Friday, July 31, 2009

Jerk Dancin' in Durham

Photo: Mark Wallace (Crush 1)

Jerk Dancin' in Durham

Paul Scott

Twenty-five years ago, Hip Hop kids like me were being kicked out of malls for holding impromptu break dance competitions to the chagrin of mall security. Well, times have changed and members of my age group are no longer doing windmills and back flips. However, some things have remained the same. A generation later, kids are still getting run out of malls for dancing.

The latest dance sensation sweepin' the nation is called "Jerkin'" inspired by a song by new Hip Hop crew, the New Boys called "You're a Jerk. " The New Boys are following a trend started by artists like "Soulja Boy Tell em" who put new songs on youtube with funky dance moves and become overnight superstars with a nation of teens following in their dancin' shoe steps.

Songs like "You're a Jerk" have also fueled dancing competitions called "battles." Go to any mall and you will see kids square off to engage in rhythmic combat. That is until some dude in a fresh pressed white shirt, a Dudley Doright mountie hat holding a billy club crashes their party.

It takes one back too a simpler time when a gathering of young folks meant that they were watching their homeboys dance, not engaging in violent confrontations.

Durham resident Mark Wallace has fond memories of those days.

Back in the early 80's, Wallace, then known as "Crush 1" used to electric boogie down the streets of his native Manhattan along with his homies, "Dizzy Doez and "Kippy D." He was also a member of one of the most popular break dancing crews of the day , The Rock Steady Crew, which gained national attention for their many movie appearances and their groundbreaking segment on ABC's news program, 20/20, of which Wallace was a part.

Before turning his energies to breakin', Wallace had his share of run ins with the law for tagging trains in Brooklyn.

However, dancing kept him from doing a lot worst things than spray painting his name on trains.

"Breakin' started at the heart of the heroin era and the dealers were trying to get kids involved in the drug trade, says Wallace. "Breakin' gave us a way out."

Poppin' and Lockin' also kept him out of neighborhood gangs like the Decepticons.

"We built a fortress that they couldn't penetrate", he says.

Just as dancing was able to stop gang violence in New York during the 80's, could it also stop gang bangin' in Durham in 2009?

Wallace thinks it can.

"Gang members will want to embrace this art form, he says. "Where they now identify with colors, they will identify with dance moves."

It's not like Durham doesn't have the space for dance competitions. How about that CCB plaza area downtown that is rarely used? Or that new park that they built downtown?

The city has the means but do our officials have the will?

While "Jerk" contests might not save all of Durham's kids, it will serve as an outlet for a bunch of energetic teens whose main complaints are that there is "nothing to do in Durham."

Local Jerk dancer, Nia Scott agrees. "There isn't enough stuff for me and my friends to do, she says. "We get tired of hanging out at the mall."

If dancing stops one child from going down the wrong path, isn't it worth a few boom boxes blaring downtown?

It helped Mark Wallace.

"There's no telling where I would have been without break dancing."

Mark Wallace is a health coach and authority on break dancing. To contact him call (631)428-6425)

Paul Scott writes for No Warning Shots He can be reached at (919) 451-8283