It’s an immediate, wonderous sensory overload when you hop off the lift at Crossover Dance Studio. The graffiti-clad space in Sydney’s CBD is filled with smaller studio blocks and open freestyle spaces where synchronised dancers bust incredibly fast hip-hop moves and breakdance to flowing electro-funk. It almost looks effortless, but once we get a few minutes into our Popping Beginners class, we quickly learn that the fluidly staccato movement is anything but simple.
Popping. Is. Hard. The foundation movement involves contracting muscles to a beat. It looks as if tiny electric volts are jolting through your arms, legs, chest or neck.
The first half of this one-hour class is dedicated to getting newbies accustomed to the style, which came direct from Fresno, California in the early 1970s. We focus on leg bounces, travelling while we pop, and arm movements. It’s repetitive, but 23-year-old Keanu Wardana, our tireless teacher, says it takes time to master the style, and besides, “simple is good, simple is funky.”
Wardana has been teaching at Crossover since he was 15, so we trust his judgement – and his ridiculously sick moves – when he says popping is, at heart, a freestyle dance. He tells us to try to take as long as we can to get to the next step. “If you think of your start position and your end, they’re always going to be obvious. The middle is where you can create.”
We add smoother grooves to our newly acquired popping ability, and start to understand how these jerky movements belong in the disco era they were created in. Music and rhythm is a huge part of it. Our flows follow the funky electronic style of '70s duo Zapp and Roger: all snappy beats and bouncing baselines, like 'More Bounce to the Ounce'.
Soon, we realise Wardana has tricked us into learning a routine. He slows the pace down for new combinations and then mashes them all together, double time. The mind boggling bit is when he shows us how we can reconfigure the sections, for a mix 'n’ match of moves that we can whip out on our next night out.
At the sweaty end, we don’t think we’ve mastered the hits, ticks and pops that are the foundation of this hip hop, funk variant, but we’ve had a great time trying. And the brilliant, infectious mood at Crossover makes us want to come back for more.
The studio has a choccas class timetable of beginners’, more advanced and freestyle dance styles – our Popping Beginners class takes place on Monday and Thursday to Saturday, and there’s an Absolute Beginners class on Sunday if, like us, you’re struggling with the foundations. You can drop into the fray for $21, or save dollars with multi-class passes (an unlimited week pass is $80 and a ten-class pass goes for $190).