The boy who can K.R.U.M.P

29 Jun

(Ed. Note: Entrevista con Nata. In this section, our correspondent Nathaniel Sisma Villaluna will share with us his creamy and delectable stories, 100 % inspiring yet zero in fat.)

Misa, Rodney and Jun 2wiggz (the Japanese who won in the Krump style)

The dance docu-film “Rize” opens with a disclaimer that says  “The footage in this film has not been sped up in any way.”   This refers to the general movements and swift body contortions that are characteristic of Krump dance which  are done with such rapidity and intensity.

“The steps were weird. They were fast. They danced like monkeys.” 

This was Rodney’s first impression when he first saw “Rize”.  The said American docu-film exposes the new dance form known as Krumping that originated in the early 2000s in Inner City, Los Angeles.

After watching the video, Rodney was both intrigued  and taken by the moves and steps of the dance.  He decided to learn it.

But before Rodney Paul Cueto Montero discovered krumping, he was already dancing when he was only seven years old.  And a self-confessed huge Michael Jackson fan at that. 

“My Papa had this VHS  tape  of Michael Jackson in  a concert in Budapest. I fell in love with “Beat It”.  I copied the moves and  that was the time I taught myself how to dance.”

He saw friends dancing at the parks or  at school. He got hooked. 

“When I finally had a computer, I checked out all the new dance steps and practiced them at home.”

And when “Rize” came into the picture, he finally realized what he really wanted to dance.

“Para silang loko-loko kung sumayaw. But later in the middle of the film, I understood the religious message it was trying to convey, through their moves.”

Rize movie poster. “The first Krumpers created the dance as a way for them to release anger, aggression and frustration in a positive and non-violent  way.”

He showed his new moves to several  friends at school  and introduced Krump to them.

“But they said,  “What are you doing?”  They didn’t understand the steps. Soon however, they caught up. Nung nag- umpisa kami ng bestfriend ko sa school, there were some who were critical to the  weird steps.  But hindi ko sila pinapansin. This is my style, my moves, I didn’t mind them.”

Krumping is characterized by  mostly exaggerated yet  expressive, often free and highly energetic movement involving the arms, head,  chest, the legs and feet and is danced to upbeat and fast-paced music. The first Krumpers created the dance as a way for them to release anger, aggression and frustration in a positive and non-violent  way.

The root word “Krump” came from the lyrics of a song in the 90s. It is often represented as K.R.U.M.P., which stands for Kingdom Radically Uplifted Mighty Praise, making krumping as a faith-based  and spiritual form of art.

At that time, there was already a group who was dancing Krump. Rodney tried to join the group, who also happened to be his friends.  

“They were older than me and they were already familiar with Krump.  They had more experience.  Lumalabas na sila sa ilang shows dito sa Spain at sa ibang bansa. I danced in front of them. Some sort of an audition to join in.  But they told me, I still had a lot of room for improvement.  I wasn’t taken in.”

Rodney felt rejected.  They told him to practice some more.  He was very disappointed, he decided to stop dancing. He stopped practicing at home.  He stopped watching dance videos.

For a while, he focused his attention on other things like his part time job at Hardrock Café and  his studies. He is taking up Tourism.

Then May came and school break was fast approaching. He didn’t have anything to do. His stint at Hardrock was coming to an end too.  He found himself bumming at home. One day, he tried dancing again. He checked out dance videos and started  some new moves.  He went to see old friends who “rejected” him and showed them how he got his groove back, and more. 

“They were surprised . It was nice that they kinda missed me.   Tapos nag-usap kami , sumayaw ako in front of them. They liked what they saw.”

Several months later, in between juggling  his part time job  and his studies, Rodney created his own group. It came easy for him to find more than willing members because apparently, the former dance group was falling apart with disgruntling members wanted out. They opted to join Rodney’s.

“It was like a blessing in disguise.  I decided to form a group, I named it “Impact Spain”. The group had its first 10 members.”

Their first stint as a group was at the Asian festival organized by Casa Asia. However, he was not able to perform with his group due to an unavoidable conflict of schedule at work.

“Duty ko kasi noon. I had to report to work. No choice. But I was able to make it even if I arrived late. I was their camera man.”

While Rodney’s group has been krumpin’ around town, Krumping has slowly become popular in Spain with the help of Facebook, Twitter and Youtube.  As of last count, there are now  five active groups in Spain.  In Barcelona alone, there are two and majority of the members are Pinoys.

Then came a dream.

“I attended this hip hop competition. That was when I first thought, why not a competition for Krump.”

For this dream to come true, Rodney  didn’t wait for others to do it for him. He found himself jotting down his ideas, brainstorming, planning and calling people.

“I named the battle as “NO MERCY”. Because in this competition, there was only one round. In most battles each contestant was given 2 rounds to show their moves. Mine was merciless.”

Flipside (Center), from France is one of the best Krumpers in Europe. He was one of the judges.

Having worked in several shops in Barcelona helped Rodney gained friends and won their support. It was not difficult to find sponsors.

“Marami akong kaibigan sa Barcelona. Yung  The Hustle  Store, I used to work there. They helped me. Sunod-sunod na after that. Ang sarap ng feeling. I was doing the right thing. But I had also to be careful. I had to know what to do next. Like, the sponsors, the venue, the budget. Everything.  Yun nga, ang telephone bill ko ang laki dahil sa mga calls ko. My crew helped out promote it.”

With the undeniable popularity and clout  of social networks like Facebook, Rodney didn’t have to “beg” people to come to the said event. People visited his account and signed in.

“Maraming nakakita. They saw my flyer on Facebook.  They said, “ah this guy is serious”, I was not just making some pranks around.   They wanted to be part of it.”

Rodney only expected around 50 people to come. In Accounting terms, he was way too conservative for such a glum estimate.

“Hindi ko akalain na maraming pupunta. Expect ko lang mga 50 people at dito lang sa Barcelona. Plan ko nga maliit na room lang. Pero, nagtatanong sila kung paano makabili ng cheap flight tickets. People  from France, Germany and even Japan were inquiring. They didn’t care how much they just wanted to come.”

The choice for the venue proved a bit tricky.  His first set his eye on a small place somewhere in Barceloneta. The venue can hold 100 people.

“I needed a bigger venue. Later on  I realized: Why only Krump? Why not a bigger battle? Like a huge event with Rap battle, Jerk, Hip hop and Krump all in one fun night.”

 In Hip Hop style, the Barcelona-based Polish girl bagged the first place.

Raiart Theatre in El Borne was finally deemed appropriate for a bigger crowd.  However, amidst all these preparations, pressure   and all, took a  toll on Rodney’s health.

“A month before the main event, I was really stressed out. I was bedridden for one week. I took a rest and recharged.”

After recovering his energy back, he was ready to go to battle. On the day of the competition, he  personally  collected some  of the guests from the airport and took them to their hostels.

“But the two Japanese guests stayed in my place. They didn’t speak Spanish and their English was quite limited, takot ako para sa kanila. 

On March  12, 2011, at exactly 3:30 in the afternoon, Rodney couldn’t believe his eyes.

“We assembled in front of Hardrock Café… and oh man, there were a lot of them. It was raining and I was seeing hundreds of umbrellas. We all walked to the venue together.”

The battle officially started at 6.  The host was from France. The contestants as well as the judges came from France, Italy, Japan, Germany, Madrid,Valencia, Zaragoza, Canarias and Barcelona.   Rodney was “speechless” when he was called on stage to give welcome remarks. The place was full to the rafters. He found himself reciting his  speech in front of about 230 people including a Mexican  documentary director who just came to Barcelona to film the event.

In the Rap category, this 15-year-old Catalan dancer, the youngest dancer of the night, emerged as victorious. 

Given a smooth start, one would expect a hitch-free ending, wouldn’t it? Not.  As the battle was heating up, Rodney was told by the owner of the place that they were only allowed until half past eight.  Beyond that, lights would be out. He argued that the agreement was until nine. He demanded a good reason but the manager was firm.  With grace under pressure, he haggled. They met halfway. Eight forty five.

“I had to act quickly. I had to change the rule. I went  onstage and apologized. The original rule was 1 minute and 30 seconds . we had to change it to less than one minute.”

The battle carried on. And  before the bargained  eight forty five ticked, winners had been  declared. In Hip Hop style, the Barcelona-based Polish girl bagged the first place. At 15, the Catalan dancer who was also the youngest dancer of the night emerged victorious in the Rap category.  In Jerk style, the Barcelona-based Filipino dancer was declared the winner. And in Krump  style, the much coveted first prize went to the Japanese krumper. They each pocketed 50 euros as top prize.

The champ in the Jerk style

“I was a little bit disappointed because of the abrupt ending. But then, people came to me and told me how much fun they had. I felt good.”

More than the success of Rodney’s maiden project, it was the spirit of brotherhood and camaraderie  that proved to be  unparalleled.

“I remember that it was the time when Japan was hit by tsunami and  I was really worried about my Japanese friend. He called all his friends and family in Japan. When he won, he took us out to dinner and used his prize to treat us. He told meKrump is  family, krump is not money,  with my  prize we will eat together” I was touched kasi pumunta lang siya dito from Japan not for  the money but for love of Krump.  He is my idol.”

What did Rodney learn from this event?

 “Unity is very important. Unity is our strength. We  have to praise our  originality and moves, hard work and practice because this is an inspiration to make all things go better.”

Any future plans?

“Lie low muna. Maybe, to organize  future events  or to start a new group worldwide. Who knows?”

For this Filipino Krump dancer, Rodney can easily disclaim that his journey to krumpin’ has  been sped up. It took a lot of hard work, perseverance and patience to show to the world that he too,  deserved to be  called a true blue krumper. Pictures courtesy of Rodney Paul Cueto Montero.

A sample of Krump:

 

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