Zoom, November 2020
Coming from Philippines, Jonadette began dancing ever since the beginning, it was when she moved to Wales that her passion for dance grew even more being introduced to dance films and music videos. It wasn’t until later when she decided to pursue dance as a career at the age of 17. Now Jonadette is a strong female dance artist specialising in the styles of Krump, Popping and Hip Hop. Member of all-female pioneering Krump Crew 'Buckness Personified', and member of renowned Popping Crew 'Fiya House'. Not only is she versatile with choreography but she is a fluent freestyler and a powerful performer.
IA: Can you introduce yourself and describe what it is that you do?
JC: Oh wow…I’m Jonadette Carpio and I do…art. I love street dance in general and I specialise in three dance styles cause they just connect to me; the three styles I specialise in is popping, Hip Hop and krump. I like to take those styles and express it in any form that I can, whether it’s freestyle, whether it’s film, whether it’s theatre, or even talking about it, anything really. I’ve always been in love with movement, showcasing that to the general public and connecting to it.
IA: The idea of crews and companies and how they are the family you choose or align with. Could you talk about what families and crews mean to you and about your role in those that you’re in?
JC: Ah yeah…I’m in two crews. An all-female krump crew called Buckness Personified, which is led by Duwane Taylor, and a popping crew called Fiya House, which is led by Dickson Mbi and Brooke Milliner. I was inspired by those guys in the first place. Just watching, I remember…back when I was in Wales I was doing dance and competitions, cause that was the only outlet in the area. I remember going to the British Championships and seeing judges demos from these guys. I was like, ‘Wow! Where’s this been all my life?’ And these guys, you don’t see on TV, you don’t see…they were so underground and they were so raw. I fell in love with their movement straight away and I wanted to learn from the source. I wanted to experience the culture in London, so when I moved out and moved to London to pursue dance, I came across Trocadero. As you know, it’s the spot everyone went to, but unfortunately when I moved there in the early 2015, Trocadero was closing down. Everyone needed a new spot and the new spot was Charing Cross, exit 9. It was organised by D-Lo and it was amazing cause there was this spot in Charing Cross that was like an underground tunnel, a huge space, and on the sides there would be the back of shops, and there would be glass panes. It was perfect because of the glass panes…people used them to train and look at themselves, like mirrors. Then you had people jamming and I remember the first time I went there I was like, ‘Wow!’ The amount of talent, hospitality and humbleness in one area was amazing. Everyone was exchanging, everyone was doing it for the love, no one forced anyone to be there. The passion in people’s eyes and everyone keen to learn. You know? That’s what amazed me. It was amazing cause…I think every Monday they had locking, Tuesday they had new-style hustle, every Wednesday they had popping and Hip hop, every Thursday they had house, every Friday they had Freestyle Friday where there’d be jams, workshops and DJs would come to practice, so something different every day. From there I was able to meet…properly meet Dickson and Brooke. I’ve always wanted to learn, and they’ve been kind enough to take me in and show me the foundation; then from there…once you practice foundation you get to add your own flavour to it. That’s what I love about street dance. It’s actually funny cause I was freestyling on my own in Charing Cross, there’s this guy with shades leaning on the pillar, just like this. [pause] I was like ‘What’s going on? What’s going on?’ And then he just taps me on the shoulder and he’s like ‘Fiya House, Fridays, 7-11, be there.’ I was like ‘OK! OK!’ [laughs] This was before I knew who Dickson was. And then…[laughs] and then he introduced himself the first time I went to Fiya House sessions. Another amazing atmosphere. It’s that same essence that I saw in Trocadero and in Charing Cross. I got introduced to the crew, got introduced to Paris, Juelz, Jamal, Yana and it’s amazing to see everyone’s different style, but they have the same base and foundation. Everyone had their own way and…it looked just as good as another person. How I met Duwane, was actually at a competition in Wales. I didn’t know much about the foundations of krump, I just taught myself through video and YouTube. When it came to the competition, Duwane was judging it…I was doing a solo freestyle, I think it was to an Omarion track ‘Touch’. Everyone in the dance school I was in (Streetwise) was shouting ‘Krump Jona, krump!’ I was like, ‘Ahhh, OK!’ And then…I started krumping, and you know when you’re in the zone, sometimes when you’re in the zone, everyone just disappears, and you’re put into this other place. I didn’t even realise the round was finished. [laughs] At the time I was like ‘Oh, OK’. And then everyone was saying ‘Oh, the judge was digging your style,’ and I was like ‘Really?’ I didn’t notice all of that. And then…then when I won the competition [loud exhale] I couldn’t believe it. Cause one, I don’t know what I did [laughs] and two it was a high level of dancers there. I remember messaging Duwane…’Thank you and are there any London battles or sessions I can attend?’ From then on he was like, ‘You know what, come down and you can train with us.’ I was like ‘What? I’m gonna be training with Duwane and Buckness Personified?’ [laughs] It was crazy. So every now and then, I would travel from Wales to London once a week, and train with those guys and girls, that’s where I met Sannchia, Claire and Seven. Again, same essence, same energy. It was just pure love for the dance style. No one forced anyone to be there, it was just amazing to witness. And it’s a feeling that I’ll hold forever. Whatever I do, I always go back to that feeling. No matter what project I do, it’s like it reminds me of why I started to dance in the first place.
IA: I’m interested in this idea of generational and choreographic lineage. This is really present within krump fams, the idea of lineage and presence of family. What are your thoughts on that?
JC: How I think about krump fam?
IA: Yeah. The lineage of who are you learning from, not only in krump but also popping and Hip Hop…who do you look up to? Who are your peers? Who is learning from you?
JC: Yeah…Hip Hop has always been giving. It’s always been about being in a community and exchanging with each other, whether it’s…with the elements of Hip Hop, MCing - you’re always talking to people and communicating with them. DJing - you’re giving people what they wanna hear and people give you moves back. Graffiti is expressing yourself on wall or on paper, and then people seeing that and then relating to that…Hip Hop has always been a mutual understanding. Within that, you tend to find people who value that as well and, naturally it forms a connection as a family …having people that you look up to and having them around you, to witness your growth as well, and also witnessing their growth as well as leaders and mentors…it’s an inspiring feeling. Just having peers and crews and family around you…and training with them every now and then…Hip Hop’s always been competitive. You know, a healthy competition. I love that feeling about it as well, just having that exchange and being open with each other, to the point where one person in the crew levels up, which makes everyone else in the crew level up, and then so on and so on. Or one person in the crew does a sick job and then that inspires you as well. You’re open to certain, to their qualities and what makes them them and what makes them be themselves but also still have that love for the dance. Krump is relatively new compared to a lot of other street dance styles that have been around, so having a fam, that’s what we call it in krump…there’s a rank, you have your krump name, which for example, in Duwane’s case is ‘Discipline’. He’s ‘Big Discipline’ and then there’s ‘Lady Discipline’, who’s Sannchia from Buckness as well. There’s ‘Twin Discipline’ which is basically the same as ‘Big Discipline’, which is Claire Hough from Buckness as well. Then there’s ‘Girl Discipline’ which is me. So having those type of ranks in krump, it excels the dance style and it expands it to a wider audience as well. Whenever you go to a krump battle or a krump session, there’s people there looking and seeing potential in new krumpers and being like ‘OK, do you wanna come and train with the fam? You know you have potential and we can see that. You’ll be a great fit,’ from then on you get…before you know it, the dance style keeps expanding and expanding for the new generations.
IA: Can you talk about your route in and out of Wales?
JC: [laughs] The route?
IA: Yeah, in and out of Wales within Hip Hop. You moved to Wales, spent time there and then left…
JC: Yeah, so…before Wales, I was born in the Philippines. I’ve always grown up with a big family and sometimes, some people from the family would be travelling abroad and living abroad and every time they’d come back, we’d always have a big family gathering every once in a while…it doesn’t happen that often, but family is a big thing for us. Every time we do we’d have a potluck and I remember my grandmother would just play music, she had this CD player or she’d play piano or something. I remember witnessing this as a kid…my relatives dancing. My aunty from Canada would come back and she’d be waltzing with my grandmother. Everyone would just be…and then my mother would join in, then my uncle would join in; and my brothers and sisters they would look like, ‘What is going on?’ [laughs] I’ve always had that love for dance. It always brought me back to that place where it’s pure enjoyment. When I went to Wales to join my parents, I was about…seven, turning eight. That’s when I…it was a culture shock to go from Manila to a rural country like Wales, I remember my friends would say ‘Oh, you’re going to UK, you’re gonna see the Queen. [laughs] It’s gonna be snowing.’ And so, when I get there, it’s a rural area…which I appreciate now that I’m older. But as a kid, you’re thinking, ‘Oh. Castles and queens and kings and…’ I got there and it was a culture shock. We were one of only two Filipino families in the area. I think it was like…I remember going to a friend’s place and he had MTV. I remember watching music videos and being like ‘Wow, where has this been all my life?’ I think it was Missy Eliot that came on. [laughs] Then he…he was like ‘Wait a minute, wait a minute,’ putting a DVD of a pirated copy of You Got Served. He started playing that, and that opened my mind, I was like ‘Woah, how could people move like that? Where is this?’ So in my mind it was always ‘OK, maybe it’s just in movies’. So, as a kid, as soon as you start seeing that…me and my friend just started copying moves from the TV and started practicing. I came across an after school street dance program. They were teaching street dance and I was like ‘Oh, actually, I’m gonna try.’ That’s always something that I’ve loved. A young lady was coming in and teaching, and after the class, she was like ‘you know, you could teach it as well.’ I was like ‘What?’ [laughs] ‘No, I came here to learn.’ And she was like ‘No, no…I could tell you really love the style. You could teach.’ And I was like ‘Oh, I’m just gonna take a step back and I’m gonna take baby steps. I still wanna learn at this point.’ There was a competition coming around, school versus school. We were training to perform at this, a choreography the teacher made, and so it came to the day of the competition and it was at the school gym. We did it and then afterwards she was like, ‘OK, I’ve put your name down in solos.’ I was like ‘What? You didn’t event tell me?!’ and she was like, ‘No, you’ll be fine. Just have fun, keep doing what you’re doing.’ I was like ‘OK.’ With these competitions everyone solos at the same time, and they cut half the people…I was still in it. I was like ‘Woah!’ Then they cut another half, I was still in it, then it came to the last stage and it was just me and this other girl, I remember the judge…the other girl was giving it her all, to the point where she was on the floor doing…all the moves that she had. It just, it just made me elevate my game even more, I was like ‘OK, this is the feeling that they get in movies, you know?’ That sense of adrenaline, the sense of…competition. And fast forward to it…I ended up winning the competition. From there, one of the owners of the dance school was like ‘Oh, who’s that?’ A classmate of mine…a lot of my classmates didn’t know that I danced. [laughs] That was the first time they saw me dance. They were shocked as much as I was. One of my classmates was like ‘Oh…there’s this lady that runs a dance school Streetwise, her name is Farrah, and she’d like you to come and meet her and just train there.’ I was like ‘OK’. So I went, and…I remember the first time I went there I took a class and then they taught choreography, they taught Hip Hop and at the end of the class, Farrah was like ‘Just freestyle’. And I was like, ‘OK’. Freestyle, freestyle, freestyle, it was just me in the studio. Then I started freestyle, freestyle, freestyle. After the freestyle, I heard loads of claps from outside. I’m thinking, ‘How did they see this?’ There’s a security camera there cause they’re teaching kids, so parents could look. I didn’t realise it and they all came in and they’re all like ‘Woah, that was sick, that was wicked,’ I was thinking ‘Woah!’ The amount of love and appreciation people have for the dance style just uplifted me. Again it reminded me of that love and appreciation you see, I saw with my grandma…my aunties and…from then on I’ve been training with them, they’re like a second family to me Streetwise. You’ve got Farrah Jones, Mike Owen and Gemma Owen who owned the dance school. They’ve been in my journey from the start. We’ve been doing competitions with them…they’ve always been there…cause there’s not a lot where we’re based - Aberdare, in Wales. That was the only dance studio around that gave kids somewhere to go to and somewhere to express themselves. So from then on…I was training with them, they opened me up to a world of competitions that I’d never seen before which opened up a world of judges, professional dancers and underground dancers that I’d never seen before that are so talented. Which opened up opportunities for training with them and training with Buckness and seeing where they’re from and how they train and who inspires them…to doing shows with them…I remember the first show I did with Buckness back in 2014. It was an event held by Kloé Dean. It was ‘I Love MYself’ - Icon the Show. It was an event based on…you had to pick a female…a person that you were inspired by. We ended up picking Lauryn Hill from The Fugees. And we did a krump set to that, that was my first show with Buckness. I couldn’t believe that I was doing a show with Buckness Personified. You know, I’ve seen these guys on Got To Dance, I’ve seen these guys in a battle showcase in Camden. To be…in rehearsals, in the same room was mind-blowing, but to perform, it’s a lot of pressure as well cause, being the new girl in the group, I have to represent, you know? I can’t let them down, after all the time they invested in me. So from doing that show, everyone started asking ‘Oh, oh who’s the new girl in Buckness? Where’s she from?’ Cause London is…I feel like everyone in the dance community knows each other or has heard about each other, but…coming from Wales…yeah, they had no idea who I was. So from doing that…and just being exposed to weekly battles, every time I go to London it would be for the weekend, and there’d always be a battle going on, or a jam session or a show. Being exposed to that and then coming back to Wales, it’s what drove me. It’s like wow, there’s so much level of talent that people are unaware of. Every time I come back to Wales, I always bring knowledge and teach it back to Streetwise. That was my route from Wales to London. I think the time that I took dance seriously was the time that I did BBC Young Dancer in 2014/2015. I was still in Wales at that time and I got overwhelmed with the amount of positive reviews…I thought, now is the best time to take the plunge and move to London to see where things go. It took my parents a bit of convincing. [laughs] I’m not gonna lie, because they’re very traditional, but I made a deal with them. I was like, ‘If nothing happens in three years, I’ll come back and…I’ll do medicine.’ My dad wanted me to be a doctor. I was like, ‘OK’. And behold, thank god it took less than three years! [laughs]
IA: I’ll come back to some parts of that journey a little bit later on, cause there’s some interesting stuff in there. In your networks who are the three people that nourish, feed and support you?
JC: Ah…oooh… [pause] I wanna say Duwane, Duwane Taylor. He’s been my mentor from the start. He’s believed in me from the start and he’s the guy that taught me the foundation, the basics and not just the dance in itself, when it came to contracts, projects, especially the commercial side, I had no idea. I had no knowledge about that and he’s had so many experiences. He’s always been there to talk me through it and to tell me how the business worked, in terms of agents and production…he just taught me how to carry myself. Which is common sense with everyone, but he also taught me to look out for myself as an artist. Always value your art, no matter what the fee is. It’s your job to hold that value and say ‘No’ to things that that don’t value your art. Duwane’s one. I wanna say Brooke and Dickson as one person, because they’re polar opposites. [laughs] Dickson talks a lot. But Brooke, he only talks when you ask him. [laughs] He’s a quiet guy in general. With them…it’s again, same thing, it’s always been a family. Third person…literally family, my mother. She’s always been the one to keep me down to earth, always been the one to remind me of my values and who I am. She’s always been there to…talk about my future, and she’s always asking things like ‘You can’t dance forever. I trust you but you have to think of other things as well.’ I think the common thread between the three of them is…honesty. The reason why I love training with Duwane, Brooke and Dickson is that they are honest with you. If you’re wack, you are wack. [laughs] That’s what I need you know, they do it out of love. Also my mum, she’s always been honest, where I’m taking this, what’s the future. Every once in a while she always asks, ‘You love what you do?’ I’m like ‘Yeah, absolutely.’ Sometimes it’s easy to get lost in the project…when you’re doing project after project after project, sometimes it’s easy to get lost and you’re there delivering what the choreographer wants and what people want. But at the same time you disregard certain parts of yourself…you don’t have as much time to improve certain things that you want to improve, on yourself. At the same time, you’re improving different aspects of yourself. So whenever I do have time between projects, I have some me time and just train things that I want to train in.
IA: Is that around the technical? Is that drilling? Is that around the physicality or character? Can you talk a bit more about that?
JC: Everything…each one of those really. I don’t make the goal clear in that moment. However, as soon as you freestyle, you get a feeling of what you’re missing, it’s that in itself…it’s for the one thing you need. For me, the way I train, I like to start off freestyling and then from there you start to feel your weaknesses and then, whether it’ll be something like, ‘My stamina isn’t up to par. I know because, when I lit that candle at the start of the session…it didn’t go down as much…’ Every time I train, I always light a candle. At the back of a candle there’s a burning time, forty-five hours and I know when I haven’t trained that much, is when that candle is still big. [laughs] I only light that candle when I train. When I see that, I’m like ‘Oh wow, I didn’t train that much this week…and my stamina isn’t up to par,’ so I’ll do cardio and skipping and I’ll time that…sometimes when I freestyle I realise that, ‘Oh, I’m weak in one leg when I’m in this certain move, so I’ll keep drilling that throughout the day or sometimes when I’m freestyling, I don’t feel the emotion of the song. Sometimes, I take a break and free up my mind cause sometimes that’s what’s blocking it and when I go back to freestyling I feel free again. What inspires me to train is having new music. New music is…I don’t know, when I hear music, it just takes me to a different place. I naturally have a vivid imagination, so when I listen to music, whether it’s a certain feeling or I’m imagining an impossible move…even that; imagining an impossible move, even being able to do fifty percent of an impossible move would be the best. That in itself. When I’m freestyling, sometimes they connect as well, I’m like ‘Woah.’ Like, that move that I imagined, I naturally came and shifted…it’s almost like the body wanted to do it. Sorry, what was the question again?
IA: You answered it…and it leads into the next one which is the idea of practice and craft. Can you talk about popping as craft, krump as a craft. These daily practices and rituals.
JC: Yeah…cause krump carries so much expression. That’s the first thing people see. But once you take that away, krump is actually very technical. We have balance points…and from those balance points, each balance points means a different thing. Hand gestures, they mean a different thing. There’s speech hands pointing to how you wanna talk, there’s open hands when you need to use invisible props or need to look bigger. There’s fists for power when you want to show certain…intensity. Having…even a simple shoulder hit…adding a shoulder move to power can give it, a more… [laughs] This transcript is gonna be funny. [laughs] Give it a more…I don’t know what the word is… [long pause] You know what I mean? The thing which is funny with krump and popping, street dance in general, cause it’s…relatively new compared to ballet…people are still unaware of the injuries. A lot of krumpers have certain neck injuries cause a lot of focus points - which we call in krump, you know when you look rapidly and you hold eye contact or when you move your head - it’s easy to pinch a nerve. I’ve done it a couple of times, but through training and drilling, you learn to use those muscles, you learn when to engage and when you don’t have to. That’s how people can krump for hours with the technique. You know when to conserve energy because…you know it to the the point of how it looks, it looks the same as a person who’s exerting as much energy. Tied in with that, is drilling…neck muscles also help me with my popping at the same time. I think it’s called the sternocleidomastoid…a lot of poppers pop that as well and they pop their lats…there’s also that technique in popping where you’re popping your abs, even though people don’t see it. They don’t see it but it adds a certain layer to your movement. You could tell when someone…the pop is just more advanced to look at. I like to ease into drilling training. Every time I train…it always starts with a freestyle of how I’m feeling that day. Then it’s a sort of mentality of, ‘Oh, I’m up and I’m warm now, so I might as well start drilling.’ And then a sick song comes up and I’m like, ‘Ah yeah, I wanna drill to this song.’ That’s how I train.
IA: What was the first Hip Hop theatre work that you saw?
JC: Ooh…it was Breakin’ Convention. It was May 2014 that Street Kingdom, Tight Eyez and all them came. That was the first Hip Hop theatre piece I ever saw…that was the same night that I saw Avant Garde as well, they did a piece with tables and Duwane did a piece as well, actually. He did…I think it was called ‘Charmed’ and it was amazing cause I’d never seen him move like that before. I’ve always known him as the krumper, so to see him do waving and isolations to a high level, that was inspiring for me. It was like ‘Oh, so you know you can specialise in two things and be at a high level’. And also you don’t have to stick with one style, for me if you have the passion to learn another style, why not? Cause most of the time passion equals hard work…it’s almost an obsession. Like, you don’t mind doing it every day and it comes to a point where progression just gets addictive and you’re like ‘Woah,’ and you feel the improvement and you feel your body’s learning new ways to connect and new ways to move. I actually learnt krump before popping. So learning the foundations of popping helped me appreciate and love krump at the same time. That year at Breakin’ Convention, that was the first time I saw Hip Hop theatre and I was amazed cause it’s combining lighting and the emotion, the stories…it opens up a whole new avenue, a whole new list of opportunities of where you could take Hip Hop.
JC: That’s what I love…with these projects…I’ve always loved doing something that I haven’t done before. I’ve always loved challenge as well. Which is why I gravitated towards popping and krump as a female. [laughs] With Chris we did SEAN…that in itself was very challenging because I have never done acting to that extent…to act as a sixty year old mother who carries sixty years’ worth of baggage is so draining. It’s so different to dancing. It’s emotionally draining and in a way you almost have to…it’s so hard to commit with acting. It’s almost like you have to keep…it’s not just about remembering lines, you have to be that person. You have to…what’s it called? I think it’s called a ‘hotseat’. When they start questioning you and you have to answer as the character, I found that extremely difficult. But Chris was…we had Maxwell Golden in as well. They made the process so welcoming and everyone was…even Chris himself he says he’s not an actor. But he has the ability to commit and he has the ability to enter that world and be that different person which was inspiring for me. Also learning from Maxwell. That was the most challenging thing, combining that extent of acting, but with dance. It taught me not to rely on dance as much. Chris was saying at the end of the day he wants to make art; acting itself can be a powerful tool when used correctly and dance can be a powerful tool when used correctly, there’s a time for this and that. That’s what that the process taught me. East Wall (2018) was another experience. Each choreographer had two principal dancers and I was Duwane’s principal dancer, me and Melissa. Each choreographer also had two youth dance groups, as well. We had UEL Urban Dance Practice and One Youth Dance which was girls around eleven to eighteen years old. Every now and then we’d have to teach them and we would train them and prepare them for the show, it’s funny because…as a teenage girl that took up dance, the last thing on your mind is krump. [laughs] It was just lovely to see them progressively appreciate the style and have fun with it. It was fun cause it gave me a chance to be a kid again. Having fun, cracking jokes and training at the same time…it upped my teaching skills as well. Having to lead sessions at certain points and drill, be harsh with cleaning as well.
IA: Then for something completely different. The newly premiered work with the BBC Singers doing choral work from an Estonian composer choreographed by Duwane. Tell me about that.
JC: That was…
IA: Can you describe what it is and what you did first.
JC: Oh yeah…so…it was a collaboration with BBC Singers and East London Dance. When they sent the track, East London Dance immediately thought of Duwane. [laughs] It was like, ‘Yep, I think his movement and choreography…his musicality would suit this.’ Duwane brought us in and he basically choreographed a piece…which is actually loosely based on COVID. You could tell, the squares in the video are actually social distancing squares…which was hard to keep in mind, especially when you’re used to contact work. So…we were to perform krump to a live choir.
IA: Can you talk about the process of how it was crafted, built and then the live performance?
JC: The process was crazy. I remember when Duwane sent us the track. I was like, ‘What? How do you even count this?’ [laughs] Because there’s a part six minutes in where it’s just basically chaos, and it’s so difficult to count. It’s funny because the piece of music Veljo Tormis’ ‘Curse Upon Iron’, the YouTube video that they sent was the original, but with a different choir. We didn’t actually hear the BBC singers recording till the day before the performance. Because during rehearsals - the live recording of rehearsals that they sent - the drummer wasn’t there, they’re traditionally not present until the last rehearsal…so we had to rely on our musicality and learning the track inside out. Also the comparison between the recording and the BBC’s recording…the conductor, he goes with his own flow sometimes. Which I get. You get carried away in your moment and you’re like ‘OK, you need to start now.’ So it’s his own version of the original as well so. We were thinking, ‘Oh maybe the conductor will do that as well’. So whenever there would be musical changes here and there or tempo changes, we’d have to accommodate that. Duwane had a full contact section as well, but then a few days before, we were told that yeah…we can’t let that happen. [laughs] So we had to switch stuff around and to be honest, Duwane wasn’t supposed to be dancing. Initially it was three females…but one of the girls couldn’t do it anymore. So if you watched the performance, I was supposed to be doing Duwane’s part most of the time. But because of the height difference, [laughs] I had to change…a couple days before the performance. By that time we’d rehearsed and it’s in our muscle memory. So with that sudden change, my muscle memory was my biggest enemy at this time. I was like ‘No, no, no it’s wrong, no. I should have been facing that way, I should have been doing that and my canon is wrong.’ It’s a very new experience for me, I’ve never performed in front of a choir and a conductor like that. In a way, at some points, it made it easier. Cause I wasn’t as nervous because there wasn’t the same number of audiences as there normally are and sometimes at the corner of your eye, you see the conductor and that helped us with certain timings. It was like ‘Oh, OK, yeah this is the bit when he moves his hand like that, OK cool…’ cause most of the first half we’re facing away. But knowing the music inside out and having the conductor there at times actually made it easier. And having the source, the original source of music straight from people’s voices added another layer as well. Compared to nowadays when you perform from speakers, but to witness and absorb…it makes it much more satisfying and much more in the zone. You’re equally in the zone with the singers and the dancers, melding together.
IA: Can you talk about music and musicality in both krump and popping? How does the musicality differ between krump and popping? How do they manifest on your body?
JC: When you hear krump tracks, it’s very…not minimal but it’s sort of hard to get into at first, because they use different timings and there’s different beat markers and so in krump, you create your own rhythm within the rhythm. So if there’s a steady beat, and you’re really krumping within the beat, it’s just like when you’re rapping, you create your own cadence and syncopation. [pause] With popping…it’s kind of the same, but it’s more…especially in battles, people go crazy for musicality. When you combine virtuosity with musicality…with that point in the music that only happens once every three minutes, everyone’s like ‘Woah!’ Popping sticks to the beat a lot…compared to krump. I remember the conductor saying during our tech for the BBC piece, it was the first time he saw our performance and he was saying ‘You know, it’s so lovely to see each musicality pinpointed and shown in the choreography. A lot of dancers move through the music, and it’s nice to see something fresh…’ It was something he hasn’t seen before.
IA: What do you want to dismantle in Hip Hop?
JC: Oh. What I want to dismantle? [pause] I don’t know. [long pause] What would I want to dismantle in Hip Hop? [long pause] Hmm. Hmm, there’s a hard question. [pause] What do you mean by… ‘dismantle’?
IA: There might be things that frustrate you, it might be ‘that’s unfair,’ or things that inhibit people or stops progress…it could be systemic structures…
JC: For me it’s people not seeing street dance as prestigious as any other art. Like ballet for example. [pause] People don’t realise the amount of technicality and the amount of training we do…which in turn, sometimes you see productions and castings and they’re like…’Just get a bunch of street dancers. Pay them a low fee.’ But it’s more than that. We train a lot, we’ve spent years exploring and having our own individuality and flavour. Sometimes when you introduce yourself and when people ask, ‘Oh yeah, what do you do?’ and I’m like ‘I’m a dancer.’ ‘Oh yeah…like those people in music videos?’ I’m like ‘Yeah, but we’re more than that.’ We’re artists. I think [pause] I think…more people and more street dancers should believe in themselves and carry themselves as artists. Cause in their own right they’ve developed their style, they’ve trained in it, they’ve done research, they’ve been through so much - cyphers, battles…sometimes it’s disheartening when certain people in other dance styles would class street dance as a lower bracket.
IA: Can you talk a bit about your role in Ego and the collaboration with Northern Ballet?
JC: Oh yeah! That was a fun one. [pause] The director Dan Lowenstein…he wanted to see…he wanted to portray a comparison between two couples. Over time humans have evolved and we’ve learnt how to have manners, we’ve learnt how to have etiquette, have a social structure and we’ve learnt different ways of talking and communicating with body language. Almost in a way we’ve learnt to reverse our psychology or develop a variety of psychology. He wanted to compare that evolved side of human beings and couples to a more primal form. You know, what were we like before that? What would have happened if none of those things were in place? So we played the more primal, raw and animalistic couple. Animals, they don’t care…if they want something, they get it. If they need to eat, they just get it. There’s no, ‘Oh, you know, do you mind if I? Can I?’ None of that. That was the role that I played…the female role.
IA: There was a moment when you were krumping in the sea.
JC: Yes! Yes! I remember we were wearing…I looked so big cause we were wearing dry suits underneath our costume. Initially we planned to be in the water from the chest down and krump there…while Sam Amos, who plays the guy…he would be breaking as well. Dan had an idea where it would be interesting to see the contrast and dancing with waist high water. But during that day, we had a low tide, so we weren’t able to. We were also fighting with the sunset and the timing, he was like…’Argh, by the time it comes in, it’ll look like a different shot, so we’ll just do it here.’ And krumping in sand…that’s a new experience. It’s a workout on top of a workout. There’s a lot of resistance there, but also it was just fun to play with it as well…there was one point where I smeared it on my face, so tribal and animalistic, and there was one point where you could see the drip from my beanie - the water. Dan captured that shot. The dry suit was so heavy, after a while absorbing that much water, krumping in it was so tiring. Normally when it comes to that point, I get lost in the music, but there wasn’t any…the only music that was coming out was from the speaker which was far away cause we didn’t wanna get it wet. So yeah, that was a fun experience, krumping in the sand, the water and a dry suit.
IA: What’s the most memorable session or battle that you’ve been a part of?
JC: Ah. Hmm. [long pause] Hmm. [long pause] One would probably be this popping battle ‘Go Hard Go Home’ in Nottingham. [laughs] It sticks in my mind because…I think it was the quarter or semi-final…I can’t remember but anyway. I had to vs. Dickson. [laughs] Who is my teacher. And it always happens…whenever there’s a battle, I always end up battling Brooke or Dickson. I remember it vividly cause when you’re battling, whoever goes first is naturally at a slight disadvantage, cause you have something to compare it to. So, when it came to battling Dickson in the tournament…he started stretching and I was like, ‘Oh, I’m gonna start stretching too cause I don’t wanna go first.’ [laughs] Then it took like a while…and I was eyeing Dickson and I was like ‘Please go first’, you know? [laughs] Cause he’s the teacher. So he done his thing, went first and then…that playful competitiveness just got into me, and I was like ‘Oh, this is fun like, I wanna show him the new moves that I’ve learnt that he hasn’t seen and see his reaction.” It was funny cause as soon as I finished my round he was just like [silence]. You know Dickson, he makes the funniest faces sometimes. And the judges at the time…I think it was two to Dickson, and one to me. In my head I was like ‘Oh, yay at least I had one!’ But it’s always been fun battling people that you know. Cause it tests you and tests your competitiveness at the same time. Friend or not, when it’s a battle, it’s a battle. You can hug after, it’s fine. But at that moment, it’s a battle and it tests that within yourself. What’s another? I’m tryna think of a krump version. What was that session? [pause] Ah! Yes! Traditionally in krump, if you wanna be in a fam, they have to cage you, meaning everyone in that fam is gonna vs. you. One vs. one. And since I wanted to be in the ‘Discipline’ fam, Duwane was like, ‘Yeah, we’re gonna have to cage you.’ So I ended up going against everyone in the Discipline fam and it was tiring but also…I got to discover something within myself cause that was the first point in time where I got tired but I knew I just had to keep fighting. I knew I had to keep krumping. To the point where I didn’t know it was possible, but after a certain point where you get tired, your body starts to gain another source of energy from somewhere. It’s weird, I don’t know how to explain it. I think it was a fight or flight type of moment. Your body starts…it has no choice at that point. You’re running on adrenaline I guess. It was in Maryland studios and I think it took two or three hours?
JC: Just back and forth, just sessioning, cause you know, you’re not done unless the other person is done so when Duwane did a round, I did a round. If he felt like he needed to do another round, then he’d do another round and I’d have to do another round. It wasn’t done until everyone else was done…that…that opened my eyes, cause I was like ‘Oh OK, maybe being tired is just a psychological thing?’ It’s like…from then on…it made me believe anything is possible in terms of stamina…if you could do this, you could do any job.
IA: I’ve got some more questions, but I wanted to ask, is there anything that you’ve not spoken about so far, that you want to Something that’s not been flagged from the conversations and the questions so far, is there something that you think ‘This is important to me’?
JC: [pause] I have been having bad memory recently. But if there is anything, I think it’ll just come up naturally. Is it alright to go back to that?
IA: Yeah of course. I’m interested in your thoughts on the relationship between self-care and mental health in Hip Hop. What practices do you have for self-care and how do you care for yourself mentally?
JC: I think with lockdown I’ve been having a lot of time just listening to my body. I believe in balance, too much training is bad for you, you need other times to feed yourself and it’s OK to have fun. There’s no need to be…it’s having that healthy mentality of not feeling guilty that you’re not training because it’s a passion of mine. I always come back to it. It’s always in my brain and you don’t have to be physically training to see an improvement. Even talking to people, what they’re going through as well inspires you to create something, it inspires a freestyle sometimes. Listening to your body and having time to learn it and experiment as well, there’ll be certain things…cause lockdown was so long, there was certain things that I was experimenting with such as eating certain foods, this would feed my inspiration. Having different…colours of light in my room would affect my productivity and what I’m feeling at the time. I’ve also been experimenting with finding hobbies that have nothing to do with what I do for a living…sometimes when you’re watching a movie, ‘Oh, so how can I…how can I take that and put it into my dance?’ Or even playing a video game…having that interaction, that audience interaction and control like, ‘How do I apply that to a piece as well, giving the audience that type of control?’ I was watching…I was thinking the other day, you know Bandersnatch on Netflix? It would be fun to have like a live-streamed theatre version of that, where people, everyone on lockdown on their phones can choose an option on an app and then bang, that’s gonna test a person’s acting and their dancing ability on the spot. Doing stuff that you enjoy is gonna end up fuelling you.
IA: You posted a few…colours, the red light videos on your Insta…is that what you meaning when you were talking about colour there?
JC: Yes! Sometimes an idea would pop in your head and you feel like ‘Oh yeah, I wanna move a certain way, I wanna…’ That video came from listening to the track “Clear Air” by Sevdaliza and it made me think of the current pandemic. I always use music as the instinct for any of my videos or ideas that I have and stuff that I’ve written down. Music is always the first inspiration.
IA: What is your approach to archiving and documenting what you do? I’m interested in how people consider that or not. If you have a great freestyle, how do you document that?
JC: Hmm. [pause] To be honest, I don’t…most of the time I don’t film myself when I freestyle. I hate watching myself. I think all dancers have that as well cause it takes…it takes me a while if I do a performance or a show, sometimes I’d have to wait a few weeks and then watch it. [pause] But when it comes to archiving things, for me, I like to write things down. Whether it’s a certain…I write down the track and the artist, and then I like to write down certain things that pop up into my mind. There’s certain things, I’d play a track and close my eyes and whatever comes up, I’ll just imagine for the whole track till the end. As soon as it finishes I write down everything that I see, everything that I feel…all the perspectives and angles that I see…that’s the way that I archive my things. I guess another way as well…for me that’s why battling is important, because that’s the test…the test to show how well you’ve been practicing, how well you’ve been drilling. It tests your mentality as well…in terms of pressure. You’re not just battling for yourself, you’re representing your crew, you’re representing your family out there. I like to test new moves in battles and whenever you hear the audience go ‘Oooh’, that’s like ‘OK’. I try and make a note of that and think ‘OK, so what’s that about?’ I start questioning myself you know, ‘What about that move made the audience go? Was it the technique? Was it the musicality? Was it cause I had a certain feeling put there or…?’ You know, I try to break it down that way. I’m kinda glad that battles are filmed. [laughs]
IA: One of the things that you’ve kept coming back to is this idea of a thirst for the new. New types of experience - putting yourself in new collaborations with different people. Can you talk a bit about that?
JC: I’ve always loved the saying…‘The day you stop learning is the day you grow old.’ And for me… having these…that’s the beautiful thing about dance and art in general. You can incorporate so many new things into it, to the point that it could never be boring. You’re always introduced to creative people with the same mindset which leads to great things, which leads to brainstorming, and before you know it you have a tree and a forest of ideas. It’s what keeps dance exciting for me. These new avenues and elements added in. As humans we’re always looking for the new thing, we’re always looking to develop, always looking to feel new ideas. Nowadays a lot of people’s attention spans are decreasing…you see it with a lot of, now you have Tik Tok which is, I call it ‘snack videos’, very tiny videos and dance has the ability to weave itself into that…that’s what I love about street dance, there’s so many avenues compared to other dance styles such as contemporary or ballet. In Hip Hop you’ve got battling, showcasing, Hip Hop theatre. You have film and then there’s music videos and then there’s ‘snack videos’ on Tik Tok. There’s endless concept videos on Instagram or Vimeo. Street dance has so many possibilities. That’s what I love about it.
IA: Cool. We cannot not talk about Syllabub.
JC: Oh! [laughs]
IA: We need to talk about Cats.
JC: [laughs] Yes! Yes, what about it?
IA: Tell me about Cats. How you got the role, some highlights and your reflections on it.
JC: Going back to your last question, I’ve always loved doing new stuff. I’ve always loved working with new people and with the projects that I do, I’m quite picky in terms of who I like to work with…as long as it’s a choreographer that I admire and as long as the concept is good, then I’m down. When I got the casting call for it, I saw that Wayne McGregor was the choreographer and I’ve always wanted to work with him. I never expected to do a film, I just wanted to see how the guy works and what his process is. When it came to the audition, it was… [laughs] it was actually funny because my agent didn’t tell me I had to prepare a track. They were seeing everyone in slots of fifteen…and I was the fifth one in line, I just scrolled down through my phone and picked a song that I was familiar with. And in Wayne McGregor’s studio, he left his studio door open, so you can hear people going in and you could hear their music and what they’re saying. I was the fifth one in and I was so nervous because they would play the track, and after five seconds they would be like ‘Thank you’, three seconds ‘Thank you’, ten seconds ‘Thank you’. I was like ‘Oh my gosh! Oh my! Argh!’ If I wasn’t that nervous before, I was even more nervous now. So when it came to me, the assistant was like ‘Oh yeah, it only has to be two and a half minutes’. I was like ‘OK, no worries I’ve got the track’. And Odette Hughes, who was also working with Wayne, she played it and I remember shaking, shaking all over like ‘Argh!’ I had to hold it still and I freestyled…it was more of a structural freestyle, cause I knew the music so well. And…I knew the music so well that I went over the two and a half minute mark and Wayne didn’t stop it. I was thinking, ‘Woah.’ And then, that’s the point where I kinda came out of my zone and was like ‘Wait a minute, it’s two and a half minutes, and now it’s three minutes’ so I just decided to stop it. I remember Wayne was sitting down and he was like… ‘OK!’ He jumped up from his seat and was like ‘I want you to walk that way, walk this way, pretend this is a wall and I want you to pretend you’re a cat and do whatever you like,’ and then he played the music again. And then on the third time he was like ‘OK, I want you to use the space…you know how big this studio is? I want you to be free, use whatever you want.’ And then I was so shocked, when I came out [laughs] I saw the look of everyone else’s faces that was auditioning and was like ‘What did you do? What did you do?’ [laughs] I was basically like, ‘You know what, do you thing…what they’re looking for is individuality at the end of the day.’ And so it was funny because the second round…I was invited to the second round. I had an email from my agent saying, ‘They wanna see how you sing.’ I was like ‘What?’ I was just auditioning to be chorus or something, a background cat…I even emailed my agent, Nana S.R. Tinley, I was emailing her saying ‘I’d rather leave them with a good impression…I’m OK.’ In other words, I was saying ‘I don’t shouldn’t do the job, it’s fine cause I’m not a singer.’ My agent emailed me back saying ‘No, look, please, they just wanna see what you’re capable of. They’re not worried about your level.’ So…I went there, and the casting director was there with the camera and the pianist was there, and it was hardest song in the musical, ‘Memory’. I remember…I didn’t know it was gonna be ‘Memory’ until the night before. I got the email saying that ‘They wanna hear you sing tomorrow,’ and this was after I finished rehearsals as well at 10pm. I fell asleep just listening to ‘Memory’ on loop all night, cause I wasn’t aware of the song that much at the time. And so when it came to the singing audition, I thought to myself ‘You know what, I can’t sing, but what I can do is I can commit and give full emotion.’ That’s all I can hope for. So when they came to it, she was like ‘Oh it’s fine, yeah,’ press record, I sung with so much emotion, dadadadada…and after the casting director was like, ‘Oh that’s great, this time can you do it with your eyes open?’ [laughs] I did it with my eyes closed the whole time. I was trying…I was in the zone. ‘OK, OK,’ so…I did that and then…it was funny because now I was conscious with my eyes open, I was like [makes uncomfortable noise] But…yeah, so that happened and the last stage was an audition in front of the director Tom Hooper himself. He’s seen the videos and it was a mixture of both auditions, singing and dancing but at the same time taking direction from the director. He’d say stuff like ‘Oh, there’s a new cat in the group, you guys are…cynical towards her, I want you to dance like that and…sing like that as well.’ So it was that and then the very last thing that we ended on was a freestyle. So I did the freestyle and the director was like, ‘That’s bloody amazing!’ The amount of joy and excitement that I saw, was the same amount of joy and excitement I saw when I first saw krump. You know? It was like…he appreciated the style so much, he was like ‘What is that? Was that martial arts or something?’ He was so fixated on it, and he just loved the style and he said, ‘You know, that just came out of nowhere…you’re a sweet girl and then all of a sudden, boom, character change…’ I was on my way back…in a ride back to the station, and the Assistant Director was like ‘They need you back in.’ I was like ‘OK, did I forget something? Did I forget to write a detail or…?’ As soon as I came back in, Tom and Wayne were there and they were like ‘You got the part!’ Right then and there. I remember it was such a moment cause we all hugged as a group. I was crying as well. Literally, the next day, 8am start. For the next seven months.
IA: The next day?
JC: [laughs] Yes, the next day. I was not expecting that. That’s how that came about.
IA: Give us a flavour of some of the choreography and moments of dance in it.
JC: What I loved about the process was, we had ‘cat school’. I love Wayne’s take on it, cause he figured out a way that we could dance as ourselves, but also be a cat at the same time. We studied the anatomy of a cat, how certain body parts would move and how…just having the mindset of one, cats conserve a lot of energy. Being where they’re from and how wild their heritage is. Even having that mentality of conserving your energy just changed the way you move as well. It came to a point where you didn’t have to think about being a cat. You didn’t have to think of a cat move, it was just…it was the subtleties…subtleties within your own movement and your own dance style that made it…compelling. That experience in itself, I was kinda worried…cause I’ve never been in film before, or been in that environment. I wasn’t aware of…I was kinda scared of egos within that side of entertainment. But the fact that everyone came from different backgrounds and the fact that everyone had different strengths, you had dancers that wasn’t the best singers, but then you had singers that weren’t the best dancers, and actors that weren’t the best dancers etc.…everyone had this same playing field. That made me more comfortable, a bit. I’ve learnt a lot throughout that job. I’ve learnt that not everything makes it to the final cut. [laughs]
IA: What does success look like to you?
JC: Ooh. Hmm. What does success look like to me? [long pause] Hmm. [long pause] I can imagine success… [pause] I think success to me is…having passion in what you do, and spreading that passion to everyone else. Yeah, having success is inspiring others to pursue what they want. The way I look at it, we spend a third of our lives asleep, so that leaves sixty-six percent. That’s a lot…that’s a lot of percentage to be doing something that you’re not passionate about. I believe that as long as you’re passionate about something, there is a way, you could find ways that you could capitalise on it to fuel that passion as well, who would know that social media would be such a big income earner nowadays? With the new era that we live in, this technology era, there’s always gonna be a niche for something that you’re passionate about. If you look at success in a financial way, that’s one way. But if you look at success in a meaningful way…at the end of the day, you wanna inspire others to do what they want and not be afraid of it.
IA: I’ll ask that question from before - is there anything that we’ve not spoken about that you want to record? A memory, a moment, a battle, a person, an encounter?
JC: [pause] Off the top of my head…no. No, no.
IA: What is your strongest memory of dance?
JC: Ah! Yeah…my strongest memory of dance is seeing my grandmother just waltz. I grew up mostly with my grandmother cause my parents were pretty busy working. I got to spend more time with my grandmother when my parents moved abroad to Wales and I remember she would turn on the radio, hum and she would just waltz around the room as if time stood still…just enjoying it and being in that moment. I can remember thinking ‘Wow’, it’s like…all you need in life is good music and…I remember she was in a different zone, having the time of her life…that was the first, most memorable thing of dance that I saw. I always look back to that. Whenever I do anything, any project…when it becomes, especially when it becomes too stressful…you’re delivering a lot of yourself, but at the same time, you need to…it’s a constant reminder to ‘Oh yeah, this is the part I loved about it the most.’ Yeah, the connection…the connection and the nurturing sense it had.