Free your mind and the rest will follow, the words from EnVogue’s latest release became a sort of mantra.
It was a decision that came at a moment when everything else stopped making sense, except my happiness. I tossed out the two-piece suits, and turned off the world outside. Insulated in my tiny North Park bungalow, I merged into music and dance. During the hottest of summer days I was seated cross legged on the worn carpeting watching MTV and flipping through magazines.
Imploded with music videos, magazines, and dancing; Hip-Hop was the most exhilarating choreography around. I watched the music videos over and over. When I searched the yellow pages for dance classes; no one was offering Hip-Hop. With that, I thought why can’t I be the founder of a dance troupe?
I needed to find the dancers to suit my concept of integrating jazz funk, hip-hop, and Afro-Cuban into a collage workshop.
Piper Jo was the first dancer to join. He came at me with everything he had; talent, faith, intelligence, and belief in this crazy white chick who wanted to hip-hop. Piper played Miles Davis, emulated jazz-funk, and moved like Michael Jackson. He was twenty years old and this was his first teaching job. When I asked him who taught him to dance he answered;
“Michael Jackson and James Brown. I danced in my living room every day. My mother couldn’t get me out of the house. God blessed me with this gift, and I want to share it. So if you put me in your dance troupe I guarantee, you won’t be sorry. NO, you won’t.”
At our first audition Piper said, “How you expect to pick dancers, if you don’t know what to look for. I swear Lue, you are crazy. But don’t worry, I’ll show you. And don’t be picking every guy out there cause he can Hip-Hop, there’s nothing to that. We want dancers with classical training.” He was right.
“Vince Master Jam” was a former break-dancer and studied classical dance. Vince was the coolest; he sat back and waited for his chance, unhurried, relaxed, but when the music came on, he flipped everyone out. He was thirty. Both of them belonged to the no smoking, no drinking, no drugs, group
At that first audition I wanted to select half of the thirty some dancers that showed up. They came dressed in street clothes, wearing scarves and bandannas. I watched them leap, kick, split and turn inside out for the job. I knew that I was in the right spot. Then we added Monique, a startling beauty with Afro-Cuban dance training, and a perpetual attitude of carefreeness.
For the first few months, the Jammers taught classes under a leaky roof, on a tiled floor, without any heat. Piper rode a bus from the other side of town to get to the building. Vince drove an hour each way to teach one class at night. The first few months no one showed up for Vince’s Hip-Hop class. But he kept coming back every week. When I apologized, he said, “ That’s okay Lue. We get it going on, they’ll show up soon– I’m sure.”
They did show up and we moved into a well positioned Health Club downtown San Diego. The classes filled up with students, dancers, and working women looking for a new challenge. They came from all different races; Asian, White, Hispanic and Black. I danced with the classes and promoted our troupe. They laughed at my attempt to be a soul sister, and I laughed with them. We were reviewed by KPBS magazine, and a photographer took photographs of us and featured the Jammers in the magazine. People began to think I knew what I was doing. The Jammers thought I could take them places. I pictured them on the front page of Variety, the problem was I was too early.