Photo courtesy of Style Wild's Facebook Page
Photo courtesy of Style Wild's Facebook Page

Urban dance: a weekend of wild style at Style Wild Weekender

in Dance/My Leipzig/Workshops

My previous article highlighted my latest re-awakened passion for the art of dance, namely salsa and hip hop, in 2018 – and how more people should consider taking up dance as a method of expression and self-development in this new year.

Well, I am a man who likes to follow my own advice. So I started 2019 doing exactly that, spending the entire first weekend of the year in Leipzig digging even further into hip hop, but also discovering more about other styles of urban dance.

Enter Style Wild – The French Connection

Leipzig seriously never ceases to amaze me. Just when you think you know the city in and out, is when something comes along that just blows your mind, and makes you even more excited to be a part of this thriving city.

A couple of weeks ago, my hip hop teacher invited me on Facebook to a weekend-long event called ”Style Wild – The French Connection.” In summary, it was a three-day event where various urban dance style workshops and battles would be hosted in various venues throughout the city. In tandem with these events would be three visiting dance specialists from France, who would be leading workshops and acting as the jury for some of the battles.

Hip enthusiasts, right here in Leipzig...
Hip hop enthusiasts, right here in Leipzig…

Naturally I was intrigued, so I blocked off my calendar and decided I was going to attend the events on all three days. This is my personal recap, and my call to arms for everyone to get out there in Leipzig and get into urban dance.

Friday: The Newcomer Battles & Opening Party @ Distillery

First off, some short education for those completely unfamiliar with the topic of a dance battle. I mean, it’s basically exactly how it sounds. Solos or teams “battle” it out on the dance floor, and winners get selected by judges who are experienced in the form of dance that is being performed.

So day one of the weekend included the newcomer battles, and of course, what weekend-long event would be complete without an opening party? These events were hosted at Leipzig’s famed Distillery Club in the Südvorstadt. Now, I was a little perplexed about the schedule, as it said doors open at 19:30 and the battles where scheduled to start at 20:15… I mean, who rolls up into a club that early for anything, right?

But as I entered, it hit me – the newcomer battles were open to a lot of younger kids and teenagers. So they had to start at the venue early, because I believe anyone under 18, per German law, had to be out of the club by 22:00. This was really awesome to watch though, as there are very few things in life that will give you a cooler feeling than watching the next generation get passionate about something that you also enjoy doing. And I gotta say, some of these young guns can absolutely slay it on the dance floor already!

It was really cool watching them bust out old classic moves that we used to rock as kids as well in the 90’s. Really awesome watching kids as young as 12 years old battle it out, and develop such a love for the dance so early on in life.

It’s going to be exciting to see how some of these guys develop as they reach their adult years.

Unfortunately, I didn’t stay for the after party, because I registered for four workshops on Saturday, which is a total of six hours of non-stop dancing (was actually more than that in the end), so I turned in early on day one. But the party pictures on Instagram looked awesome, so I have faith that was also a good time.

Saturday: Knowledge Exchange and Workshops @ Heizhaus Leipzig

Saturday’s events are what I was most looking forward to: a series of four workshops led by amazing teachers who have been perfecting their craft of dance for many, many years. Each workshop was scheduled to be 90 minutes long, and each cost €25 to participate. I signed up for all four, which was a physically exhausting feat, but I would do it all again in a heartbeat.

It was such an awesome feeling to get to dance with people all day long, from all different backgrounds, all having different levels of experience, but all just having a good time dancing and laughing together. Plus I figured stuff like this doesn’t happen all that often in Leipzig, so I would use this as an opportunity to learn and practice some new skills. As a side note, if you are ever to embark on ANY 6+ hour dancing endeavor, I highly recommend you bring more to snack on than just two carrots and a package of sour gummy candies. This was definitely inadequate…

The four styles of dance that were focused on were:

LOCKING with Bana

I really enjoyed this workshop, as locking really reminds me of the style of dancing that bridged the end of the 70’s with the beginning of the 80’s: Disco was starting to die out, and a lot of pioneers in the hip hop and rap genre were starting to emerge, and the dancing reflected that.

Locking uses a lot of twirling and circular motions. As the name implies, you “lock” a lot of your movements, which simply means that on certain beats, you hold the position or move that you are in for a split second, to give the dance its distinct impression of being locked into various positions.

Bana is from Frankfurt, and watching her lock is really amazing, check her out below.

POPPING with Sacha

Of the four workshops, this one was my favorite, because I found it easily the most difficult one. I’m weird like that; I like to push myself, so when something is completely new or uncomfortable, I tend to embrace it and let it elevate me as much as possible. I’ve got A LOT of work to do before I can pop anything, but I enjoyed learning some basics in this workshop.

Popping, at least in my own interpretation of it, seems to be a descendant of locking. The biggest differences are that popping doesn’t hold a position as long, it tends to be a bit more flowing; and its defining characteristic is that you actually need to “pop” your moves by flexing certain muscles when you perform certain actions on beat. These moves are called a “hit,” and when you hit and flex properly with the timing, your body performs a nice little popping effect.

It’s hard to describe in words, so just check out the French Sacha doing her magic below. Try to pay special attention to her arm and leg muscles, to see if you can catch that pop.

HOUSE with Tijo

For me, this workshop was the most eye-opening and also the most physically demanding. I like house music, but for the most part, I always just viewed it as music you could just kinda chill to, and bob your head with on the beat. I never saw people really get into dancing whenever a club played house music; people would always just kind of be, well, bobbing around. But then again, maybe I’ve just been going to crappy clubs my entire life… alas, a debate for another day.

House dancing indeed DOES have its own form of dancing, and the interesting thing about it is that within house dancing, there are actually four different styles included:

  1. Heavy, which is very hip hoppy, keeping your center low – stomping motions, very static;
  2. Up and Down, which is exactly how it sounds – your center travels between bent legs and not bent legs;
  3. Up is very ballet-like – fully extended legs, doing the motions on the ball of your foot;
  4. Jumping… yeah I think you get the point with this one.

So we learned the basic step patterns, and repeated that basic step pattern in all four variations. This was a TON of moving around in 90 minutes, and by the end of it, we were all happily drenched in sweat. I gotta say, I’m looking forward to my next venture in a club that is rocking house music; after all, I gotta use this stuff or I am gonna forget it, right?

Tijo is our second judge / teacher from France, and he’s been dancing various urban styles forever, plus he is a DJ. He dove right into the moves with us from the start, and never slowed down the entire time he was teaching, I really enjoyed this session a lot.

Check him busting out a move.

HIP HOP with Physs

I knew the last workshop was going to be amazing because the instructor, Physs, led the warm-up to James Brown’s “Payback” – one of my all-time favorite funk songs – and it was exactly what I needed to get a much needed boost of energy after just powering through five hours of dancing.

The workshop certainly did not disappoint. Physs is absolutely hypnotizing to watch dance, and he’s a very talented teacher as well. While all of his moves are rooted in classic hip hop form, you can definitely see his own style and integrations in the way the Frenchman teaches.

It was a great end to the series of workshops, and I’ll be trying to integrate some of these moves into my own repertoire.

The workshops were a ton of fun to participate in, but perhaps the coolest part of it was watching the teachers partake in each other’s workshops. It was cool to see the teachers becoming students and vice versa, as it is truly a testament that dance never ends. You’ll never master all of it, and you can always learn something new from someone else. Very motivating stuff.

This day ended with all four judges hosting an open Q&A session, but after a full day of moving around, I was done and ready to go home. Though I’m certain this was a very enlightening event for anyone who wanted to learn more about the backgrounds and techniques of the teachers.

Sunday: The Final Battles @ Werk 2

The closing day took us to Connewitz’s Werk 2 to host the final sessions of battles for the more experienced dancers. This was a really cool experience to see as well, as the four aforementioned teachers were also the jury for the battles. You could really see all forms of urban dance here, everything jammed into one final chorus of performances from all ethnicities, age ranges, and backgrounds.

For a chilly and grey Sunday afternoon, the energy level in here was in top form and purely intense, and everyone was just in a really great mood. Awesome music throughout the day, and fantastic camaraderie displayed between all dancers.

Check out these two clips I recorded, to get a sense of what the day was like in there.


How to get involved with Style Wild

This weekend’s events all took place mainly in English, as three of the four judges were French. Since the event pulls in people from all over Europe, there’s a good chance that future events will also be held in English. The best part is, even if they are not, you’ll still have an amazing time, because you don’t need to know how to speak the language to learn or appreciate dance, it can almost always be done entirely visually!

To take part in future Style Wild events, which I absolutely recommend, I’d suggest following them on Facebook and/or Instagram. They’re very active on both. Or of course, you could check out their website.

Full disclaimer: The staff for the workshops won’t turn away anyone at the door, nor are you ever asked what your experience with dance is. That being said, the workshops move VERY fast, so if you’ve never danced at all in your life before, you might feel like you’re getting left behind. Therefore, before your first Style Wild workshops, I’d highly recommend getting some basics down in one of the many urban dance offerings within Leipzig.

There’s a comprehensive calendar listing all local urban dance events and classes on Urban Dance Leipzig. If you’d like to dance with me, you can certainly join me at the hip hop class led by Mandy Unger in Baileo Tanzpassion in the city center on Tuesday nights, from 19:00 to 20:00.

So get out there, pump up the volume, and get your dancing shoes on!

Shawn eventually made his way from his home country of the United States to Germany in 2014 and is now the Marketing Director at SpinLab – The HHL Accelerator. When he’s not helping startups scale, he can normally be found trying to learn another language, dancing salsa, hip hop, or on his longboard, doing stand up comedy, or simply just jamming on his ukulele.

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