Dale Sammy (Cold Crush) – Dropping Science
Dale Sammy of Cold Crush, an old school Toronto Popper provides us great insight on the
Toronto Hip Hop dance scene of the early 1980’s and his journeys through it . Robin Rocabye Coltez conducts a video interview for Fat Laces on November 29, 2009 to compliment his Q&A.
Here is Dale Sammy… Dropping Science (Hip Hop Slang for educating others of one self or street knowledge).
FatLaces: Where are you from?
DSammy: I was from Markham and Eglinton at the time. Important to note though was that I attended three high schools, from grade 10 to 12 during my break dancing stint: Laurier; Midland and Cedarbrae.
FatLaces: What was your dance name?
DSammy: I never really adopted a name. People knew me as Dale. I tried in vain to get a cool name started but Dale it was.
FatLaces: What forms of disciplines have you studied that has influenced your Street Dancing?
DSammy: Martial Arts.
FatLaces: When & how did you start Breaking or Street Dancing?
DSammy: I started “popping” in 1984 after being exposed to the form in 1983. Three things happened around that time that made me pursue “popping”: my older brother, who had introduced me to the music of Grand Master Flash and the Furious Five, Sugar Hill Gang and Kraft Work, had contended that I had a predilection for dance and thought I should practice.
FatLaces: What attracted you to the Street Dance culture?
DSammy: Truth was, it could be described as the “Hip Hop” culture, for me; everything from the way of dress, basketball, the dancing, the music, the kung fu movies all intertwined to produce the culture I was involved in. I became better known for dancing and kick-boxing.
FatLaces: Who are your influences that inspired you to dance?
DSammy: Sammy Davis Junior, Fred Estaire, Gene Kelly, Michael Jackson, Baryshnikov, Gregory Haines, the music of Grand Master Flash and the Furious Five, every disco and “Black-ploitation” movie produced, my big brother Marcell and my friends from Laurier Collegiate.
FatLaces: When and what was the name of the crew that you danced with back in the day?
DSammy: I was with the mighty COLD CRUSH. We were made up of the remnants of the Zodiac breakers, augmented with individual specialists. Maurice (Zodiac), David Leberre and I were the dancers in the crew. We were virtually unstoppable. I had already grown to the zenith of my reputation as a dancer when we formed and coupled with the legend of Maurice, people generally stepped aside. In those days people usually stayed away from dancing outside their own peer group. I was a soloist until the days of Midland, were Cold Crush was formed and Breaking had hit its summit and would falter soon after. Right after the Crunchie Challenge. So at the time we started doing shows, each member of the crew was well known in what is now regarded as the GTA and Mississauga.
FatLaces: What Breaking crews do you remember from around Toronto?
DSammy: Chocolate City Breakers (L’Amoreaux Collegiate) , Zodiac breakers (McCowan and Eglinton), Wild Style (Midland area, if I remember correctly) and COLD CRUSH.
FatLaces: Describe what the Break Dancing (B-boying) scene was like in the early 1980’s in T.O. or around Canada?
DSammy: At first, we were siphoning the moves and culture from Brooklyn and the Bronx, where most of our New York relatives were from. Whenever anyone came back, they brought some of the culture and moves back with them. But just as hip hop music did, our dance became self sufficient and we began evolving on our own: right after movies such as Beat Street and Break Dance. We still borrowed moves, hell, I would say the channel went both ways, but we were self sufficient after 1984. Battles were common and mostly non-violent. Neighborhoods and schools rallied around their champions. We flooded the clubs, house parties, rec centres, subways, anywhere we could glide or spin or pose and we drew quite the following; and fast. It became so popular that B-boys quickly started performing at the Ex, Italian parties, Schools (where we held the competitions for best dancers): it was everywhere. Too fast. It was on the TV, how to videos, commercials, it was expanding beyond our ability to conserve it. I remember going to Cedarbrea Collegiate after only 2 years of dancing and landed with celebrity status; both for dance and kick-boxing. Michael Jackson was running the show on the big stage; using a lot of our moves, but doing them tight: moon walk; glide. He further made break dancing easily digested. But there was another side that most did not perceive. Because we were getting popular as a sub-culture, we rode right along side the gangs and the drugs and the violence that prevailed under the epidermis of the city. Many of us were considered parts of those gangs or affiliates; which was good for protection, but sometimes we fell into the violence and money and the drugs. Kick boxers like myself, honed our skills on the streets, often times with the gang members. Some Gang members became dancers, some dancers became gang members. We all ran together.
FatLaces: What crews or dancers stood out the most to you in Canada and the USA and why?
DSammy: Mine were Rock Steady and New York City breakers; they were the most famous and in a lot of ways, the most innovative. Breaking, like all dances demands practice, as well as talent and time invested, time of exposure showed in certain moves. The two super crews were at it for a while and the nuances of popping and breaking were like old hat to them. Up here, it had to be Zodiac. Maurice and Stephen Muttoo were insane. Steve was the best of all of us. He took home best dancer when it was held at Woburn Collegiate. He was crisp and comfortable both, dancing and breaking. You heard that Steve? I gave you props. I would still kick your ass on the pops and the ticks: the stuff that counted Ha ha.
FatLaces: What memorable moments do you have as a dancer?
DSammy: In the hay day; walking down by the Eaton Centre. Watching battles going on and then stepping in and Cold Crushing it. I used to love to hear people try to describe my style: fast pops that bounced me off the floor and ticks that looked like stop action movies. I would go back a week later and there would be people waiting to see me and they had already known who I was and where I was from. The recognition was a high.
FatLaces: What do you think of the Street Dance scene of today compared to what it was?
DSammy: I believe that the popping and ticking is not the same. It takes a few years for a dancer to produce the seasoned bounce or crispness. Watch some of the guys who kept on going from back in the day. Compare them to a new schooler: no competition. But where you guys are nuts is in the breaking and the choreography. I can’t believe the moves I see people doing now. I am so proud when I see the routines people put together: so professional and full of talent. We would splice together a trick or two, while today, production has evolved. The fact that dancers are now being taught a discipline, with actual basic steps and moves, is amazing. As the time is sacrificed, then the popping and the ticking will get tight and surpassed.
FatLaces: Which era do you believe best represents Hip Hop as a whole?
DSammy: What else can I say? 83 to 87.
FatLaces: Which Hip Hop group or artist best represents Breaking and it’s Street Dance culture?
DSammy: Back in my time it had to be Run DMC. They epitomized the whole culture. Other notables were Curtis Blow (Eight Million Stories, Basket ball), Whodini (Five Minutes of Funk) and Newcleus (Jam on it, which was my hip hop anthem). But the ones that set it all in motion for me was Grand Master Flash and the Furious Five. Songs like Scorpio, the Message and Apache (which Will Smith butchered in his show), set the tone for the “real” hip hop artists that rose up soon after.
FatLaces: What are your thoughts about Hip Hop dance classes in dance studios and how it represents the Street Dance culture?
DSammy: Hip Hop in the studios, like Jazz and Modern in the studios in their infancy, may be viewed as an oddity; or at least curious. It’s only natural that those who subscribe to the established notions of the traditional adopt that point of view; but every structured, taught dance style was once viewed as new, different and not established. For the “purist” who believes that Hip Hop belongs solely on the streets, in the underground clubs, the street corners or the subways, I would imagine them viewing the dance studio classes as a diluted version of the art: devoid of the pain and passion, they consider inseparable from the streets. None of these points of views could be further from the reality of the Hip Hop. As we romanticize the genre, we forget just how popular, mainstream and exploited the art of Hip Hop had become in the 80s and early 90s: movies, how to videos, lunch boxes. It was being torn from the streets, beyond our ability to preserve it. Without it being seen as an established and structured art form, it almost took the road of so many other street fads and almost burnt itself out: it was non-renewable. The studios have helped to preserve hip hop and allowed it to evolve. The respect it truly deserves is now being given and it is being nurtured by premium talent, a thoughtful structured approach and in an environment where more talent can be exposed to it. Some of the kids I see doing Hip Hop today, and doing it well mind you, would not have lasted 5 minutes in the environment it was first available in. That would have been the genre’s loss. In regards to Street Culture: it is what you make it. Skate boarding, BMXing, Capoeira, Graffiti and hopefully Hip Hop are facets of a variety of street cultures that can all benefit from being adopted as legitimate art forms. All of them have grown by way of structured exposure; as opposed to exploitation of a perceived fad. The Street is not crime and Gangster; but it is a way of thinking: urban and raw. I believe its essence is being captured and preserved in the studios.
FatLaces: Do you have any words of wisdom for aspiring young dancers?
DSammy: Just keep dancing, battling, and perfecting your thing. Don’t worry about how good you are compared to others. Finish each move and approach each move with fervor and passion. Hip hop is not very forgiving: if you are simply wading through it, we will know and we won’t be amused. Treat it too lightly and some “Old School” guy may have to come out of retirement … Nuff said.