The ArchiTEKS are something of a present day legend in the hip-hop scene. The members of this Houston-based crew were finalists of MTV’s America’s Best Dance Crew competition, have collectively garnered millions of YouTube views, and are easily recognized by their unique, controlled movement style. They travel around the world to teach aspiring dancers, and came last weekend to MIT to perform and hold workshops as part of the Chinese Students’ Club Lunar New Year celebrations.
Workshop teachers Duy Nguyen and Brian Fucanan taught two pieces of contrasting styles — one fast and hard-hitting, the other smooth R&B — but emphasized the execution technique necessary to be successful at both. This technique could be summarized in one word: control. Speed control, body awareness in space, and use of dynamics are but a few elements that will transform a dance from simple choreography into a visible manifestation of the music.
A chest pop, for example, is an easy movement to teach anyone — push the chest forward, then back — and can be done without much effort. But think about where it is placed in the music: if it is on a sharp snare, should it be a quick and clean pop? If it is on a low bass, would it be best represented by a heavy rebound and contraction?
If that seems like a lot to think about for one second of dancing, it is. Body control is, as Nguyen and Fucanan said, any dancer’s toolbox for approaching this task. Practicing that control and engaging with the music whenever one learns choreography, not just thinking about the steps, will help make the process more natural.
Most importantly, dancers who understand how their bodies move will be the most versatile dancers. Those who have mastered body control like the ArchiTEKS will be best able to grasp choreographers’ directions.
The message of the workshop wasn’t just in the choreography. You may not be a dancer. You may not ever think of dancing, nor care about any of the above comments. The duo’s final words guiding words, however, pertain to any student who has ever had a passion outside of academics.
They’re not just (amazing) professional dancers. Fucanan balances dancing with the intensity of nursing school, and Nguyen does the same with a full-time job and owning his own dance studio. They’re healthy, happy, and not too sleep-deprived.
“Excelling in school doesn’t mean you can’t be a good dancer, and vice versa,” Fucanan commented.
Very few MIT students would think about dropping out of MIT for a non-traditional career. Everyone is here because of his or her excellence in math, science, or engineering. Someday, once we get beyond the brutality of p-sets, we all believe we can change the world with our talents.
But, almost everyone has also had that moment of self-doubt, wondering if they belong somewhere else, maybe pursuing an old passion buried under the daily time crunch. Nguyen explained that time management for both is possible, and that it is a matter of attitude. When you are truly passionate about something, making time for it doesn’t seem like just adding another item to your to-do list.
So get up a little earlier. Find spare time during lunch to dance, draw, or write poetry. Think back to the magic moment when you were five and first fell in love with the piano, for the sheer joy of making music. Just because MIT imposes huge pressure in making you the best scientist you can be, doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the other things that make life beautiful. Don’t give up on your dreams.
Thank you, ArchiTEKS, for teaching that to us all.