by The People’s Minister of Information JR
I was recently enjoying myself at West Oakland’s Lil’ Bobby Hutton Park at the Life is Living Festival, where I met Gideon and Dionte of the high school-age dance crew Squandron Ace, who were participating in a dance off. Right before headliners dead prez hit the stage, King Theo of Samba Funk was leading a community dance off with some of the Bay’s legendary dancers in attendance. Arpitta Amma, Chinaka Hodge, and Traci Bartlow were some of the ones bustin’ a move to name a few.
Now in my mid-30s I’ve seen a lot of talent on the streets of the Bay, but when I saw the brothas Gideon and Dionte from Squadron Ace jump in the circle, I noticed that their dance styles, skills and versatility were exceptional, so I wanted to make sure that I put this crew on the Bay’s cultural radar because, believe me, they will be setting the standard for the new age of dance very soon. Here is Gideon in his own words.
M.O.I. JR: How did Squadron Ace Dance Crew start? How did you two become members?
Gideon Mekwunye: Squadron Ace was founded by Gideon C. Mekwunye II – me. I always wanted a group that had raw talented dancers which would be mainly b-boys. One day in my eighth grade year, I asked some friends that break what if we made a crew? And the word Squadron came to mind.
Then one friend said there’s already a crew called Squadron. So then my other friend, David, said Squadron X. Then I said Squadron Ace because an ace is the best card in a deck and that’s what I wanted my group to be.
However Squadron Ace didn’t come to realization until I was at least a mid-freshmen or sophomore in high school where my friend Dionte started and who was at the same level as me if not better, so I said in my head, why be enemies? It was a small crew, but he helped me keep it alive and it grew starting with us two.
M.O.I. JR: What kinds of dance do you do?
Gideon Mekwunye: We know various styles. We have a popper in our crew. We’ve tapped into different styles of dance but we mainly b-boy.
M.O.I. JR: Why are y’all so passionate about dancing?
Gideon Mekwunye: I don’t know sometimes. The answer will come one day, but for me and my other crew members it’s a huge part of our lives. It’s an enriching activity, and it helps us make a sense of the world.
M.O.I. JR: Are you traditionally trained dancers or are you self-taught street dancers? How does your experience in that realm affect your style?
Gideon Mekwunye: We all have different stories, but for me and Dionte, we were trained by self-taught dancers. I personally do street shows with a crew called Oakland Breakerz, and I’ve been with them for three years. The style that we learned doesn’t restrict us from the freedom of thinking creatively when we dance and experiment with new moves.
M.O.I. JR: Who inspires y’all as dancers?
Gideon Mekwunye: There’s so many names and it’s different for everybody. We’re a crew of 10, but pioneers of b-boying like Crazy Legs, Ken Swift, Storm and Many (Too Many) definitely go in there.
The main people that were there for me were people like Vibol Vann, who taught me the dance; Robert Taylor and Phenominial Prodegies crew – Fremont High School b-boys year of 2009 – who trained me harder; Power Serge, who taught me how to polish things and make little things big; and Oakland Breakerz, who taught me the power moves, flips and how to street perform.
For Dionte , he is inspired by the dancers that are around him and the ones that have taught him like Sergio Suarez, also known as Power Serge, and his crew called Beatz ’n’ Pieces and many more that helped him gain knowledge about not just b-boying but dancing in general.
M.O.I. JR: How did y’all individually get into dancing?
Gideon Mekwunye: When I was little, I saw a cartoon called “Courage the Cowardly Dog” and in one episode him and his adopters were enslaved by a Giant robot from space and Courage had to dance for freedom and within that battle he did a backspin and that’s what made me know a little bit about the dance. Then when I was attending Bret Harte Middle School, a guy named Vibol Vann was teaching b-boying my eighth grade year, second semester, and here I am.
Dionte got into b-boying when he saw these kids that later became his friends dancing at the eighth grade dinner dance. The next year when he started high school, he found out there was a b-boy club at the school being taught by a b-boy named Power Serge so he decided to join. Ever since then b-boying became something that he really loves to do and hopes to keep doing it in the future.
M.O.I. JR: Where do you hope to take your dancing?
Gideon Mekwunye: We hope our dancing can inspire others to aim high in life and other than that we want our dancing to take us to international events like IBE (International Breaking Event) Battle of the Year and R16 and maybe a few other spots
M.O.I. JR: At one point dancing was considered a female art form. Is that the case still? Why or why not?
Gideon Mekwunye: This dance started in the Bronx in New York in the 1970s. It was started by African American and Puerto Rican youth as a way to express themselves
M.O.I. JR: What are y’all currently working on?
Gideon Mekwunye: We are working on building up our skills individually and training to enter competitions and battles.
M.O.I. JR: When can people see you perform again?
Gideon Mekwunye: No time soon. We are all training in secrecy.
The People’s Minister of Information JR Valrey is associate editor of the Bay View, author of “Block Reportin’” and filmmaker of “Operation Small Axe” and “Block Reportin’ 101,” available, along with many more interviews, atwww.blockreportradio.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.