Interview by Jenkin Au & Alan Ng
Words by Cornelius Suen
Photography by Jenkin Au
Location: Toronto[Show Text Only Version][Hide Text Only Version]
For this edition of justDANCE!, we had the opportunity to chat with the Moon Runners, an up and coming dance crew from Toronto that specializes in glitching, an innovative style derived from the musical subgenre of glitch-hop. Although the crew’s unified style is glitching, each individual member brings his own skills and talents into the mix, with individual skill sets including b-boying, popping, tutting, animation, and robotics. With such a wide range of expertise mixed in with the eclectic mechanics of glitching, the Moon Runners have concocted a hybrid style that places them at the head of the pack when it comes to originality and a flair for the unique.
In this interview, the Moon Runners tell justalilhype! about the origins and principles of their unique style and how their diverse crew background affects their dance. Moreover, they talk about what keeps them passionate about dance and their strong crew chemistry, and gives hints as to what the masses can expect from the Moon Runners in the future. So, lace up your moon boots and try to keep up, the Moon Runners are rocketing out of this world.
Can you introduce yourselves to our readers?
Daniel: I am the only b-boy of the crew. My name is Daniel Keith Morrison a.k.a. Daniel Keith Morrison.
Steven: I am Steven Senga. My popper name is Icy. I represent the Moon Runners and I also represent the Fantastic Poppers, who are from Toronto as well.
Nigel: My dancing name is Nye the Glitch. My real name is Nigel Edwards, representing the Moon Runners crew.
Raoul: I am Raoul Pillay. My dancing name is JIN, representing the Moon Runners crew.
Shawn: My name is Shawn de Ocampo. Shawn de Ocampo on Facebook, ShawnOfTheMoon on twitter. Find me, follow me, add me.
Anthony: My name is Anthony a.k.a. Frequency. I am Frequency on Facebook and YouTube. You can find me, catch me, anytime.
Tell us a little more about the Moon Runners. How did you guys get started and how did the crew name come about?
Daniel: The crew started up three years back. That’s actually how long most of us have been dancing, except for Icy and Jan “Snapp” Yalda. We started out through our friend Shawn de Ocampo. He is not here right now but he is here with us in spirit. Don’t worry though, he is still alive! He is just in Montreal at the moment. Shawn actually started the crew and handpicked us, one by one. His friend Slick came up with the crew name. Slick was supposed to be in the crew but things didn’t work out. So, Shawn picked the crew members, and so on and so forth.
Although the crew name was given to you guys, have you each created a personal connection to the name and do you feel that the name is representative of the crew and your style, both individually and as a crew?
Daniel: The name was given to us because of the way we all danced. It wasn’t a matter of us tailoring our style and attitude to the name. The name just fit us because of who we are as individuals and as a crew.
Do you think that being in this crew has helped you guys achieve something that you could not have achieved individually or in another crew?
Steven: Being in this crew helped bring the bigger picture of what we are trying to do into perspective. I don’t think I could affect as many people with my dance if I performed alone. As a crew, we all have different styles and character. That gives our dance a lot of variety and gives our audience more to look for.
Raoul: Being in a crew is a great motivator for us, as individuals, to grow personally and professionally in our dance. We see our crew mates growing and improving and that drives us each to aim higher and reach that next level.
Daniel: Without this crew I would not have achieved anything. If it wasn’t for the Moon Runners I wouldn’t even be in a crew.
What introduced you guys to dancing and what about dancing keeps you guys passionate about the art?
Steven: I am inspired to dance because I get to create. We want to create something specific in our style. With lots of other styles, the emphasis is on freestyling and doing whatever you want, whatever you feel like, every time. With our crew and our style, we want to create specific concepts and images through our dance. We want to tell stories and convey to our audience a specific vision. This is what I love about dancing, the fact that I get to create.
Daniel: I started really getting into dancing when I started meeting real dancers. I used to dance a lot in high school and I thought I was good until I met real dancers. I would meet sick dancers and they just inspired me to strive to be better. I met Mark, from the Scarborough Talent center. He is a popper and he is probably the first popper I ever met. One time, he and I were battling in front of a bunch of people. In the end, the crowd ended up giving the battle to me, probably because I look like one of the guys from You Got Served. But, the crowd didn’t realize what Mark was doing. I didn’t even know what he was doing either and for some odd reason, I felt like I was losing! It’s people like him and b-boys like K-Mel, Crumbs, Floor Masters, Miss Prissy and Rain that really inspire me. Whenever I see dancers of this calibre dancing in front of my face, I am in awe. These dancers motivated me to start dancing religiously and to properly develop my style, instead of just being that kid in the club who is doing moves copied from a movie. The moves look cool enough, but they aren’t even done properly!
Nigel: What inspired me to dance were music videos and dance movies. What keeps me passionate with dance is the feedback I get from dancing and the motivation that my friends and people who see me dance give me.
Shawn: My inspiration as a kid was Michael Jackson. When I started taking dance seriously I saw these kids battling in the hallway in high school. No one knew I danced so I joined the battle. People were surprised by what I could do and I decided to pursue it even further. I was eighteen at the time and after a while, when I was nineteen, I met Raoul and decided to take it seriously. I started the crew alongside Raoul. I kept on bringing him to these sessions I heard about because I didn’t want to go myself.
Anthony: My inspirations were Michael Jackson, MC Hammer, Usher, and Mr. Wiggles. When I got older, around sixteen, I did a variety show for fun. I just knew a couple of glides and waves. The crowd’s reaction was great and my principal hired me to teach some classes. That’s when I started really getting into dance and I haven’t stopped since.
You guys come from different backgrounds. How do your individual backgrounds and cultures contribute to the crew as a whole?
Daniel: That is a tough question. I think everyone’s culture motivates the crew. That’s the only way I can describe it. I am Jamaican and Christian, and the way I dance is very expressive. Also, my style affects the crew’s overall style, just as much as the qualities, values, and ideals that my crewmates bring to the table affect the crew’s style and my personal style for that matter. I mean, Paul “Hitman” Genovesi is Italian, and, I know they say that white guys can’t dance, but he dances damn good. Watching him do what he does blows our mind and motivates us to step up what we are doing and strive to be just as on point in our dance as Paul is.
Steven: I think finding the similarities in our differences bring us together. You don’t expect someone who is different than you to have something in common with you. It’s surprising when you are all talking and there is a moment when you look at each other and go, “Whoa, you feel that way too,” or, “That’s the same for you?” For example, Paul’s style is robotics, which is different from our personal styles. If we ask him what inspires him to dance and what is in his head when he is dancing and we can relate to that, it’s awesome and makes us tighter knit.
Shawn: The crew’s chemistry is the first thing that everyone notices. Frequency is the newest member. There have been so many people asking to join the crew and we ask them to come and chill with us but if we don’t feel that vibe, then it doesn’t work out. All of us are brothers. They come to my family parties and we celebrate Christmas together. You can’t be in the crew if you can’t vibe with us. We don’t care how talented you are. If we don’t get along with you, then it doesn’t work out.
And, Frequency, you are from Montreal. How does that affect your chemistry with the crew?
Anthony: I don’t feel like it has a big effect other than the fact that I want to be in Toronto all the time. We met each other and had a great vibe from the beginning. It’s not like I have to be in Toronto to maintain chemistry with the group. Like Shawn said, we are like brothers and I feel like they are my family now. They come here and I go there as frequently as possible. We make it work.
I guess you guys make it work with lots of SKYPE battles right?
Shawn: We did a battle like that in downtown Toronto. There was this big wall with this screen on it and it played a video feed from Montreal. They hired us to battle LazyLegs and his crew, Scramblelock and those guys. It was a fun battle.
With so many different styles within the crew, what do you think the style of the crew is? While the crew’s style may touch on the individual talents and abilities of the crew members, what is the unified style of the Moon Runners?
Daniel: Our style of dance is called glitching, which is a derivation of popping. It’s all about speed control and we try to make the dance look irregular. That is our style and that is what defines the crew.
Steven: Glitching is the style, and everyone’s style of glitching will be different. Daniel’s main style is breaking, so he will glitch while breaking. For me, I will find a way to glitch while popping. Raoul will find a way to glitch while he is dancing house or popping. Paul will glitch while he is botting. We are all dancing in different styles but we are all going to apply the principles of glitching to our personal styles. We are all different, but glitching is what connects the crew together stylistically.
How did you guys decide on glitching as the style you wanted to crew to feature?
Steven: At one point, we were listening to an artist called edIT. He characterized his music as glitch-hop. You get the same feel as when you listen to hip-hop: you bob your head and you tap your feet. However, he will add glitches in the beat. So, the music skips on purpose, or he will play with the speed control and add in sound bytes. At first, it sounds like it’s just random, but listen closely and you will find that there is a rhythm to it all; the irregularities in the beat become part of the beat itself. We spent a year listening to edit and then we began to find new artists who also made music in this sub-genre. It was during this time that we were exposed to glitch-hop. We had not started applying the principles of glitch-hop to dancing yet. We were just dancing at the time and doing our own thing. But, when we started listening to glitch-hop, we coined the term “glitching” as a dance style and sought to apply the principles of glitch-hop to dance.
Daniel: The guy in our crew who actually coined the term “glitching” was Shawn. Him and I were hanging with Raoul one time. I was always trying to do what a group on YouTube, called Yuma, does. I didn’t do it right. Shawn was looking at it and saw something else out of it. He said, “That’s dope,” and started doing something completely different than what I was trying to do. He just grasped the concept right away and started evolving it. Raoul caught on. When the crew was formed, we started to listen to more and more edIT and artists like him and we gradually adopted the style from there. Originally, the name was from Shawn. The style was always there. We just gave it a name and we made it our style.
Shawn: The music sounds like alien music. As for the dance, there is the incorporation of a lot of effects and animation. The dance doesn’t limit you. All that slow motion walking we did and all that stuff, it looked like we were running on the moon, kind of like an out of this world type thing.
You guys are a young crew and in the process of establishing your name. Looking to the future, what legacy are you trying to build for your crew?
Daniel: Our legacy is simple. It’s not really about the crew per se. It’s about us as individuals. It’s about getting paid and being able to dance for a living. We don’t want to do anything with our lives but dance professionally. In the bigger picture, we want to get Toronto and Canada recognized internationally as a city and nation that produces talented and innovative dancers. We are fighting the good fight alongside other crews such as the Twisted Ankles, Fam, Lenny Len, and Jordan Washington. We are trying to make this country known.
What are some of the difficulties you guys have faced while trying to put Canada on the map in the international dance scene?
Daniel: Winning competitions is probably the hardest thing for us. Also, our maintaining our maturity, doing interviews, and getting our work ethic together, poses some of our hardest battles. We are our greatest enemy. It is difficult to grasp the fact that this is the real world and that we are not children. If you can fight this battle and grow up, you will have no problems.
Raoul: When you go to battles, you are going to see differences in perspective. It’s all subjective. Different judges will see battles differently. Overcoming that is difficult. You have to realize that it’s all subjective and learn to deal with it.
Steven: There are a couple of difficult things. It’s like what Daniel said: growing up is difficult. It’s almost confusing as a dancer because when you dance, you are focused on creating, telling a story, and just performing, so much so that you forget there is another part to it: it is a business. You can’t just dance. You have to learn how to deal with people, present yourself, and market yourself. It’s not anyone’s fault if they can’t, but, you have to realize that aside from creating, you have to manage a crew. Like Raoul said, it’s hard to appeal to certain people. We don’t try to appeal to people and that’s hard, because we stick with what we do and constantly try to get accepted. We are slowly changing that and people are beginning to see our style. It’s still hard, but it was much, much, harder before.
What is a message that you are trying to send through your dance?
Steven: I understand more of our message than I did before. Before, we didn’t have any supporters. People just saw us move and they went, “Cool, you are a dancer. Thumbs up,” and that was it. But, we are not doing it for attention. Our motive for dancing is to tell people to find what they feel inside and follow that. You don’t have to please anyone but yourself. Everyone in our crew is completely different and no one is forcing the others to do what they are doing. We nurture our differences and appreciate or crew members. We look up to this young crew called Unknown Element. They are like thirteen and fourteen and we tell them to create their own thing and we appreciate them for taking that to heart and really pursuing that philosophy.
Daniel: We always preach, “Stop doing other people’s stuff! Do your own stuff!” We realize that there is always going to be a primary style in any dance, like breaking. But, if every breaker did the same set and the same freeze, then there is a problem. Find your own niche within that primary style and personalize that style. I break a lot and people tell me that I am not original. These guys, this crew, they are original. Nigel is the most original guy in the crew. It’s hard to be original but, once you start expressing yourself and letting that flow organically, it’s not going to be as hard as you think it is. When you hear a song and when you want to start a choreography, stop trying to think about what’s in, what’s popular, or what other crews are doing. Focus on what the song makes you feel when you listen to it and let the emotions, thoughts, and feelings that the song evoke within you to be reflected in the choreography. That is our message, plain and simple. Don’t bite.
Can you guys tell us how you got your dancing names?
Shawn: I actually don’t have a stage name. ShawnOfTheMoon is just what I go by on Twitter. I am actually the only member of the crew who doesn’t have a dancing name. So, to all the people out there, give me a name!
Anthony: I got my name because I never did anything traditional. People would always freak out when they saw me perform. The name Frequency was derived from that. And, I like to wave a lot when I dance, which looks kind of like a frequency when it is represented as a wave.
Icy: I used to be in a dance hall crew. I was in Back-2- Basics, which turned into MVD, “Most Valuable Dancers.” Here is a shout out to them. Everyone had different names in the dance hall scene. If you were skinny you would be called Slinky or something like that. My name was Smiles at the time, which had no relevance to my dancing at all. I worked with that name for a couple of years though. Then, I remember I was participating in a lot of popping sessions right before I joined the Moon Runners and this one guy named C. Pimpin kept saying “icy” or “cool” to me. That was where that name came from. Then, joining the Moon Runners, I realized that “Icy” actually reflected my style, so I stuck with it.
Nigel: My dancing name, Nye the Glitch, is derived from our style of glitching. The mechanics that characterize glitching, like speed control and isolations, are pretty much what I do. The style of glitching basically preaches doing something outside the box and something that is atypical. That is what I try to do and I got my dancing name through that. I think Daniel gave me my name.
Raoul: One thing people know about me is that I am very experimental when I am doing my workshops and stuff like that. I mixed kung-fu with dancing, and it looked kind of like the drunken style of kung fu. It’s part of a persona I created for myself when I am dancing since I don’t drink myself. Steven gave me the name JIN and I just rolled with that. It’s a dope name.
Daniel: Yeah, I want to elaborate on Raoul’s dancing. He mixes glitching with kung-fu moves and it looks amazing. Myself, I got my dancing name from my parents, December 29th, 1986, the day I was born. They called me Daniel and my mom felt that I should represent my father, and my father is named Keith, so I took that as my middle name. And, my last name is Morrison, so: Daniel Keith Morrison. I had a nickname before and I never told anyone about it until now, but it was Super Dan, since I loved superheroes. Super Dan, Super Man, get it? Unfortunately, that name didn’t get me enough girls so I started going primarily by my government name and the girl game has been going up for me!
What is it about traveling that you think is essential in refining all of you guys as dancers and as a crew?
Anthony: Traveling just opens your mind in general. It’s not always about exposure. Yeah, you got to get out and be heard, seen, and spread the movement and show people that things can be done differently. But, being out in general, like just going from Montreal to Toronto, it’s an escape and it sets your mind free in terms of what you can do in your dance because you meet new people and you see new ways of doing things.
Shawn: Traveling is necessary. Everyone I’ve met that’s older and wiser says that the best way to grow is to travel. Coming to Montreal, I learned to stay humble, especially when you are in another city. I learned a lot from our battle in New York. I’ve battled guys that we look up to, like Charlton Yuhara. The more you travel, the more you learn. I want to keep traveling.
Where is your guys’ next destination?
Shawn: Vancouver. So, I guess, Heavy Hitters, we are coming for you homie. All of you. But, it’s all love, all love.
After Vancouver, what are some of the top destinations you want to go to outside of Canada?
Anthony: I want to go to Sweden!
Shawn: England, France, Japan
Anthony: Hong Kong, everyone goes to Hong Kong.
Anthony: We want to do a Canadian tour too. We want to surprise some people.
Shawn: Yeah. I love this country so I want to see it and show them what we have to offer.
What is HYPE?
Daniel: There is two different kinds of HYPE. One kind is all talk. It’s b-boys getting energized over nothing. It’s all about popularity. To me, that is worthless. When you see kids, especially kids in my city, doing other dance crew stuff that imitates the west coast scene of the USA, that is not real HYPE. The second kind of HYPE is positive energy. It’s something that gets people excited about what they are seeing. To me, the Moon Runners is that HYPE.
Raoul: HYPE is originality, creativity, and sticking to what you do, no matter what people think of you. That’s HYPE.
Nigel: HYPE is when you see something original and inspiring, something that gets people to notice and gets people talking about it.
Steven: Originality is what’s HYPE to me. Understanding originality is what’s HYPE. Every time we see originality, it’s HYPE. Literally, new stuff is what’s HYPE. If you haven’t seen it, it’s HYPE. Something that was HYPE a year ago is no longer HYPE now.
Shawn: HYPE is a buzz. HYPE is a fad. HYPE is what’s in.
Anthony: HYPE is living in the moment. It is a feeling. It is the Moon Runners.
Shawn: Shout out to Montreal, Toronto, all of Canada, and the whole world. Thanks for showing us love, all of our supporters. Hi mom.
Anthony: Oh, and my first family, AM crew, got to give them a shout out.