The Culture @Maze Street Culture Festival 2017 saw groups of young people learn how to spit lightning-fast beats and bust some serious dance moves.
Co-organised by Youth Square and the Tung Wah Groups of Hospital Tuen Mun Integrated Service Centre, the festival invited teens from Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, and Singapore to take part in a series of urban dance and music workshops from August 11-17.
Young Post went along to two of these workshops – vogue dancing and beat boxing – to put our own creative skills to the test.
Hear the word “vogue” and images of models, posing, and sassy catwalks spring to mind. But in the dance world, vogue is a style which imitates the fluidity and flexibility of model poses often found in fashion magazines such as Vogue (the dance’s namesake).
The dance workshop was conducted by the bubbly and energetic Mira, an instructor from Macau who has been practising this dance form for three years . She introduced to participants to the three main styles: Old way, New way, and Vogue Fem. Mira taught us the five major components of this third style.
The beatboxing workshop was conducted by soft-spoken local artist Atlas, who has been beatboxing for three years.
Beatboxing is essentially making the sounds of a drumkit. Atlas introduced the basics sounds: “B”, “T”, and “K”, then participants tried different arrangements of these sound. Atlas gradually made the arrangements more complex by putting emphasis on certain beats and adding different speeds.
The main ingredients of Vogue Fem
Duck walk – This is probably the easiest move to get the hang of. The dancer squats, resting on the back of their heels, then kicks their feet out repeatedly in time with the beat. The move takes its name from its resemblance tp, well, a duck walking.
Cat walk – Dancers unleash their inner divas with an exaggerated feminine walk, lifting each leg up high and crossing it over the other, arms thrown in opposite directions while hips sway from side to side.
Hand movement – Mime is used as dance moves, or to tell a story. Hand movements can be either choreographed or freestyle.
Floor movement – Dancers roll, twist and move on the ground in a smooth, sensual manner. Floor movements are most tricky as they require flexibility and skill to make the movements look fluid.
Dips – The dancer drops to the floor, arms supporting the torso a few centimetres off the ground with one leg pointing to the air dramatically while the other is curled on the floor. Timing is particularly important in this move; dancers need to listen to the music intently to make sure they “drop” quickly on the right beat.
After two hours of sweat and laughter, the whole class was able to execute a 40-second vogue routine. Mira’s parting advice to young vogue dancers was to be confident in your moves. As vogue is a relatively new style in Hong Kong, she also encouraged us to learn from other dancers and teachers worldwide to gain the most experience.
The beatboxing basics:
B– Close both lips and then release with a burst of air to create a plosive “buh” sound. This is known as the basic lip kick sound, and is one of the easiest and most common techniques.
K– Use the back of the tongue to make a “kuh” sound. Push your tongue against the palate and force air out from your throat, creating the sound of a rim shot, a sharp drum sound.
T – Make a simple “t’’ sound to mimic the sound of a closed high hat cymbal. You can then add a hiss for an open high hat later.
Lip roll – Things get trickier during this move. Open your jaw slightly and jut it to one side. Use your tongue to create suction from the corner of the mouth. Once you have perfected the basic lip roll, you can move on to other lip rolls such as the inward lip roll or pop lip roll. Don’t worry if you can’t produce a good sound at first – it takes time and practice, says Atlas.
Vocal bass – This is a difficult technique as it feels uncomfortable at first, warns Atlas. Bass is created by a slow vibration of the vocal chords. You can gradually increase in strength and volume. Drop your jaw to create more space at the back of your throat for a deeper sound.
In just two short hours, the participants had managed to master the basic beatboxing techniques and were able to perform complex arrangements.
Atlas’ advice to any aspiring beatboxers is to “just have fun”, and to constantly challenge yourself by making up new arrangements and joining beatboxing battles.