History: Shway Style/Waackin’/Punkin’

Shway Style created by Shabba-Doo – Article written by Corina Best

“Here’s the stark contrast, separating me from the pack; most dance teachers are seeking new students. I seek to create the next generation of dance leaders. Most teach or learn with an eye on mastering a form. I endeavour to empower dancers with the freedom and knowledge to be a creator of any dance form. Building a new generation of Legends.” ~ Adolfo ‘Shabba-Doo’ Quinones.

The aim is not mastery. The aim is creation.

Over 35 plus years, Shabba-Doo has codified and recreated the original punking/waackin social club dance from the floor up, pouring his blood, sweat, tears and decades in to making it the fully developed awe-inspiring form it is today. It is now a fully-fledged form in its own right. ‘Shabba-Doo’s Way’ comes with clear stylistic elements: specific techniques, teachings, training methods, and sound theoretical principals.

It’s Sunday evening, 17th June 2012. I’ve had a chilled weekend and I am thinking back over last week’s training.  Whilst sitting here, it just occurred to me that to do near 600 various repetitions for abs and core as the start to my day have become normal.  When did that change occur? I’ve always seen myself as quite a resilient character.  This type of training has proved that whatever I thought I could achieve before, I have even more in me to give. As I have mentioned in earlier articles, we have been working on multiple levels all at once.  As such it is not only physically demanding but emotionally demanding too.

In every session I am:

  • Focusing on movement quality and precision
  • Doing everything full out the whole time
  • Interlacing technique development with emotion and musicality
  • Layering musicality into different parts of my body simultaneously
  • Fighting physical pain and the urge to slack through fatigue – mind over matter.

We learn in a linear and non-linear way. Although our focus may be on one particular area, (this is where the linear idea comes in to play – you have to learn A before you do B, because B is built on A), all of the other elements are being peppered through it constantly (this is the non-linear, intuitive part) so that it becomes second nature to draw on everything available to us and infuse it into what we do when we dance. It is a completely holistic approach to dance training. As he teaches, Shabba-Doo is masterful at intertwining all of these things to appropriate degrees to ensure the growth and progress of his students in every single session.

Do you want to become an artist or learn to paint by numbers?

Shabba-Doo explains the basic philosophy of Shway is to encourage and stimulate creativity.  He says the ultimate aim for any dancer is not to “master” a style but to become a “creator.” Mastery suggests an ending. It is not conducive to true freestyle. Creativity is. If you are aiming for mastery you will never achieve creation.  But you have to learn and master what is already here in order to reach creation.  He related it to martial artists who achieve their black belts. For them, this is the beginning not the end. ‘Shabba-Doo’s Way’ has many facets – whilst it has a correct technique or ‘form’ there is more than one-way to do this dance.

He also likens it to one learning to speak. First you learn the alphabet, and then words, grammar and sentences. Eventually you have a fluent language. Whilst there is structure to this, it is your choice how YOU speak, how YOU string the words together, whether YOU speak loudly or whisper, what tone YOU use to communicate your point. You get the idea right?

Through his teachings he provides a solid foundation along with a multitude of tools, which can be applied in varying amounts to enable the dancer to experiment and be free. He describes dance as a living organism, thus he is continually evolving and developing this style and his aim is for his students to be able to do this too. In order for that to happen whilst retaining the essence of the style it is necessary to learn the technique of the style and to understand deeply the nuances that make it what it is.  Without those things, it becomes something else.

A brief history lesson – the development of Waacking

Shway is not the original form of Waacking/Punking that was being done by the gay community in the 1970′s. Shabba-Doo learnt from the Original Waack Dancers (aka The Garbo Boys).  He then took elements of what they were doing and infused his styles – Locking and Soul Dance – into it.  This is the style of Waacking that was popularised around the world, seen on the big screen in the film Breakin’ and on popular TV shows such as the Big Show and Soul Train. Let’s get something clear. THE WORLD HAS NEVER SEEN THE ORIGINAL STYLE THAT WAS HAPPENING IN THE CLUBS. To my knowledge, there is no footage of this form in its pure state or natural habitat. The closest documented footage is of the Original Waack Dancers who were cast in the Diana Ross ‘Love Hangover’ Show at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas 1979.  However, in this show, it had already moved away from the raw form being danced in the underground, as it was adapted for stage.

Shabba-Doo’s Way therefore, should not be called ‘Original Waacking/Punking’ because it is not.  If you want to learn that style I would  suggest your first port of call be Viktor Manoel who is the ONLY original punk currently teaching.  Shabba-Doo took the essence and components of that dance, i.e. punking, poses, and added professional and physical dynamics not previously present in the original strain.  Essentially, creating a supercharged well rounded, off-shoot of the form.

The transition from social dances to art forms

Over 35 plus years, Shabba-Doo has codified and recreated the original waacking/punking social club dance from the floor up, pouring his blood, sweat, tears, and decades into making it the fully developed awe-inspiring form it is today. It is now a full-fledged art form in its own right. If you find it hard to get your head around that concept, it might help for you to think of it like this – I equate it in the same way different forms of Contemporary dance were created by Graham and Cunningham or like what Mattox and Fosse did in Jazz. Just like them, Shabba-Doo’s Way, comes with a clear stylistic element to it, specific techniques, teachings and training methods and also with sound theoretical principals as well.

I am not sure the street dance world is quite ready to embrace Shway as of yet. Nevertheless, it exists!  In fact I believe that the majority of the Waacking community world-wide have very little understanding of the Shway form. It would seem that everyone is too busy arguing with each other over what is right or wrong when the truth is that it is possible that there are different approaches to each street style. For example I have just highlighted two within the Waacking form – Original Waacking/Punking and Shway-Style.

For any dance to truly be a specific style within a form it is imperative to have distinctive elements that make it so; elements which allow it to stand alone in its own right. Each of the Waacking styles mentioned above have specific nuances and techniques that give them their own unique identity within the Waacking family.

Likewise with Locking, Shabba-Doo teaches Original Locking (the way it was done by The Lockers in the 70′s) and Locking 5.0 which is the 5th generation  (5 decades on) and is an evolved more current, streamlined style of Locking.

Perhaps it is time for everyone to start codifying their specific styles and methods to provide clear teachings for the future generations.  If you are someone who has contributed significantly to the development of one of these art forms (as in been an architect), organise what it is you have created in a clearly communicable format to aid and support the understanding and development of these arts going forward. If you don’t there is a danger that it will die with you. And in my eyes, that would be a great loss.

One question I have is this … do you want to ‘keep it real’ going round and round in the hamster wheel? Or do you want to elevate street dances to allow for them to get recognition as the beautiful art forms that they have become AND for them to live on with their true essence intact?  I know which one I choose. And that is why I support this creator, a master teacher of teachers; my great friend and mentor Shabba-Doo.

I’d like to leave you with this thought …

“Let what YOU love be what YOU do.  If you could do anything in this life what would it be? Ask yourself ‘ What do I really want?’ Be brave. Dig deep. Find it (it’s in you, not outside of you). Now go and get it, ain’t no one else gonna do it for you! You choose how the story of your life goes, remember that. Clarity of intention is everything”. ~ Corina Best <3

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