that you think ‘I enjoyed that or…’?
CB: Yeah. I’m thinking of ‘Mind The Gap’ with IndaHouse that we created for House Dance Crossing 2018. That is still a work-in-progress because we’re hoping to be able to re-work the piece…like, have a residency and work deeply. We know each other so we can work quite quickly together, but it would be good to really sit and dig deep into this concept. Other stuff that I enjoyed ‘Dolls of Dreams’ with Quality Street, we had a trio with dolls...I really like that piece. I really enjoyed the process of it and performing it. I think I loved it because I was performing it with two friends, we were just like…we were a headache for the last year but were living our life and having the best time every time we were on stage together. What else I’ve enjoyed? We did Back to the Lab with B-Boy Mouse and it was more of a tribute to our Filipino roots…I really loved the process of it, the learning process and the assistance that was given to us.
IA: You’ve mentioned the cypher a couple of times. It’s a really interesting space the cypher - it happens socially, in clubs, in training, in sessions. You also did the ‘IndaCypher’ the workshops as well. The circle and the cypher are such a crucial part of Hip Hop culture and it would be good to hear you talk about your relationship to the cypher and what is it for you.
CB: We created the ‘IndaCypher’ workshop a couple of years ago. I remember having this discussion, mainly with IndaHouse, as in like reading cyphers for years. I always give this example of my first cypher. My first cypher, I was maybe sixteen, something like that, maybe not sixteen. [pause] Maybe seventeen or eighteen? We already used to go to clubs with my friends and they would go to cypher and I would be their hype girl. I would dance in the club, but I wouldn’t go in a cypher. People knew that I was a dancer and we’d dance with them, but I would not go in a cypher, I was really, really shook about it. Then one day…one day I’ve been pushed in the cypher, forced to go in the cypher. And little by little, the cypher opened up, people started to walk away while I was dancing, and that was…that was the worst experience in my career, but at the same time the strongest experience, as in, that was the motivational point where it was like ‘Hold on, what do you mean you didn’t watch me dancing?’ I’m gonna do everything for you to watch me, but that was…that night, that was my purpose. I woke up the next day and I had another [purpose]. It was really something where it was…uh, I was not good enough. I was not good enough. I think that throughout the years…the cypher has…like you said, has becoming so much part of training, a community vibe, a gathering. There’s always this thing of sharing…the idea of empathy, all of this, whereas I didn’t learn cypher like that. I learnt cypher from you own your space in the cypher, and if you don’t know own it, then you don’t go in. You wait for someone to tell you that you’re allowed to come in. So, for me it was really interesting to watch throughout the years…cyphers where…some people who are really close to me would tell me like, ‘Why you don’t come in that cypher?’ I was like, ‘Because I don’t feel it’. I need a purpose to go in, not even a purpose, as in the music or things like that, but for me even in the ‘IndaCypher’ workshop we are talking about a secret code to the uncode. If there’s no purpose already or if there’s no code to be uncoded, then for me there’s no reason for me to go in. Unless I decide to initiate a code, but sometimes you just want to read a code and try and uncode it. For me it was really understanding the responsibility of someone, either you’re inside or outside the cypher and I think that most of the time when people are thinking of cypher, they’re thinking of the responsibility of the person in the middle. Not the responsibility of the rest of the people. For us…IndaHouse when we’re sharing things we like in the cypher, it’s really about that…it’s not only sharing the rules of cypher, which most of people know, if you watch a B-Boy cypher you understand the rules, but maybe more in a rough way. Maybe like, when you have top dance cyphers, sometimes it’s…as I said, it’s more welcoming, it’s more friendly. Which is cool and I’m not saying it shouldn’t be friendly, but I think it’s, it’s more giving those tools to people to read the cypher. More than an understanding, ‘OK now I know what a cypher is I can jump in.’ It’s like ‘OK, what do you have to put on the table? Alright, is that table for you? There’s a conversation happening now…are you even aware of what they’re talking? You just wanna jump in?’ For me that’s always what I said…you have two friends laughing from a joke and you come in and you laugh without even hearing the joke. For me it’s exactly like that, the cypher is that and you have people who haven’t heard the joke but they come in and they want to laugh with everyone. And you’re just like, ‘No, you can’t, you don’t even know. Maybe it was not even a joke.’ And also it’s understanding that sometimes a cypher is actually a private conversation. Are you gonna be a party-pooper and come into this private conversation, would you do that in real life? No. So, for me it’s understanding that, and understanding the cypher more…especially for young people…understanding what made them scared of the cypher. Their responsibility is on them when they get in, but throughout…that’s why for two years now I’m really trying to have... ‘IndaCypher’ has mentoring during the programme as well. Riding it…reading it and understanding it, the mentoring gives them the tools for when they go to sessions. Not only that, like ‘Oh I want to burn the cypher’. You might enter one cypher and burn the whole place. You know? It’s that…that idea of reading the cypher that is main idea with the workshop.
IA: What do you want to dismantle in Hip Hop?
CB: What I want to dismantle in Hip Hop… [long pause] Dismantle as in break down to rebuild? Yeah? OK. [pause] In Hip Hop in general…
IA: Hip Hop first and then house.
CB: Oh OK, hmm. [pause] I don’t know, I think Hip Hop is going quite well. [pause] There’s always things where you go ‘Mah! It’s not the same,’ or ‘Argh, this could be better,’ but like I feel…it goes with its mistakes but there’s always something good coming from it. I feel like it’s also a style that really lives by it roundness and it’s freedoms. Even if people would try to put things on it or try to fit it in something…it’s such a resilient dance. There’s always gonna be pure hearts that will want to have it like the way it is, no matter what. I feel there’s not much…hmm. [long pause] I would say this…it’s more maybe me coming from another generation that is being ‘Mah!’ but this is for Hip Hop, I would say having music only for that style.
IA: What does that mean?
CB: For example having just battle beats, Hip Hop battle beats…not because I think that there’s loads of artists that are really dropping fire everywhere at the moment…but back then we were dancing, we were dancing and battling on music that was already on TV, so obviously the level or the consistency of the music is not the same as back then. Sometimes it feels that it just goes to a certain type of pattern…of bpm, you know. There’s so much more out there. It’s not really something to dismantle, I think it’s more something for people to be aware. Dance goes with the music and I think right now there’s a kind of come back of the lo-fi beats, coming back to something much more chill and slower as well but with a beat base…I just speak out loud and I’m not sure it makes sense.
IA: It makes sense.
IA: Yeah. Is there anything that you want to dismantle in house?
CB: [long pause] I don’t know if it’s to dismantle something in the culture about house but more of how people see it. I had this discussion yesterday about how hard it is for a street dancer to make a living as an artist, without having to be…you can’t just be average. You’re either good in what you’re doing and then you can create opportunities or you’re smart and you still create opportunities wherever, but…I was explaining yesterday that it must be like that in other street dance styles…but house is a style that is so hard to find in commercial. In commercial for example, in auditions they’re gonna look for Hip Hop, for a krumper, for a waacker, for a vogue dancer, for a popper, for a…but not for a house dancer. Even for things where there’s electronic house music. So it’s already something that…I feel that is hard if you’re not living out of house through teaching or through choreographing or things like that. Yesterday we were also talking about the fact that there’s something about house that people find it super hard. Either it’s the kicking and the spinning or maybe the speed, but there’s something that they find hard…for example, our mentorship programme, if you look at it, house looks like…I’m just like talking UK now…it looks like the style that loads of people, young people love to learn, but at some point will detach themselves from it and will shift to another style. For us it’s trying to understand the why of that. Is it something that goes with having not enough job access when you’re just doing house? Is it something that becomes at some point super hard…because with other styles you can get average, but with house you might not get any interest to teach or to judge or things like that. I felt through the years house had more difficulty…for people to hold onto it, not to sacrifice everything, but not to be like, ‘Are we gonna make it?’ It’s not something to dismantle but I think it’s something for everyone to think of and be included; these are questions that I’m always asking myself. Like ‘Are we doing the right job?’ Cause maybe we are not…maybe we think we are good but maybe we are not good enough to actually get people to maintain this. When we were talking about this I was thinking of Lite Feet and the big interest there is, initially through the young generation…and it looks like that these kids…in the five next year, if Lite Feet Nation UK grow the culture the way they are doing, I’m pretty sure that in five, ten years these kids are gonna grow up with such a strong base in Lite Feet…and I was thinking of that with house. I know there’s people that teach kids and youth, but how do you maintain it until they grow up? Until they’re actually…they’ve actually found that what they want to do is house…taking it more seriously in term of training. How do we get keep that interest until then? That’s my daily question. [laughs]
IA: House has a real relationship to depth and endurance as it requires both a physical and mental stamina. For you what is house’s relationship to repetition and all these things and how has it evolved?
CB: First it has evolved from clubs into battles. Already this jump and gap was huge, even musically speaking. This is what I always said, at the beginning in battles, people didn’t understand what was going on because a house track is…you have some house tracks that ten, fifteen, seventeen minutes long, so in battles they used to play the track from the top. So you would have intros and dead moments in the middle of battles. Obviously people would dance with it, but when you think about it…as a DJ you try and play tracks in some places and whilst people should dance anywhere in the track, even the audience could feel it you know. This jump from…how do you put in one minute a dance that took five hours in the club before people let go? Let go and that’s if they’re sober. How are you expecting people to actually reach the floor…in one minute? I think that’s where the shift of the battle from the beginning of when house entered the battle…where house dancers understood that it became a competition. As much as it’s an exchange in clubs and things like that…as spiritual thing, when it comes to the battleground…it needed to shift somehow. I think that’s where the shift went…people from the club going into battles and understanding how to adapt. Then another generation started when house was just in battle. From that point…you have to go to clubs to understand and again it’s exactly what we were talking about at the beginning with learning, how you learn. To let go is really hard. If you go like this in the battle, as in go hard…you’re going for it cause you’re in a battle, then you have to release and actually to accept that release and that you can go slower without losing any impact or any intention. It’s another world. I think that has been such a shift, the approach of the dance…and also when house started to be taught. It’s also different…us teachers, we’re going ‘OK, after class we go to this bar and we dance’. OK, alright. It was something like this at the beginning when we created Indahouse, it was something that we used to do, we do workshop and everyone comes to the club after. But specifically with house, when you just learn it in studio it can be really hard…hard to understand the intricacies and the subtleties of this dance and the depth of the dance. Did I answer that?
IA: You did, it was about the evolution, depth etc.
CB: The evolution now is…another evolution…I mean it’s great cause I would say it’s still in the evolution, like anything, it’s gonna die and rebirth again. I think right now is a great time for house, there’s so much bridging between music and dance, whereas before there was music and dance…but there was not this knowing. Now there’s so much where dancers produce and producers hyping up dancers, there’s more of this connection and exchange happening.
IA: You’ve mentioned it a couple of time already, but battles and judging. As a judge I’m interested in your thoughts on the role and responsibility of a judge and what is it that you look for?
CB: The role and responsibility is bigger than what people think. I remember back then…I think it was Bruce actually…when we were on tour we were talking about this, this was like early 2000s and I remember Storm saying like ‘Yeah, I don’t.’ He hated to judge because of that responsibility, when he was explaining, it’s not that you’ll know more in this thing but it was ‘Oh, it’s the name, he’s a star, that’s why he’s judge.’ It’s almost like being a part of a…how do you call it in a court?
IA: The jury?
CB: Yeah, the jury! It’s exactly that. So if you send someone to death, you’re responsible for it. How do you live with that? Obviously it’s another layer and level, but it’s also that…what makes your choice relevant at that moment? For the event, but also for the dancer. I think in terms of role and responsibility…it’s big, it’s way more than, just ‘OK, sit there and your name is gonna attract other people’. I always say the best dancer is not the best judge. The best dancer is not the best teacher. It’s also like taking the responsibility of being held accountable to something after, you know, more than just like, ‘Oh, I did my job.’ I think the responsibility is…I would say it’s like freestyle, it’s honesty. The best freestyle is when people let go and show vulnerability as in ‘OK, this is me and…you like me, it’s OK. You don’t like me then, I’m sorry.’ But I think it’s that, that honesty of like, ‘Oh, these are my people’. Oh yeah. ‘I’m going with the other side.’ It’s also positioning yourself. I think that in life in general, it’s always risky to position yourself, I think people prefer to be neutral and go like ‘Oh but I can be friends with you and with you, so I can take a little bit of you and a little bit of you’. But if you start going ‘I’m here.’ Then it’s a position, which means that the person here can already be pointed at here and go like ‘You don’t like me’. I think the positioning is like…it’s the responsibility, that heavy responsibility. What I’m looking for…I don’t know, there’s not really specific things…I look a lot on the moment. Again like…without like sounding corny cause I don’t know how people can’t be honest or not in their dance but what I felt was more in the moment. And it happened to me too, judge for people that I…I less liked the style, but was more present not only in terms of energy, but musically speaking…a package really, there’s not really much of a structure or guide. I think that’s the beauty of having different judging panels, it’s subjective, it’s so subjective…to your own taste and what your position is.
IA: You mentioned Bruce.
IA: Your role with Juste Debout UK is well known, but can you talk about your origins with Bruce and Juste Debout and one memory from Juste Debout UK?
CB: Wow. Wow. OK. [pause] I would say…Bruce first. Bruce is a really close friend of mine…we met back when Storm took us on his tour, that’s why we really got close, that was early 2000s and since then we’ve always been like super close…I remember moving here, and we were already talking about Juste Debout and it started in 2002. From 2005, that’s when the international prelims started, and so we were already talking about a Juste Debout UK just before 2010. I remember saying ‘Oh, wait…’ I remember saying ‘Don’t give it to anyone, I’ll do it, but give me some time, just give me some time.’ Just because I wanted to bring something that would be good, you know, but I wanted the UK to be represented. At the beginning, most of the international prelims of Juste Debout, French people were winning it. They would travel and they would win and I’m French so was like, I’m good, I’m happy, but for me as a producer…as much as I wanted friends to win, I also wanted to have UK people representing UK in France. It was really something for me, I was like ‘I will do it Bruce.’ I knew that people had started to contact him to do the prelims and I was like ‘Wait, just wait, I’m not ready…’ I was still observing the scene and I was like ‘Wait, wait a little bit more’. So yeah, I took the chance in 2011, that was the first Juste Debout UK and this is like the most hardcore experience I had as a producer, cause before that I had never produced any event. So from not producing any event…to producing Juste Debout prelims in the UK. In my head I was really like ‘Oh, I know the event, I know dance…it’s cool’. But being a producer has nothing to do with knowing about dance, knowing the scene or even knowing Bruce. It was just ‘Ahhh hell, this…this is hard work’. But it was a successful one, like…really. That’s how I would say my relationship with Bruce…Bruce was talking about Juste Debout, back then there was no Juste Debout yet when we were on tour, he was talking about…he was talking about the idea of a competition while we were on tour. I remember…so it really goes way back. We were there since the beginning of Juste Debout in France, so we saw the growth, for me it was like the tribute to a friendship but also a tribute to an event that highlighted top dancers. Because before that, it was mainly B-Boy battles, some popping, some locking but for us new schoolers, for Hip Hop and house dancers it was…our first window to the competition side. My biggest memory… [pause] I don’t know, I want to say the first one cause that was hardcore. Like, pfft. I was not ready for that. I was definitely not ready for that…yeah. I thought I was, but after that first one, I was ready for everything. That first one really strengthened me, like really, really. In a lot of things. The first Juste Debout UK was an experience.
IA: Is there anything that you want to record or talk about that hasn’t been mentioned so far? It could be a memory, a person, an event, this is a space for you to set something down that’s important for you.
CB: Right now I don’t know. There must be things and people that I have forgot… [pause] A memory in general or…?
IA: It could be a memory…
CB: [pause] I don’t know. Maybe…how I settled down here in the UK…I feel like my progression into the UK scene came about because, back then for almost ten years I was just going back and forth. But my first year was…when I say ‘first year’, I would say first couple of years in the UK, not even living here but going back and forth…it was like a connection with the clubs here. Through dancers that were already here, French people who were already here. So D-Lo was here, Veusty was here and now in the Netherlands and Norman…who’s somewhere in Asia now, or the States. But they were my club, my club head homies. We would go to a club every night, I would come to London for a week or two and we would go Sunday to Sunday to clubs. I feel that that time was the time that made me want to move here. Obviously, a love story later I’m like ‘OK, I’m moving here.’ But the first two years was really being around these guys, there was also the Philly boys. The guys from Philly, with Marcus…Hussein, when I was coming here I was staying at theirs. So it was really this thing where…we were so reckless on a lot of stuff, we would go to the club, not sleep and go to the club again…you know. I think that time was really something, we revived the club head in me. That’s important to mention because without the vibe of those first two years, I’m not sure that I would have met my partner who was my partner for almost fifteen years, you know. Everything is so related…if those guys didn’t welcome me as like ‘OK come, OK we’re gonna go to this club. You’re ready, OK we go to the next one.’ Having that crazy club life for a year or two, I’m not sure like I would have fell in love with the city. Funnily enough, before I first came here, again going back to Storm and Bruce, these two were talking to me about London. Storm was already coming to London because of the B-Boy Champs and other stuff. He used to call me and go like ‘Ah, you should come here, you should come here.’ I was like ‘Yeah, yeah, maybe one day.’ Then Bruce came and he was here for the Mis-Teeq videos, he was here for a few months and the same, he told me like ‘Come’. I don’t even know why they called me to say like ‘Come’ cause back then…I had like no…no idea of even coming here. Coming here, obviously the French people really welcomed me, welcomed me in their club crew. It really changed my vision as well…creating the magic of London…and for me wanting to settle here.
IA: I’m interested in your relationship but also Hip Hop and house’s relationship to archiving and documenting itself. How do you archive and document your practice and how important is that?
CB: I’m really bad at it cause I don’t. I actually started with the mentorship, last year. I’ve always been super bad in keeping videos, or even asking for videos of me or of a show or things like that. I started to do it like super late and I think for a long time…I had friends that were doing it, so I didn’t feel like I had to do it. I never had that…that mentality or that habit. Now I do cause I need evidence for things, so I’m like ‘OK, we need to archive, we need to archive, we need to archive’. Also because…in my own teaching I use lots of archives…most of the archives that I’m showing, they’re raw archives. It’s not things that are set or things like that…it’s something that I regret not doing…I think at some point I’m just getting busy, that’s as much as I can go back to, but then at some point…if I don’t find it then I’m like ‘Wah!’ It’s a bit like, if you go to a…how do you say like? To this vintage shop, it’s either you want to seek for the piece or you can’t be bothered. Either you see something and it’s there, or it’s not. I’m a bit like that with archives.
IA: What are the archives you’re sharing when you teach?
CB: Either documentaries or videos or both. I try to show different elements from different countries and different eras. [pause] It goes…from club nights to jam sessions, to documentaries that are known…also, how do you call it? Interviews. I feel that throughout the years there has been way more documentaries and way more access to things because of the web. This is the example that we had, as in copying and imitating. Back then we were watching VHS videos. We had a deadline and you can’t just rewind and fast forward and watch it clearly so we were like, ‘OK if we watch it, we watch it from the top to the end, we can’t just rewind.’ Now you can stop, you can save…I think that the approach to information is completely different, that’s why I think I share information, I also like to give direction for students or anyone to do own research, cause it’s so much part of your own education. Especially music. You know, you like a track, then Shazam. For me it’s like, ‘OK you like this, this is the artist, this is the track, go and research.’ I feel that raw archives gives people who are working at it something more if they want to know more about an area or a specific dancer or a specific artist. That’s how it worked with me and I feel that’s also how it works with people I work with.
IA: 2020. You’ve done some really interesting things like House 2 House with the Philippines, more mentoring. Can you talk about how this year has been for you and what has changed?
CB: [pause] This year went super-fast. Cause when I’m looking at the beginning of the year, I was already in the deepness of Juste Debout. Preparing Juste Debout, it takes me maybe five to six months to prepare so I was in the middle of that and after one week it’s Juste Debout Paris. Juste Debout Paris for me is…the start of the pandemic. We were in Paris and Juste Debout got cancelled, a 20,000 person dance event with all the people coming to France and no event. We were there when he announced it, and we were just like ‘OK, so no more Juste Debout, but also the end of Juste Debout. It was like ‘Wow’. But by then corona was, corona was no one’s problem. In March it was ‘What do you mean Juste Debout is finished? Then I came back, went back to France in mid-March to judge a battle and that’s when the lockdown started in France. It started a week before the UK and it was a bit of a panic mode, the way it closed…it was just like ‘OK, we’re closing tonight. We’re closing tonight, everything closes tonight at midnight’. So at 9pm all the restaurants, everyone was already packing up to clean their places. It was a bit of an awkward atmosphere and then I came back here…I was really in this panic mode cause I had to teach in uni. I was like ‘What do you mean I have to go to uni? We need to lockdown, everyone is locking down.’ Funnily enough because we were together in Paris with Niki at that time, and Sweden never had a lockdown, when she came back from Paris, that same weekend she was in a panic mode. She was like in a fluster like ‘Why people are out?’ When I came back it was the same, it was like ‘Why is there people out? What are we doing out? Why are we in uni?’ I was really like, ‘Why do we do this, we shouldn’t be, we should be locked down’. Then lockdown hit and like any human being I was, at the beginning, I was scared of the lockdown. But I think I was scared to be with myself and not being able to handle it, maybe bored of myself. When you’re used to travelling as well, there’s this thing where you’re like ‘Yes or how do we do this…then suddenly you’re not travelling, what does it mean?’ Things like that. How are you gonna pay for this? How…you know? But actually it turned out to be a great time, I enjoyed my own company and I enjoyed being home. You know, all the things that I was really scared of, I really enjoyed. I like being busy so for me it was really OK, even if I’m locked down and I took the lockdown super-seriously as well, maybe a bit too seriously in the beginning. I was really, really tense about it. It was really this thing of like…OK…how am I gonna keep creative…how do I make my people still be busy…all of this. We started the mentorship online, we auditioned in January, but we always start two months later. So we started in March but started in the middle of the pandemic, it was like ‘OK, how do we give enough and how do we do this? For them not to feel that oh wow, what is this?’ I would say we had to rethink lots of content…but I think we came out being more busy than we used to be. With the mentorship we created, some of the mentees from this year and last year Indamusic, are people who are producing music…we just tried to keep going with the studio being closed, so with B.Supreme we tried to keep doing things…throughout the lockdown…it was a surprising year but it was a good year. But I can’t wait for 2021 though. I’m not saying like ‘Ah, let’s bring it on again,’ I’m not saying that. I’m saying that, for myself, it was not that bad.
IA: The relationship between mental health and self-care in Hip Hop. I’m interested in hearing your thoughts on that and any practices that you engage with to keep yourself mentally healthy.
CB: I’m a bit of a workaholic, so mental health goes with busyness. I try to balance it with self-care, as in I know that my mental health goes with being busy, being creative. But self-care is having…trying to have more than four hours sleep per night…I think my self-care has always been going with how I care about people, so if I feel that I’m caring and am with my people then I feel good. Now it’s like trying to be…a bit more selfish in the self-care, as in OK, you can’t do this as well. At some point self-care is yourself and caring about yourself, so stop trying to bounce off each other…if people are OK, then I’m OK, but what if you’re not OK, is everything OK then? I think my self-care has always been based on put your mask on yourself before you put the mask on the other one. It’s more like trying not to push too much on the capacity of my mental health. With Hip Hop, that’s my motor, that’s my engine, what all my creativity is based in, it’s because of what Hip Hop has brought to me all these years that I feel like I always want to be creative. Being given the possibility of creating something is my self-care and staying consistent.
IA: The role of women, women in Hip Hop and women in house. You’re a very visible leader within the community, with your work with B.Supreme and have been for many years. I’m interested to hear your thoughts on women and Hip Hop.
CB: It’s important. Even though I grew up, even though I’ve been surrounded by men and I’ve been trained by men, most of my mentors - again it was something that I didn’t understand back then - they all told me not to forget that I was a girl. As in like ‘When you dance, it’s you.’ For me it was like ‘Hmm, I know I’m a girl, it’s OK.’ But again, it was deeper…you are learning from men and men don’t move like women. Don’t ever compromise you being a woman because you’ve been trained by men. There was that but I’ve never…for example, I always say this, I’ve never felt, even if the scene has always been patriarchal and machist, it’s not something I felt growing. The thing that I felt was important throughout the years, was the importance of the sorority, the importance of women empowering women, which doesn’t mean that men don’t empower us but…it’s also having our bubble and being able to fix each others crown. Get out of this patriarchal system, but it doesn’t mean that we’re hating men for that. I think it’s the importance of highlighting it.
IA: What’s your strongest memory of dance?
CB: [pause] Of dance? [laughs] Would that be that? I don’t know. When I was little, I’m Filipino so dance was at loads of parties, we dance and we sing for everything. From someone that is born to someone that is dead, that’s a celebration thing. When I was young my parents would always organise either a mini pageant or competition. Because I didn’t like that, they would ask the organiser to have me as a…how do you say? A show?
CB: Yeah, cause that was my thing, funnily enough it’s never been about being a performer, but for me back when I was a kid, dancing was about performing. At school, during lunch, I would put on a show with the actual lyrics of the magazine and I would invite people and I would create invitations and I would share it in the school. They would all come in the great hall and I would sing two songs and do routines about it. But I remember one of these Filipino mini pageants…where I performed a solo of Papa Don’t Preach by Madonna and my parents were so proud that they cried. That was like, for me it was just like, OK…wow. I didn’t think about it back then, I was just like ‘Why are these people sad watching me dance?’ But for me…it’s the lineage, the lineage of coming from immigrant parents, having to leave their family and going to a whole new country to be able to help their family…having an only kid and doing that for me, that’s how I see it now as a grown up woman. I always remember that because when I see where I am now, I feel like those tears were worth it, as in like, OK, it was not only ‘Oh my kid is cute…’ Maybe it was that but for me I’m really holding onto it like, ‘Oh they were proud…’ I’m just in this thing…I didn’t swerve and go into something else, even though they wanted me not to dance, I decided to carry on…that’s the thing that I remember right now. There must be like a lot of others but, right now that’s what I was thinking of.