What's your name and nickname?
Anne, aka A-Ko. Like the echo. It comes from a Jamaican saying "there was echo", meaning there was gunshot in a neighborhood. I like it because the echo has a lot of meanings, the most important being that the music comes first, and dance is its echo.
If you go on www.myspace.com/yougli you will find more explanations about my B-girl name, how I found it and what it means to me...

Styles?

I'm a B-girl! When I started dancing, I was doing a little of everything (Popping, Locking, Hype, even House Dancing...). But I chose to focus on B-boying, or breakdance as it is commonly called.

When did you start dancing?

I started dancing a bit in 1998, learning a bit of everything but not breaking. I started B-boying in 2000.

Tell us about your crews...

My original crew is from Montreal, which is where I started breaking. It's called RedMask. I joined that crew in 2001, and I'm still very involved in it, even though I'm in France most of the time.
I've been dancing with Def Dogz-Créteil Style since 2005 now. We train together, battle, chill... Before that, I have danced with Phase T for 3 years and with the Daltons for 1 year.

Who are your inspirations in breaking and dance?

My crews are my inspiration. ThunderBlast, Dingo, RockIt, OktoFoot from RedMask; Romeo, Laos, Rudy, Gass, Kareem, Yero, Xisco, Mennoh from Def Dogz. Tactical Crew (Montreal), which is the founder of our crew RedMask: SkyWalker, Omegatron, Dope Step... From them I learn a lot, understand a lot, we share a lot of experiences. The spirit is good: they're all people who love dancing and love Hip-Hop. We also have the same vision of how we like to dance and what we want to improve in ourselves.

I'm not very much into videos and internet stuff. I need to see the people in the flesh, to feel their dance, not just watch the moves on tape. That's why I cannot really say that anyone whom I haven't met is an inspiration.

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But some B-boys I've seen on video and really admired: Ken Swift, who was the first B-boy that I can remember having seen on video, Ivan, K-Mel, Megas, Abstract... Now I've seen K-Mel dance in front of me, it's really amazing.

In dance, I have many other inspirations. The lockers especially are a great inspiration, the spirit of Locking is so positive and outgoing, it makes me happy just to watch them. I go out to dance in parties with my locker friends a lot. Their crew is called "Les Virtuoses de l'Instant" (P-Lock, J-Soul, Dude, Skal'Up, Charlie, Supreme, Lucky Locker), we are actually creating a dance piece together, where I'm the choreographer.


Which crews do you like?

Again, my crews, RedMask and Def Dogz-Créteil Style. Tactical Crew. Then... I need to see! Before I've seen the people represent in the circles, I cannot say I dig them. Also, the spirit of the crew is important. For instance, I don't think dream teams should be considered as crews. But there are many individual dancers that I like.

What do you think of the dance scene in France now?


In France now, there's a lot of money involved in the dance scene. There are battles all the time, with price money. Because of that, it's becoming very commercial. And it's turning into a sport, more or less. Because doing battles all the time means training only for that: short-term thinking, you keep doing what you think you can do, you don't work on your weaknesses. And you "train", you don't "dance" at training. You rehearse your moves and you execute them on the day of the battle. Which means you never actually dance. Also, the fact that many people think about winning battles means that they focus on
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visual moves: hand hops, air flares, flips, air chairs and stuff. Because the public in those battles is broad, and mostly ignorant of B-boying and dance. You hear them yell for a flip, next battle, you do a flip.
That's why I like to go out to clubs, where the good DJs are playing, and dance there, just dance, have fun...

Don't you think that the disappearance of the word and meaning "biting" (stealing moves and styles) makes a chaos? I mean everybody talks and says that they have style...

Yes I agree. Many people don't understand what can be gained by developing their own moves and styles. All they see is the result, they wanna make a name for themselves or win price money. It's very ironic, trying to make a name for yourself by biting... The good think with breaking, if you really work on developing your own stuff, you also develop a way of thinking, you learn to understand the way dancing works, the way your body works, the way your mind works. So if you just bite to get fast results, you're missing all that. You're just shopping...


Today a lot of judges or people don't punish biting, some of them because they don't see it. Because now in 2007 there have been so many moves and styles created by so many different people that you have to be deeply involved in the dance scene to see everything. Or you have to have a very good video and internet culture... And even that is not enough, because why would a move have been created by the first one to show it on video? People don't realize, so biters keep doing what they are doing. Until the person that has been bitten comes out and battles them. When they do. That should teach the biter, but no, it's not enough. They don't admit that they are in the wrong, because they don't understand what they are missing, and also because a lot of people around them don't understand either and back them up.
I think biting someone's whole style is the worst thing you can do. I see it often. It means that you have no personality, that when you dance, you put yourself in the person's skin. It's actually very funny to watch...
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The disappearance of the importance of recognizing and penalizing biting is definitely creating a chaos. Not only in breakdance, but also in rap, or in other elements of the Hip-Hop culture. Because it means that things have a less and less "cultural" value. There is no respect for people who create, they are seen as useful products to consume like fast food. It's the difference between an artist's view and a consumer's view.

You are not only a dancer, you also write poetry. Tell us when you started and where you got your influences from...


Yes, I also write poetry. I've been writing since I was a kid, about various things, but not about dance or Hip-Hop. But in 2003 I broke my leg trying to do an elbow air flare on the concrete, and I had to stop dancing for like 4 months. Which was really hard mentally...

So I guess I started to think about my dance more, and I began writing about what I was feeling when I was dancing. "Break", "Right Angles", "Circle", each poem has a title and sort of explores one theme, from an inside point of view. All the poems put together make the "Manual of the City Warrior", it's a sort of handbook that explains how to survive in the urban environment, thanks to breaking and Hip-Hop. The poems are published individually in a French hip-hop magazine called “Graff It!” The book is not finished yet.

I also write articles about what's happening in the breakdance community in that same magazine. Mostly about battles for now, because I'm very involved in them at the moment, but also about hip-hop festivals, what's happening in other countries and all. In fact, I write about my experiences as a dancer.

My main influences in writing are Henri Michaux, Fedor Dostoyevsky, Leon Tolstoy for the way of writing ; George Orwell's "1984", Eugeni Zamiatine's "We", for the universe. And many, many others.

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You are also a choreographer? Tell us about some of your works...

I created my own dance company in 2005, it's called "par Terre". I've worked for many choreographers before, but I always felt that I had to do my own thing. So my first piece is my solo, "Square Root". It's a 30 minutes breakdance solo, mostly floor work. It defines who I am and where I stand, it sets the roots of the artistic work with the company. I'm using some of my poems in it, which are read aloud. The music is solo cello, I had it composed on the dance.
Right now I'm working on a 60 minutes Locking piece, with "Les Virtuoses de l'Instant". They asked me to help them choreograph a piece, because they feel that Locking is not recognized at its true value. Many people do shows and use locking moves between popping and breakdance moves... But Locking is a dance in itself, with a spirit and a philosophy to it. "Keep it Funky! live" is a theatrical piece, the lockers express themselves, they even speak sometimes. Under a very comical story, you get to understand their universe better: they're people who live into the spirit of the past, the spirit of the 70s, the spirit of funk, which, unlike hip-hop, has not evolved into today's rap music. But they are the ones who keep the funk alive, by living it, feeling its spirit and showing it through their dance. We want to make people feel the spirit too. To keep it funky!


What are your plans for the future?


I have upcoming projects with my dance company... First, I'd like to choreograph one of my friends’ solo. He's a B-boy and an artist, he sings and plays the guitar, and has a lot of very strong things to say. Then maybe a duet with me and another B-boy. Then... I have many many ideas of dance pieces, I hope that over time they will come to realization!
With writing, I'm still researching into the origins of Hip-Hop and breakdance, and also experiencing it in everyday life. My "Manual of the City Warrior" can be seen as a sort of journal, where I write down my discoveries... So in some years, hopefully, the first volume will be ready to come out! Then I have many plans for writing. For instance, I'd like to write a novel...

Last, you were in Greece, how was it?

I was in Athens in November 2006, for 2 days... I can't say I have an overall vision of the dance scene there, but from the people that I've met, I've gathered that breakdance is not very popular.
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I've heard that even hip-hop music is not very popular. I am sure that with time, it will develop much more. Because from what you see for instance at BOTY, even countries like Thailand or China are present on the international scene. So why not Greece? It may take longer because of the actual tastes or traditions, but eventually, Hip-Hop will take over the world!
That's why I think that initiatives like the workshop you organized are very important. For Hip-Hop to develop in Greece, you need to bring inspiration from outside. Giving the people access to workshops or shows is the best way. It's much more enriching than just watching videos on the internet: when you see the people you can feel their energy, have discussions, share experiences...
So my conclusion will be a big thank you to you Stammis for doing so much for the Hip-Hop culture! I have a lot of respect for you!
"Respect First, Peace, Love, Unity, Having Fun!!!"

Anne Nguyen aka A-Ko

Read A-Ko's poem