Just shut up and dance!
Photos by Sonny Espiritu
Makeup by Maria Georgina Kaye Guanzon; hair by Raquel Panes of Make-Up Designory Studio
Music is a funny thing. It adds words where there were none, it pulls on your soul strings, it changes you. In 1972, James Brown sang “Get up on the Good Foot” on Soul Train. He moved in a way that caused a ripple effect worldwide, especially in the African American and Latino neighborhoods of the United States. He did the splits, he moved sinuously, he jerked around, he shook and shuddered. He breaked, he roboted, he boogaloo’d, and he popped. The population of living rooms across the United States mimicked his crazy style, and on the streets, hip-hop dancing was born. (Of course, there are many more esteemed contributors, and props to DJ Kool Herc as one of the founding fathers, but your writer is partial to James Brown and anyway you all have Google.)
Get the funk outta the ghetto
That was 1972, and those were the streets. In 2015, a shawty excuses herself from hair and makeup and, in the cramped corner of The Standard’s conference room, shows how the salsa and mambo have a hip-hop equivalent.
“I can’t show you how martial arts contributed to hip-hop,” she giggles; “no room here.” Hip-hop dancer Bea Lesaca would look more appropriate behind the gates of an all-girls prep school with her twin braids and button nose, but the 27-year-old is destined to fly. A few minutes later, Bea is nine stories above said streets, fulfilling her promise of showing how martial arts have influenced the gravity-defying dance form as she scissors, flips, and jumps about.
“Hip-hop is about peace, love, unity and having fun,” Bea explains. After all, the dance form takes inspiration from fighting, gymnastics, and other dance forms (including the Funky Chicken) – so the heart of it all is acceptance and passion for the urban art. Along with her crew, Funk Roots, Bea seeks to push forward hip-hop culture in the Philippines. “Gotta push it forward,” she says; “gotta get outta the ghetto.”
Push It Push It Real Good
Push what in particular? Bea explains, “Hip-hop is an intellectual art. People gotta study their stuff instead of just following the trends. People know what’s given to them – but you can’t fake the funk. How do I interpret this move as a Filipino, as a woman?” You can’t contain the movement in a box – it’s not just the stuff you see on commercials or on the silver screen. Bea’s point is that hip-hop is more than just dance – it’s tradition, and there are standards akin to those in martial arts, with mentorship, training, and advancement. It’s a skill combined with the artistry of dance, but it is philosophical as well. “It’s about respect and tradition.”
Bea mentions a few people she respects: Marcus Maguigad of Rocket Room and M Café; Miro Grgic of the Malasimbo Music & Arts Festival; Kristian Hernandez of 71 Gramercy’s Thursday night affairs. Maguigad works closely with the hip-hop community to protect their interests and further their rights. Grgic brought hip-hop legends Afrika Bambaataa and Joe Bataan to the country. Hernandez is a wealth of knowledge on hip-hop and is always eager to share the information. “Music, dance and art – they’re all tied together. They grow together. They push hip-hop together,” Bea states.
When a night out combines live art, some sick beats and some insane freestyling, hip-hop is growing.
Keep street cred off the streets
Bea has been dancing for 12 years. Her education has come from established gurus, to whom she credits her success; she keeps knowledge pure by learning from the best. Bea has earned her stripes, on the streets, legs up in the air. She is an example of the legacy left behind by greats and furthered by the passionate.
Bea made quite a ripple when she became the first homegrown Filipina “bgirl” (breakdancer) who made the cut for Mighty 4 Hip Hop Festival in the US in October 2013, competing against seven of the best bgirls in the world.
“Hip-hop is all about the cred,” Bea says. “You gotta live it, breathe it, do it, learn it.”
In other words, you gotta push it. Or as Bea puts it: “We gotta change for the better.”