Interview by Jenkin Au and Alan Ng
Words by Amie Nguyen and Alan Ng
Photography by Jenkin Au
Please introduce yourself to our readers.
My name is Dennis Lee, also known as Locking Kuan. I am from Taiwan. My main style is locking. I have been doing this for five, six years in Vancouver now. My biggest goal is to spread the whole locking scene.
What first got you into locking?
My friends were into dancing first; they were into a style called popping and I wasn’t into dancing at all. I used to play basketball. They showed me this sick clip and told me about this cool dance style. I kind of looked into it, like the popping style and wasn’t quite inspired by it. Then they showed me another style called locking and when I saw it, my eyes lit up like a Christmas tree and thought it was very cool. Then I wanted to start learning how to lock but there wasn’t anyone doing it in Vancouver. So, I started out by first learning on my own. It really pushed me and told me it was my chance to start it up.
Can you tell us a more about your involvement with the Coquitlam scene and how you pushed that forward?
I started doing this dancing thing and then some of the peeps seemed interested. After I learned for a while, I recruited a few students who eventually became my crewmates today. I had set up a drop-in at the community center and we’d go there and practice. I gave lessons for free every Friday and people started coming in and was spreading the word. People came in and showed their interest because I was getting down and demonstrating my knowledge. For a few years, afterwards, we kind of got a group of people together every Friday. Even when there were venue changes, people still followed up. We were a family ever since then.
Speaking of family, can you tell us about the people that you closely work with in the dancing scene?
First of all, Abe, it’s got to be Abe Chan. I’ve been working with Abe on a battle called Last One Stands. I also work with a few influential people in the scene such as Groovy G’s: Jessey, Johnny and Jameson. I feel like we share the same vision because in Vancouver, it’s kind of weird. We are in the West Coast but this whole dance scene is kind of undeveloped. We kind of have the vision that we are going to push it out and spread it out. Just like Los Angeles, we are a cool city, and we can do it too.
While we are on this, can you tell us a bit about the upcoming event of yours?
Abe: When we first talked about this, it was like two years ago. A long time ago, there was nothing in Vancouver at all. The only event we had was Make It Funky, and then all the contestants including the audience, was 30 people in total. We thought that that was very lame for the scene. That’s weak. It was like a dream for us to put on a big event like Last One Stands and finally, we are able to plan this because Dennis came back from Taiwan and saw a bunch of big events.
LK: We have been talking about it for two years now. When I got back, I saw all these crazy battles in Asia and thought we needed to do it up. So, I came back in April and we started to plan this event since May. For me, a good event needs a good message. When people are at the event, they can feel the vibe and atmosphere. We try to make it professional, you know? From the design of the ticket to the design of the posters, the theater setting, we try to push everything. Not even dancing, but from an organizer’s perspective, we have got to raise the bar basically–people have to know that we are doing this for real.
Relating to your roots for being from Asia and coming back from Taiwan, what are some of the things that you are bringing back to Vancouver?
It’s thing is different. In other countries in Asia, there’s massive population. So, everything for them to do is a lot easier than for us. Because our city is small, organizing and finding people to support is a lot easier over there than here. For me, if we want to do it to the extent of how Asia does it, we have to do it professionally. We have to have people taking care of everything. That professionalism is very important.
While we are on your roots, can you tell us how you got your name?
Kwan is the last character of my Chinese name. When I first started, I didn’t think about it much and they just called me Kwan. So Locking Kwan is where my name came from.
Many people in the dance community usually have rivals. Do you have any rivals and tell us how the story came to be.
This is a good one because I kind of have that one person that is kind of my rival. So when I first started, I was like the first locker in Vancouver. I was doing my thing and this Korean guy called Sun, he kind of just immigrated to Vancouver, and he’s a crazy locker. He competed in a lot of big events in Korea. He’s just way up there. I kind of worked with him at first and then we kind of spread off because he’s got his crew and I’ve got my crew. With all these battle trends starting in Vancouver, almost every final, it was me and Sun. What people talk about is Locking Kwan versus Sun and stuff like that. People kept talking so the tension kind of went up too. We didn’t even say anything to each other and we started to become competitive. Every time I practiced and imagined what the battle was going to be, he was always on my mind, wondering what he was going to be doing this time. That was two years ago, when we were frequently battling. Right now, we are training together. But, I have to say that it’s really good to have a rival like him so he’s kind of always there pushing himself, so if you want to stay up there, you have to push yourself as well. He’s my best enemy.
You also talked about how the scene is a lot of battle-influenced. Can you tell us your opinion on the scene right now in Vancouver?
My opinion of the scene right now is that after all these years we’ve been working, the scene is definitely growing. The population of the dance community has gone up, and we started to get people from different areas. Before, it used to be Vancouver: Groovy Gs, Coquitlam: The Funk Fam. Now we have people from Survey and people from Richmond. People are all from their own family and own crew. People have their own flavors and own style, it’s definitely growing and it’s good. What we are going to do now, is we have to unite together as Vancouver and help each other; help each other by attending and supporting different jams. We have to be supportive because we are all dancers here. It’s growing; we lit up the fire, now we have to do it big.
Who are some of the dancers within the scene that you think are doing it right?
Abe – he just reps Vancouver in China and last year at the Vegas Hip-Hop international. He went to the finals so this guy is big in Vancouver’s popping scene. As I said, we also got Groovy Gs, Beautiful Life Crew and those are the people I look up to because they have always been here since the beginning, and they are always pushing themselves to the next level. These guys are the people that motivate me.
Speaking of the locking scene growing, for some of the people that are new into the scene, what is some advice you have for them to make sure they stay on track and learn what they want to learn?
When I first started to teaching locking, I taught for a year. I kind of self-learned. I watched videos and locking is a hella fast dance style. Even though you slow down the video, the movement is blurry. I was only 15 then. I worked the whole summer washing dishes so I could go to Vegas to find the originator of the dance. That really brought me real knowledge of the dance because I got it first hand, not second hand. So this is where I am confident in what I am teaching and spreading. A lot of people nowadays are doing the techniques and moves, but they don’t understand the move. Locking, you have to have your own character and identity on the dance floor. You don’t copy someone else’s move on the dance floor. You got to do you. You got to know who you are. Knowing that fact, with the technique and history, so, not just looking at the movement. Study the history, understand the dance, know who you are and know who you want to be and don’t follow nobody. When you practice, have the image of yourself.
Branching off that, a lot of people try to be unique with themselves, and as dance progresses, a lot of people try to bring in other styles into the same dance. Some people might add hip-hop flavors, but then a lot of the old school cats, they feel that if you are doing locking, you should just be doing locking. If you are doing b-boy, you should just be doing b-boy. What’s your stance on that and what do you think about people mixing flavors together?
First of all, I have to say that you have to respect the original style. You have to know the history and every foundation. To me, after you know all the foundations, and you don’t flip it and if you don’t start something new, then dance will never grow. If you develop styles from knowing the foundation, that’s cool. But if you don’t know shit, and you come up to me and say you are doing your own style, then you are not. You are just making up something because you don’t know the original style and just called it your own style. That’s not cool. Respect the history, respect the origins, and bring your own flavor, as I said before. Create. It’s 2011, you have to bring something new to the game. Do your own thing. Around the whole globe, and even in Vancouver, there’s a new issue where we call it the cloning situation. People start to idolize. After all, people start copying each other. Dance is really something that reflects on your personality as well. When we express ourselves, we should feel different than each other. People don’t understand, they just clone and clone. When you go to competitions, it’s not cool to see 300 people sign up for a battle. It’s that huge in Asia and maybe 150 people look the same. I am not just saying Asia, it happens in competitions in North America as well. Maybe 20 of them, they look like this famous dancer from Japan, and 30 of them look like this other famous dancer. People have to realize that it’s not okay to do it like that. You have to understand yourself first. When you dance, you are sending out a message and you are expressing yourself. It’s weird that you hear expressing yourself and it looks like somebody else. That doesn’t make sense for me because that’s not how you feel As I say, you have to respect the original style but when you are trying to tell someone your message, it has to be your own message.
Within the world, where do you think is the main spot that people should go for locking. It’s not about who’s where, but how the scene is. If you were to send someone to one place, where will you send him or her?
Shit, that’s hard, man. Come to Vancouver, man! I don’t know, honestly, because this whole dance scene is getting crazy. Asia, we got a huge population, resources and structure there. At the same time, the thing is so big and it’s too complicated. For me to say, being the spot with no restriction and where you can free yourself, and not get caught up by the environment, I think Vancouver is the best spot for you because you have got to grow as an individual. I don’t know the real answer to the question.
For everyone single person it might be different right?
What’s your goal and challenges for the upcoming year and also the future of your dancing career?
For this year, my big goal is definitely to put on another big jam with my partner Abe. Try to push it to make it a better and bigger jam in Canada; a well known international battle so people will come to Vancouver. When people come to Vancouver, we get to see people out there and then people will get inspiration when it comes to dance because it’s a form of art as well. Individually, I try to bring myself out there. I am probably going to Montreal for competition this year. I want throw myself out there and let people see me. Keep working hard and progressing. Put Vancouver on the map.
As for the scene in Vancouver, what do you think is its main forte? What do you think it should be known for?
Vancouver is a very chilled out city, as you may know. In the east coast like Montreal, people are aggressive, hardworking and competitive. In Vancouver, it’s kind of chilled out. Everyone is easy going. Maybe that’s the disadvantage because we are too chilled, but it’s also the advantage because all we do here is doing it for the love. We don’t have that much drama and we’ve got a lot of free time to develop our own style and like I said, Vancouver is not as big as Montreal and Toronto right now so we’ve got limited resources. In order to improve, we have to look for our own resources; that’s our advantage. We’ve got no influences from nobody, we’ve got influences from ourselves. There’s no one telling you to do this and that. We don’t have second hand information because we are also seeking for the first hand, so that’s the advantage for us. Not much restriction and limitation, Vancouver gives you the freedom and right to do your own thing.
Can you tell us a bit more about Funky Soul Crew?
Lazy mother fuckers, man, tell you guys to practice. You guys don’t practice huh?
First of all, the three members: We have Soul Will, Soul Blue and Tony. They are all my students. Back from 2006, they all learned from me. When I first started the locking thing, they were with me so they are family. We’ve been through our first show together and first battle together. We demonstrated the art form of locking together ever since. The relationship started with students and now we are more like family. I don’t know what to say about my crewmates, man. I don’t know what else to say. We pretty much influence each other, I guess. I hope they play the same role as me, leading up the scene, demonstrating and letting people see this art form of locking. Not many people know this form of dance so we have to keep doing it and keep pushing it. Also, I am going to be still hard on them. I am their teacher, right?
So I have to keep leading them, so I hope they can bare with me. Vancouver, keep working, we are going somewhere. I am going to lead them, lead Vancouver, lead our crew to something. So let’s keep working.
What is HYPE?
Do what you love, love what you do. Do your thing, create your own. Don’t be afraid to be different. Don’t be afraid to stand out. Do you, and that’s HYPE!