Dance Mogul: Who is Alyssa Chloe?
Alyssa Chloe: I am a dancer/performer/instructor and overall art enthusiast from Chicago. I grew up in Hyde Park, both my parents were musicians, but I was raised mainly by my mother, who was also a child of the ’60s. So music, dance, theater, and art were deeply integrated into my life since I can remember. I grew up listening to a lot of her records which ranged from, soul, rock, disco, pop, and classical from the Beatles, to Motown, to PFunk, James Brown, Prince, alongside the current R&B, Hip Hop, and House of that era. I started dancing in 1988, studying jazz, then modern and ballet a little later, while also doing some of the party and social dances from Chicago. In 2000, I started to get more involved into street dance in Chicago which led me to make the choice to move to NYC in 2003 which is where I was eventually introduced to the vibe, styles, and cultures of the NYC underground, including a style that I guess people associate me more with now, Punking/Whacking.
Dance Mogul: Give us some history of Chicago dance culture?
Alyssa Chloe: Tough Question! I can only talk about Chicago from my point of view, but to me, Chicago has a rich history of brilliant artists in dance and art for that matter that I don’t think a lot of people know or talk about, but should. In the technical side, one of my real jazz first teachers was a pupil of the late great Katherine Dunham, Bob Montgomery (RIP), who was no-frills, no jokes! no babying, and he was frightening to me as an 8 yr old then there was the late great Joseph Holmes, who was sort of like our Alvin Ailey for Chicago, but very distinct in his own right, he went on to create Joseph Holmes Dance Theater and School, in which I was a scholarship student under the direction of Kevin Iega Jeff of Deeply Rooted Prod. fame, then there is the great Joel Hall, who not only had his company Joel Hall Dance Company, along with his school, with artists such as Vanessa Truvilion, Kirby Reed, Dwayne Pendavis, to name a few which was another school I attended. Other Companies who were among my favorites was also, Hubbard Street Dance Company and River North Dance Company, who were beyond amazing! For street or social dance, growing up, because of my mother, a dance called the Bop, which would evolve into what it is known now as Stepping, was big it was/is one of the coolest, slickest, smoothest, sensual, partner dances, that I have ever seen and was ingrained in our culture. Growing up, a lot of the party dances that were popular back in the day, that was being developed in hip hop in NYC were popular, but we had our own flavor artists like Viola Davis, and Boogie Mclaren and many others who were holding it down for hip hop and street, House is of course really huge in the underground culture since it was partly birthed and developed there, so jacking and juking was major which were the early predecessors to what eventually evolved into what is known all over the world as Footworking which was made popular by the footwork kings.
Dance Mogul: What made you move to NY and once you got there what was that experience like and how was the dancing different from Chicago?
Alyssa Chloe: In 2001, when I started getting more involved in the various styles of street dance, I knew that eventually, I wanted to come to NYC because I knew for hip hop especially, it was the birthplace and I wanted to experience what that was. Eventually, when I moved in 2003, I met a dancer/artist by the name of Raymond Spex Abbiw, who introduced me to the underground and to a lot of the pioneers of the house, hip hop, and street dance movement. It was overwhelming because I had never seen so many varieties of styles and dancers in an organic setting up until that point. It was humbling and exhilarating! And while Chicago, of course, has great dancers and styles as well, it didn’t seem to have as much accessibility and diversity in terms of artists and styles that NYC offered. There is a reason NYC is considered to be the dance capital of the world. Stylistically, what was interesting to me, is that in many ways NYC was more laid back in terms of approach than Chicago, in particular when it comes to “house” or Jacking. In Chicago, jacking and juking actually was closer to hip hop while in NYC, jacking, or clubbing, was more smooth and cool. in the “house scene” itself in NYC, there was more of a range of styles that were done such as hustle, Vogue, Street Jazz, Salsa, African, etc.
Dance Mogul: How has the politics of dance hurt the culture?
Alyssa Chloe: From my point of view, in the bigger picture, it has compromised the integrity of the art forms that we have spent so much of our energy creating and exulting. It has taken the fun out of the sport so to speak. Its become a game of survival of the popular instead of the survival of the craft and the culture. I think that we sometimes forget, that when these dances were being developed, in the street, the pioneers had no idea that these dances would be where they are today. They were just expressing themselves to escape and cope with trauma, abuse, disenfranchisement, etc, that was embedded in our society and out of that grew these roses of art forms that would forever transform the world. Somewhere along the lines, when it became a sensation all of over the world and in media, and when there was a chance to make a living, for some, (not everyone), it became so much about themselves, staying relevant, their legacy, etc that the drive to express all facets of our identity and human experience has gotten lost. When at the end of the day, after the business is gone, when the fame is all gone, all we will have left is the dance, the art, and hopefully the love and passion for it.
Dance Mogul: How hard is for a female street dancer to get and maintain work
Alyssa Chloe: Well, I think what makes it tough, is that somehow, street dance tends to be male-dominated and favored I don’t know why, but I guess there is some intimidation for females who have skills and confidence and opinions, which I feel is a huge double standard and if you are a female who doesn’t fit into that mold, then the fight for respect is harder. It seems that there is a certain image that projected onto females that we have to either be sex objects, practically dance like men, or be seen not heard as a way to diminish our light and throws the ying and yang balance in art off even despite the fact that dance is mostly a female-dominated art.
Dance Mogul: Who are some of the people that have inspired you and helped you on your journey?
Alyssa Chloe: My lists are infinite, but I will do my best. I would say first and foremost, my mother for she was the one to introduce me to dance, art, and culture as a child and prepared me for the life of an artist so to speak. My dance family and landscape in Chicago which I have already mentioned hugely inspired me to create and never let go of what made me want to dance in the first place, notable artists such as Balanchine, Baryshnikov, Nureyv, Nicholas Brothers, Gregory Hines, Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Bob Fosse, Gwen Verdon, Cyd Charisse, Alvin Ailey, Judith Jameson, Al and Leon, Frankie Manning, the Berry Brothers, Bruce Lee, James Brown, The Lockers, Soul Train, American Bandstand, Michael Jackson, Prince, Tina Turner, etc and the list goes on. Raymond Spex Abbiw, who was the one who introduced me to NYC underground culture and notable dancers, I wouldn’t be as involved in street dance without him. The NYC Underground Scene vibe, energy, and culture that has inspired me to dance and enjoy the freedom of that expression and creativity. Brian Footwork Green, brilliant artist whom I admire well known for bringing attention and bringing together so many different dances and dancers together through the HDC, but, I credit him largely for bringing back attention in NYC to punking/whacking because he made it a point to introduce it into places like Fazils, and BDC when it was sort of being lost in street jazz starting around 2000? He introduced me initially to the dance itself in 2003 and 2 months later he was the one who introduced me to Ana Sanchez.
Ana Sanchez, who I met in 2003, was the one who introduced me and the source who inspired me to learn punking/ whacking, went on to continue to train and guide me within the style for years. One of the most brilliant street dancers I’ve met worked with.
Archie Burnett, who I discovered initially through footage of him through Lincoln Center Library, and eventually got to meet around the same time I was learning about punking/whacking, through old footage. I would come out to the parties with the garage heads and lofters where he would be there, and I would practice and it was the best practice I think a girl could get. Willie Ninja- Willie I had known about since I was a child, through PBS, so when I came to NYC and saw him in real life, it was breathtaking he was so brilliant. I am so lucky that I got to see and meet him and his excellence inspires me to be better. House of Ninja, who I am honored to have learned a great deal from and worked with for a few years, and have profound respect for as artists and the keepers of Willie’s flame and legacy.
Shabba-Doo, who I met in 2008 and learned from briefly, who despite our differences, I still consider one of the most brilliant dancers I have had a chance to learn from.
Viktor Manoel, whose insight, wisdom, advice, diplomacy, practicality, and commitment to this art form and his approach has served as a beacon of light to stay true, look for the bigger picture and to push forward for the greater good of the dance and to put my ego where it belongs on the dance floor.
Dance Mogul: If there where an all-female edition of dance mogul magazine who do you feel should be featured?
Alyssa Chloe: Well, it depends on what the theme or genres you want to explore if it were generational I guess it would be best to start, with the ladies who are the predecessors to the street dance movement now, so artist like Josephine Baker, Katherine Dunham, Carmen De Lavallade, Norma Miller, to Damita Jo Freeman, the Butterfly Girls from Soul Train, Toni Basil, Ana Sanchez, to all of us females out here now.
Dance Mogul: Any inspiring or self-empowering words for female dancers coming up?
Alyssa Chloe: To stay committed to maintaining the integrity of the art and of oneself especially as a female, because it is unfortunate that women aren’t taken as seriously as they should. Focus on developing your skills, and your craft and take care of yourself, because at the end of the day when the fame fades or the trend changes, you will be able to adapt and continue to create without being stagnant. Lastly, be proud and confident in who you are as a female, because there are a ying and yang in the arts as well, and your presence is just as important as the males.
Dance Mogul: Anyone you want to thank?
Alyssa Chloe: To the higher power in the universe that continues to open paths to new opportunities for growth. To Dance Mogul for this opportunity, to all of the artists I have mentioned here, thank you for your light, lastly to all who have truly loved, and supported me and my evolution.