Interview by Jenkin Au
Words by Cornelius Suen
Photography by Patrick Giang
Can you introduce yourself to our readers?
My name is Mark Generoso. I am a dance choreographer, teacher, and performer.
How long have you been dancing?
I have been teaching since 2002 and I have been a professional dancer for six years.
How did you get into dance?
I got into it halfway through high school. I was in a family band and that kind of nourished my music side I played the piano and rapped as well because we did a lot of cover songs. I was 12 years old and trying to rap Wyclef Jean songs. I was also a basketball player. The combination of music and athletics in my childhood supplemented each other and helped with my dance career.
What was the first dance style you got into?
I started as a b-boy when it came down to my basic fundamentals. I always wanted to dance with girls though so I quickly got into choreography. As I started working with more professionals I realized that I had to try and learn all the styles.
Is there one style that you have kind of stuck with throughout the years?
I go through phases. At one point I was doing a lot of crumping because it was very free and you didn’t have to match anybody’s lines; it was more emotion based than anything. I got really aggressive in the club and I realized that crumping wasn’t great for that. I dance to interact with people but you can’t crump your way into a girl’s heart. When tutting became heavy I got into that and dubstep. Now I am trying to explore b-boying again and trying to dance with more feeling than technique and thought. Some dance styles are all about the feeling, like b-boying, and others are very technical, like choreography.
Dubstep has gotten very mainstream and a lot of people are wondering how people dance to dubstep. What are your thoughts on this?
It is an acquired taste for sure. You have to know the beat inside and out. It is similar to choreography. It is more suitable for choreography than freestyling because once you are familiar with the music the dance looks very nice when you are complimenting each sound with a move. You have to know the beat, memorize the cadence and pattern, and match a dance move to it. Not everyone likes it. For me, it’s cool when it’s done tastefully. You can only dance to it for so long before it gets very jarring.
What was one of the hardest songs for you to dance to or choreograph to?
Every piece that I have danced to or choreographed to is not really hard in terms of choreography but it takes time for me to decide how to go about it. Choreographing to Hotel California was definitely a little harder because it wasn’t about flexing how fast my moves were to match the music. It had to be a lot more restrained. Lately, I’ve been dancing with the N.O.N Crew and finding a balance between what I do and what they do is very hard. They are very open minded to trying different things but I need to respect what they do and not expect them to lock or do stuff that they have not trained for. We are feeling each other out every practice, seeing what they can do standing up and what I can do on the ground. It might be cool in the long run and we might even be getting into some Jabbawockeez stuff.
Do you ever butt heads with people who may have reservations about your ideas?
All the time. Anybody who has worked with me knows that I always push for bigger and better ideas. Everything I do is always in the interest of the idea. I am a slave to the concept. I will work super hard on something and if people don’t like what I did I will let it go if it’s in the best idea of the concept. I don’t make it personal but I want to explore all the options before finalizing an idea. It’s about working with the right people. Some people feel that once you butt heads the relationship won’t work out but the truth is that you got to keep fine tuning what both parties are looking for and a butting of heads is a reality of this process. For the most part, what comes out of this method is dope and I hope that all the arguing, stress, and hard work shines through in a positive way in the final product.
Are there any styles that you haven’t tried but that you would like to get into in the future?
Right now I am trying out different styles in an attempt to casually formulate my own. The reason why I got into locking and b-boying and crumping is that if I submerge myself into these styles, my choreography will become stronger. I want to get into contemporary dance as well because I feel that slower choreographies and the lyrical choreographies really resemble contemporary dance in a way in the sense that they all show a lot more range of emotion versus the urban styles, which often have only two attitudes: swag face and happy face. With contemporary dance, you go through the entire range of emotions. Hip-hop could go down that route. It won’t be its bread and butter but it could be an avenue where you get to express yourself more. Hip-hop dancers get sad and go through the wide spectrum of emotions outside of dance and you need to reflect that as a dancer.
What has dance done for you beyond satisfying your passion for music and athletics?
It definitely helped with my communication skills, having to teach different skill levels and ages. You have to understand the psychology of the individual. Different people need to be approached in different ways. Some people will take criticism to heart and others will be more relaxed. You have to pick your battles and you have to know how to talk to people. Obviously, it’s trial and error when you work with new people and new groups. Dancing helps me emotionally invest in the person, learn to read their body language, and try to mesh with people a lot better, not just physically but mentally and emotionally as well. If we are talking and you are verbally saying yes but your body language says no, I have to recognize that and steer the idea to a place where we are both invested in it.
Was there a student or person who you have worked with that you strongly connected with?
I have a lot of them and I don’t want to play favourites. There are a lot. Those students go above and beyond what my direction entails. I will give them a shake or give them a count and they will put more emotional investment into each movement. That’s why they stand out. They don’t just express my choreography, they express themselves through my dancing. That motivates me and gets me more invested in them. I do have those students every year. There are always a handful of them and those numbers are always growing. The more I emphasize dancing through feeling versus thought,
the more students will take that to heart. I have students as young as eight who are giving it their all. You can’t help but feel proud of what you do. You might be teaching the future Jabbawockeez and you don’t even know it yet. As long as you set a foundation for them to love what they do and to express your movements with passion more so than technique or thought, the bond between teacher and student will be strengthened.
Trends in music are cyclical and dance follows those trends by extension. Where do you think music and dance trends are going in the near future?
It’s hard to tell. We can’t even guess what technology will be like in five years. Right now, hip-hop and pop music are merging so much that it’s its own entity. It’s hard to say in terms of music because I am just a consumer. I have no control over what goes on. The trend is leaning more towards pop on the music side. On the dance side, choreography is trending. I wanted different groups and styles to connect and choreography was going to be that common denominator for me to facilitate that. Choreography is getting so intricate that for non-dancers it’s too much to take in. I think that the trend will go back to grooving. I have seen many choreographies nowadays that will go fast and then build up to a groove and will make that groove seem all the more powerful. It’s becoming like a new style in itself.
Where do you see yourself in the near future?
I see myself harnessing more of my conceptual side and my ideas. As I get older and my understanding of the trends of pop culture, hip-hop, and dancing grows, there are going to be younger cats who want to move big and fast. I am just trying to enjoy every moment and chill out but I still want to be creative. I see my creativity evolving into different forms. I want to get into films. I can use younger, hungrier dancers who don’t necessarily have the tools to create a concept and give them a foundation in that and highlight their skills through film. Film reaches a wider audience. When I was performing with OTI back in the day, you had to perform live in order to get exposure. But now, with YouTube and the rising cost of living, people don’t go out as much as they used to and they no longer have to go out to see performances. You can see the performances over the internet and you can still feel their energy. As an artist, videos allows your fans and family across the globe to see your work.
What is HYPE?
HYPE is anticipation. It is a build up to something bigger. It’s a bridge and a way to tip people off to something greater that is to come.