Written by Assad “Invent” Conley
As a dancer in the 21st century, online presence is critical to our success in the greater world. We spend countless hours building up Youtube channels, Twitter accounts, Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook profiles. We use these as tools to connect with the greater world around us. We see what other dancers are up to in their progress, we promote our own selves, and we find new friends around the world. We share our moments in the studio, on the stage, our successes and our failures. But not everything can be all gumdrops and lollipops. At times we find ourselves in a disagreement with another dancer, and some way or another, that disagreement escalates. How we handle that escalation, people fail to realize, is not only a reflection of ourselves, but of our whole scene.
I am a popper. That’s the style I’ve come to love and the style I’ve been a practitioner of the last 13+ years of my life. When I discuss popping with non-poppers, they usually tend to shift the focus of the conversation away from the dance itself, over to questions about a certain current beef, or the politics of the scene, and how drama filled the dance is.
There’s a saying that “perception is reality.” People perceive the popping scene to be drama and hate, so that’s what the dance scene is filled with. It’s easy to think “well that’s not me, that’s other people in the scene…” and that very well may be true, but the fact of the matter is people tend to focus on negative aspects more so than positive. I’m going to give you the best example of how this works: myself and my own actions as a popper in the Internet Era of the dance.
I was a heavily active poster on a message board known as “Mr. Wiggles Forum.” That’s Mr. Wiggles of Rocksteady Crew and the Electric Boogaloos. There was a point where I was living in New York City in 2005 and I entered a popping competition. My partner and I passed prelims, but then we were eliminated first round. The only reason I could make out for us losing, was that we did not do the Electric Boogaloo style (one of their members was a judge and he was making the decisions).
So, I went home, I thought about it, and then I made an angry rant on the Mr. Wiggles Forum about how that member was biased and cheated us. He saw it and said to see him on the dance floor. So I said I would battle him. This sparked a big feud. Lots of threats of physical violence came as a result, between the people that said they supported me and the people that were against me on this. Of course I was threatened a lot. But I went to the very next jam in NYC to battle that member of the EBs. None of the people that “backed” me showed up. I battled, and I got smoked. No one laid a finger on me. The debate over it went on for a few months following.
In 2008 I moved to San Francisco. Not long after, some poppers I knew had joined this freestyle group that just started called Academy of Villains. I saw their practice footage on youtube, and I decided to comment on it. To put it very mildly, I said that they were hyping each other up on some not-so-amazing moves. This started another verbal war, I received plenty of threats, and again I showed up to battle them (this time I had two friends with me). We battled, it got heated. We all let it go. Not too long after, I had a one on one conversation with Pharside about it (as it was his crew). We ended up seeing eye to eye, and a few years down the road I joined AOV for a short period.
You may be asking yourself how has this all impacted me as a dancer?
No matter all the tutorials I’ve created, all the years I’ve spent giving advice and helping other dancers out, 10 years later, there’s still people in New York that when they hear the name “Invent,” their reaction is to blurt out “Oh, that jerk.” (That’s putting their words nicely.) That beef with AOV that turned into mutual respect, fractured the friendships I had with the people who backed me, and other friends, and that translated over to a negative attitude from the poppers that came up under them, so essentially, my name is trash in the Bay Area popping scene. I’m glad that the major beef and arguments I got into, were local to where I was living, because then I was able to show up on the dance floor and handle business there.
The only way I can describe getting involved in internet disputes is this: It’s like a bad tattoo. It seems like a great idea at the time, but later on you regret it. Even if you get a cover up tattoo, that ink is always there as a part of you. You get the tattoo laser-removed, and you have a permanent scar from the tattoo. Make good decisions as a dancer in how you handle yourself online and you won’t have to deal with the scars of your actions.
I’ve witnessed entire dance scenes get blacklisted from opportunities because people were arguing and putting themselves before the dance they claim they love. As I’ve witnessed it with my own eyes: You NEVER know who is watching the social media you are a part of. You carrying yourself the best that YOU can, can be ruined by someone else carrying themselves in the worst way they can.
This all brings me back to the scene I love: Popping. There was some recent drama that sparked off, because a popper from Florida had called out the Los Angeles popping scene for a battle. This was on Facebook. As a freestyle dancer of any type, it’s a bad idea to do any battle call outs online. People will misinterpret your words or take them as more negative than they are meant to be and cause problems.
Call outs are best done in person. Not going to be in the area of who you’re calling out for a long time? Perfect. GO PRACTICE. Keep practicing, and when you’re done, practice some more. When you finally get to call them out face to face, you will be more than ready, and they may not be, giving you the advantage to make your (dance) point.
So, people took the call out negatively. Then it turned into the whole Florida scene being disrespectful to the Los Angeles scene (even though one person made the call out), and it escalated from there. People dissed each other, got personal, and ultimately threats of violence were made. I’ve been involved in this stuff long enough to tell you without fail: This is how it always goes down. And as a part of the popping scene and community, I want to apologize for all of this non-sense. I want to address the issues that arose to help people process it. I want to facilitate a discussion with the other dance scenes about something so negative but honestly, I don’t know how. I don’t know where to start and where to end.
As dancers, we work hard to keep our bodies from breaking down due to the stresses we put on them daily. But the online negativity and arguing puts a daily stress on our minds. It wears down our will and makes us not want to be involved in what we feel we love. I have been a moderator on a few different forums and currently admin the What’s Poppin Facebook Group, and at this point, I know my mind is breaking down from dealing with the dramas I created and dealing with everyone else’s drama. The subtitle is “Handling Online Dance Related Conflicts” so I suppose I should tell you the magic fix all for dealing with it:
Don’t allow the negativity to exist in your scene because there is so much more negativity and bad that we, and others are facing in the world. Dance is my escape, your escape, and their escape. Keep things good within your dance and it can only beget good things. Let dance enrich and enhance your life and those around you.