Yes I Think I Can Dance
My esteemed co-blogger Jürgen Siebert once gave me advice for The FontFeed. He suggested I should be more personal in my blog posts, and occasionally tell you a little more about myself and my interests, in order to connect more. Up till now I have been a bit hesitant to do this. I feel I'd put unnecessary focus on me as a person, instead of on what I have to tell about typography, design, and related topics – which is the purpose of this blog after all. However for once I am going to make an exception, because today I am doing something really silly.
Rhythm has always played a crucial role in my life, and still does. I began dancing when I was seven or eight years old. A couple of years later I started going to music school, where I picked up drumming and percussion, and I joined my first band age 16. I also completed the jazz ballet course, from age 12 to 17. Back then you only had the choice between classic, modern, and jazz ballet; there simply wasn't anything else. This didn't exactly make me the coolest guy in school, especially since I always was the lone boy in a dance class full of girls and women. Not being interested in the typical "manly" sports didn't help at all.
In the middle of it all came 1984 (I was 15 then), a pivotal year for dance. Michael Jackson's seminal videos for Billy Jean, Beat It, and Thriller revealed fantastic new moves. Prince And The Revolution's breakthrough movie and album Purple Rain, which also launched The Time, taught me how funky you could be without being technically perfect, and the importance of having fun on stage. So did Madonna performing her early hits live on television. Last but not least a number of movies introduced me to hip hop culture: Flashdance, Wild Style, Beat Street, Breakin', …
And most importantly for me, H.I.P.H.O.P., a weekly show on TF1 taught me how to break and pop. We didn't have television at home, so every Sunday afternoon when we visited our grand-parents we avidly watched dubbed versions of Magnum P.I., Starsky & Hutch, The A-Team, etc. Then in 1984 this new show started airing, featuring Sidney, the first black television host on French television. It featured amongst others La Leçon, a step by step dissection of a breakdance move, and ended with a dance battle between two kids. It all looks really cheesy now, but back then the show was very influential. The program lasted less than a year, but I religiously watched it weekend after weekend, and this experience – combined with dance movies and music videos – forged the basis for my life-long love for dancing.
I hooked up with a breakdance crew as a popper, did some jazz ballet performances, was a back-up dancer for an artist who barely dented the Belgian charts, managed to be amongst the final 10 at the Belgian Dance Championship in the late eighties. I held my own, yet never achieved pro level. When I graduated high school I had to choose between design, drums, and dance as a career. I ended up studying graphic design, joined my first pro-level band, but stopped dancing (there's but so many hours in a day). Well, not really – although I didn't take any classes nor performed any longer, I firmly believe you can never truly stop dancing. It's an economic and efficient way of moving, it's a rhythm pattern in your head, it's a structural analysis of the space you're moving through, it's your posture, it's the hairs on your arms standing up when you hear an irresistible beat, it's your legs and arms instinctively busting a move as you're doing something else.
And now, since January, after twenty years of inactivity, I take Urban Dance classes. My 41-year old body tries to warn me and tells me I'm a fool, but I won't listen. Because every time I picked up my daughter Eliza after her dance class I thought: "Damn, why didn't this exist when I was her age?" Because when my family and I were watching the first episode of the Belgian-Dutch So You Think You Can Dance last fall, I received SMSes and chat messages telling me I should try participating this year. So this is why at this very moment I am in Antwerp, waiting for my turn to do the pre-jury audition. Mid-life crisis? You betcha! : P I guess I can make one, maybe two selections and that'll be it. But even if I don't succeed and make a complete fool of myself, I know I would regret it if I hadn't tried.
When my grand-father passed away twenty years ago, he still was an adolescent, trapped in an 80 years old body. My stepfather once told me I take after him, and assured me: "I don't think you will ever grow up. But that's not necessarily a bad thing".
Don't worry, next post we're back to the usual business again. ; )
Images:Taken at TYPOnight 2010 by the incomparable Laurence Penney using his Nikon FM2 with Nikon 35mm lens @about f2, and an iShoot off-camera radio flash trigger ($20) and Nikon SB28 flashgun, with Kodak Elite Chrome ISO100 film approximately 5 years out of date.
Joph Broadcast Graphics
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