Chrysta Monique: The scene is the 1970’s; you and your mother were walking back from the store. You see a group of guys breakin' on the sidewalk. What emotion(s)/thoughts did you have?
ARG:I was excited, curious and impressed. I wondered where they learned it. I considered them very cool and had no idea I was going to one day carry that torch.
CM: Was there an ‘ah ha’ moment when you knew Breakin'/Hip Hop was your destiny? Or did you know from the moment you saw your first circle?
ARG: I never jumped in Breaking circles while the popularity was at its fever pitch. I began jumping in circles after Breaking changed to New Jack Swing, House and Freestyle; But, I always wanted to do floor moves. I began dancing on the street and I remember being on 53rd street/Broadway and being in uniform with the Hitters, and seeing the crowd gathering and everyone clapping it up and....I was feeling deeply like I was a part of something important and nostalgic (since Breaking and Popping were not popular on TV at all). I realized I was the only girl and people looked amazed at what little floor moves I did know, and how I maneuvered my body on the concrete. It was then I knew I was where I was supposed to be.
CM: Knowing that you were presumably the only Bgirl at the time, what was your motivation to keep moving forward?
ARG: At first, I just wanted to prove the guys wrong and show how far a girl could take it. Then it became a cultural mission to share the process and value of the history/roots of these moves. The industry never knew what to do with me. I’d go to auditions and dance BETTER than the males, but wouldn’t get the Breakdance gigs. There were a few other Bgirls and some were in complete solidarity and others were influenced by B boys to fall into a territorial and competitive tension with me. It was challenging on all sides. Of course at the time, my family didn’t understand what it meant to me; but I know I couldn't quit. If I had, people wouldn't have believed Bgirls could be on par with the guys, physically and mentally. I told myself that even though I had no one to giving me that duty. Plus, I felt any girl can sing, rap, or shake their booty....but not many can rock floor moves. I picked this as my way to stand out.
CM: From your front row seat as a Bgirl, what has stood out the most about Hip Hop’s influence on the world?
I've seen Hip-hop prove to the world that poor and forgotten individuals have talents and deserve respect. To this day when I travel around the planet, I see how it has given so many an opportunity to change their negative circumstances into new, exciting, and uplifting situations. It feels like one of the few times where people of color could dictate how it is done and not the other way around.
Lately there has been a lot of frustration and tension in our communities; from race relations, to educational and financial disparities. In what way do you think Hip Hop can contribute to a the dialogue?
There is a unifying force within Hip-hop. We've all struggled no matter what your roots. A long time ago, I was pleasantly surprised to see German Bboys rock like we could. Since then, I realized that Hip-hop was about skill and not about race, religion or any other labels. You either had the magic or you didn’t. 'The magic' meant you worked real hard and were ready to die for your respect. That means we all have commitment and the bruises in common!! Because of that, we can all enjoy being around others of the same positive mind.
The concept of the Universal Zulu Nation and the Hip-hop culture was ahead of its time; Yet very “on time” and makes the same impact as the music of the 70's. The 1970’s was of the post civil rights movement. Songs of that era used many ethnic samples and you can hear the call....“I-am-somebody”. During that time, we were exposed to the emotions that fought against social invisibility; and the music, lyrics dance, and art filled us with pride---even if it was by borough or by horoscope.
CH: Which Brings us to Full Circle Soul Productions! Your way of keeping Hip Hop alive and giving young people a positive outlet. Can you tell us more about your mission?
ARG: At the time Kwikstep the founder and me got together we were surviving the days when Breaking and Popping were not being featured anymore. Those dances were seen as played out fad by the industry and by the new generations of young Hip-hoppers. We decided to continue training and try to put these dance styles on stage as storytelling mediums for theater and dance concerts like we had seen Ballet and Modern. This was not easy but in the end it was possible. But we had to evolve how we learned to manage dancers, work with lighting designers and employ stage directions. There were lots of meetings to be had way ahead of time with producers and theater programmers and tech riders to be drafted. Most of the street dancers you meet are prepared to be soloist, so inviting them to the ensemble set up is and will always be difficult since we fear losing our uniqueness. But it has been a great journey and two decades has flown by with landmark achievements under our belts as well as many lives touched on and off stage.. mine included.
CH:As you know, there’s a lot that goes with establishing a Non-profit (i.e. Business plans, grants ect.). Do you have any advise for budding entrepreneurs?
ARG: There is a lot that goes with establishing a Non-profit (i.e. obtaining grants), do you have any advise for budding entrepreneurs? Potential entrepreneurs have to really be sure they know what it means to be a boss. Mistakes are learning experiences so they should expect to start again with an optimistic view each day. We have all had to learn about technology so we must stay on top of the trends and the advancements that take place while we are young and able to take advantage of it. Make sure to nurture relationships with those you work with since you never know when you will work with them again. Friends may not always help you so be very careful who you hire in your company especially if they are not responsible with their own personal finances or relationships.
CM: You’re not only are you a dancer, poet, and entrepreneur, but you are also a film maker! For those that don’t know about the “All The Ladies Say” documentary how would you describe the film?
ARG: It happened after we created a 6 city tour to promote the release of Martha Coopers B girl photo book.. “We B*Girlz”. Full Circle wrote a grant to make the trips possible and when Kwik and I returned from the project we looked at the 13 mini dv tapes and knew theres a film in there. We began asking around; although it took 7 years, in 2013 it was picked up by Third World Newsreel after it was premiered at Lincoln Center’s Dance On Camera film festival. The biggest lesson we learned was fund raising. The process of raising money is hard; but you can't ask a talented editor like Melissa Ulto to do this for free. I also learned to be patient. When it comes to choreography or memorizing lines or a poem, i can rock it, but a film is a whole other thing. It makes you depend on the ensemble and the funding!! I am happy to share it with dance students, dance majors, dance or Hip-hop festivals and to bring some of the featured dancers in it to offer their stories in person when we can get that to happen. Many people really don’t know that Bgirls exist so this is another way to show people how limited the mainstream really is when it comes to culture and community. Anything is possible but you really have to commit and expand out of your comfort zone to make things happen.
CM: Lastly, is there anything about Bgirl/Bboy culture that you think goes unsaid or misunderstood?
ARG: Bboys and Bgirls are not living in the 80’s so the world needs to stop putting us into that box. Our music has changed, the moves have evolved and we need to be respected for the progress. There are many young potential leaders out there, but if people stay in the 80’s we can’t move towards ownership. I think our dance scene wants to be respected and it can benefit from guidance from elders from parallel communities like Tap, Salsa and African dance. Our own Hip-hop elders can only do so much and our young generations are trying to make progress without a reference of the roots and without business coaching. A bridge can be created but it needs to be done tactfully. Our Hip-Hop community loves to preserve, evolve and loves to be loved but it wants to move forward successfully and financially. I do hope things will get better for the Hip-hop dancer....I am doing my part to help and there needs to be more done to elevate the journey of an artist.
When asking Ms. Rokafella 'what she's up to these days?' the real question should be 'what isn't she up to? Along with dancing, growing a non profit, and mentoring students is is also teaching at New School University. You can catch up with Ana Rokafella Garcia on her Facebook page and on Twitter; you can find out more on Full Circle Soul Production on thier Blog spot: