I WAS TERRIBLY excited after reading the online schedule at Massive Monkees Studio: The Beacon. First, I was taking a class called “Way of the B-girl.” I would have been just as excited to take “Locking Fundamentals” or “Groove, Boog and Popping,” but I liked the sound of a female-only class for my first break-dance outing and soon-to-be transformation into b-girl (as in, female break dancer).
Second, Anna Banana Freeze was teaching, and I would take pretty much any class from someone with a name that rhymes. Third, I was going to break dance and be amazing! Or at least that’s how my fantasies went.
The Massive Monkees, a Seattle-based break-dancing crew, made their name winning break-dancing competitions around the world and performing constantly here. The crew placed third in the fourth season of “America’s Best Dance Crew” on MTV. In 2004, then-Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels pronounced April 26 “Massive Monkees Day.”
Basically, they’re awesome at break dancing, and at the studio, they teach their awesome moves to the rest of us who only dream of headspins.
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Anna is one of only two women in a group of 30 guys. (Real name: Fides Mabanta.) Turns out she’s petite, humble and has some pretty slick moves that she also teaches to 2- to 6-year-olds.
Before we got started, Anna told us we would be learning just a few basic moves. The key to break dancing is practice and mastering one move before going on to the next, she said.
We started with toprocks, standard side-to-side footwork. She encouraged us to move to the beat of the music, then showed us variations: small steps, a big bounce, arms moving low, middle or high, hunched over with attitude, or arms still. We did some variations with our feet, and she had us move around the floor.
I got warm, fast. I assumed break dancing would involve a lot of core; I didn’t think it would be quite so vigorous.
After getting our toprocks down and sweat flowing, we moved to corkscrews, learning to spiral down to the floor and move into a squat. From the squat, we set ourselves up for shuffles. Basically, you drop into a plank position, and run in place. We switched to knees side-to-side, and then jumping-twisting ones that looked easy when Anna did them.
She also taught us kick-outs, using a hand in front or back for support from a squat to kick both feet forward or both feet back. I was into the kick-outs, which were easy and make you look like you know what you’re doing.
Lastly, she taught us freezes, which essentially are balances on arms. She taught us a basic freeze, where we set our hands up under our chests, put our head on the floor and straightened out our legs. This freeze will build strength and help us move into more advanced freezes, she said.
Then, she unleashed us to practice and shouted over the music that we’d be dancing in front of everyone. Say what?
She clarified: Anna Banana Freeze was not going to teach us a routine. We were supposed to make it up when it was our turn. That’s what breakers do.
No one is thinking about you anyway; they’re focused on themselves, she counseled. And we had to do only three moves. I can’t say my corkscrew was elegant, but I already had taken a shine to freezes, and I’m sure I held mine at least three seconds. Does that make me a b-girl? I like to think so.
Nicole Tsong teaches yoga at studios around Seattle. Read her blog at papercraneyoga.com. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Genevieve Alvarez is a Seattle Times staff videographer.