Uprock is a soulful, competitive street dance. It is danced in synchronization to the rhythms of Soul, Rock and Funk music. The dance consists of foot shuffles, spins, turns, freestyle movements, sudden body movements called "jerks" and hand gestures called "burns". Uprock is said to be mastered with discipline, patience, heart, soul, and knowledge. Back in the day, nobody was teaching Uprock. It was about watching and learning, then executing by experience in a dance competition. In Brooklyn there were contests every two weeks, with crews battling it out. |
Uprock was developed in the Bushwick area of Brooklyn between 1967 and 1968 by two men: "Rubberband Man" and "Apache". Throughout the mid-60s and mid-70s, Brooklyn was home to many street gangs. Rubberband Man and Apache were all too familiar with these violent times; they grew up in the Bushwick area. They often hung around with the "Devil Rebels" and other local Brooklyn gangs. Although they socialized within a dangerous circle of friends, getting into trouble was not their ultimate goal. They loved to dance; mainly to Soul and Funk music, and wanted to channel their energy and skill towards something new, so they created a new dance form called "Rocking". Rubberband Man and Apache would dance on the street corners while listening to the radio. They used mixture of moves from Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Salsa, and later the Hustle.
As the dance developed, body movements called "jerks" and hand gestures called "burns" would be added to imitate a fight against an opposing dancer. It was Apache who incorporated the hand gestures to humiliate his opponent, known as "Burns". Rubberband Man and Apache morphed these dance styles, movements, and gestures together to create a unique and original street dance. Many gangs, and more specifically gang members, began to perform this dance. It became commonplace to see gang members hanging out in corners dancing against each other. Rocking became a competitive dance that caught on very quickly.
By the early 70's Uprocking became a local dance, not just a "gang dance". Many non-gang-related youths from around the area started Uprocking. You could witness this dance at block parties, teen dances, and many other festive gatherings. A man by the name of "Crazy Rob" organized the first Uprock contests in existence. Competition was fierce and Brooklyn became a breeding ground for intense dance contests (commonly known as battles).
Unfortunately, fierce competition did not go without difficulties. Though many battles would end peacefully, several others did not. Rubberband Man's final battle ended in a violent outcome when he lost his life through a jealous dance rift. Rubberband participated in a dance battle, in which the opposing dancer's girlfriend was put up as a prize.
Ultimately, Rubberband won the contest and claimed his prize. The jealous boyfriend shot Rubberband as he was leaving the dance club with his new "prize" girlfriend. It was a tragic ending, a true legend was lost, but the dance continued to live on.
Later another follower of Rubberband Man named Eddie Figueroa passed on and taught others the intricate moves and steps of Uprock dance in tribute to the memory of Rubberband Man.
By late 70's Uprock had its own identity as a serious dance form. There were dozens of crews in Brooklyn by this time. Uprock was taken very seriously by its supporters. The high stakes for battles often included money, women, bragging rights, and shirts. Latter being one of the highest stakes in a battle; if you lost your shirt, you lost your nickname and your crew's name.
In 1980, the biggest title in Brooklyn came up. The title was "King Uprock". All the best Uprock dancers in Brooklyn came together to compete in one contest. The title was won by 'Ralph Casanova, who now holds the "King Uprock" title.
By the mid-80 and into the 90's Uprock began to wither down while Breakdance became more popular. Many Uprockers got married, acquired full time jobs, became "B-boys" themselves, or had other situations that took them out of the game. The only way that Uprock was present during this time was in a modified form called "Top Rock", which was done by B-boys. Top Rock was not the correct form of the original Brooklyn Uprock dance, and in essence, Uprocking became dormant for a few years.
It was called "Rock" because it was originated from different bits and pieces of Salsa. As far as the moves, there are footwork and shakes. Many good rockers did the Latin Hustle because back in the days it went hand in hand.
The dance caught on so quickly in the early 70's, and had spread so widely, that the name had to be changed. The term "Rock" in a "Rock Contest" would confuse many "Rock music" fanatics; they would show up expecting a rock concert. Mistaken as a "rock & roll dance", "Rocking" became "Uprocking", which was a combination of Salsa, the hustle, freestyle, burns and jerks. It was the same dance with a different name. The name change did not affect the rate of the dance's growth and popularity. Many young men were competing and many Uprock crews were organized.
Breakdance and Hip Hop
The original B-Boy generation consists of classic B-Boying, Electric Boogaloo, Popping, "Locking", Uprocking, [MC]ing, "beat boxing", DJing and Graffiti. Some of these forms have been around individually, until 1974, when a defined name entitled "Hip Hop" was derived by Afrika Bambaattaa. Hip Hop united all of these different elements. Uprock is one dance that has been developing in the late 1960s, before any of these dances were even united under Hip Hop.
It is stated that if there were no Uprockers back in the late 60's we would not have the Break-dancers (media's term for B-Boys) today. Breakdance now reappears in the streets and clubs of New York City as it did in the early 80's. From the beginning, Uprock's "Jerks", "Burns", and "Freestyle" were and are the three main movements used in this dance art form, and is still being used in today's B-Boying. The modified Uprock in Breakdance is called Toprock. Uprock does have many similar "Down Rocking", (known as Boing Oing) that b-boys use. "Uprocking the downrocking" part soon evolved to become "B-Boying", which the Bronx took to the next level with the addition of spins.
The dance involves two or more dancers, single or as a team, dancing alternatively or simultaneously, performing what is called a dance battle. Uprock dancers battle throughout the duration of a complete song, unlike Breakdance, which uses the "break" of a song. The initial basic move is the freestyle or routines if any until the break of a record. At the "break" is where the "jerk" or "burn" is then executed.
Although uprockers sometimes emulate fight moves with their "burns", physical contact is never allowed. Physical contact is usually a sign of inexperience. If an uprocker is experienced he or she will not make any contact in order to "burn" his or her opponent. If occurring, no point or burn will be given to the one who touched the other.
The Apache Line
The dance is performed in a line formation called the "Apache Line" so another opponent or teammate is needed in order to battle or do a routine. The Apache Line allows two opposing dancers or crews to face each other and execute their "burn" gestures towards one another in contrast to where the b-boy battle is in a circle. Each uprocker must keep in his/her line formation until either he is tapped to step out by another rocker, or the opponent gives out. However, the teams can switch partners in keeping the battle line in motion. Then he or she steps out and the next dancer is in the battle. This is a sign of respect for both dancers.
In the initiation of a new rocker, an Apache line is created. The new Uprocker must battle each member on the Apache Line. The New Rocker must dance down the center of the Apache Line and battle each Rocker ensuring that he keeps a discipline in the use of jerks, burns and freestyle.
Rhythm and float
Experienced uprockers are also familiar with the songs that they dance to, and they use the lyrics and sounds of the music to out-do their opponent. The music is the guideline for when to execute a jerk, burn, or freestyle. Therefore, knowledge of the music is very important in the Battle scene. An uprocker must execute a jerk or burn at the "break" and dance freestyle or burn throughout the rest of the music played. He or she uses the music's lyrics or sounds in his or her favor in order to create the illusion of a story. This is unlike a breaker who steps in, "Breaks", then steps out for part of the music.
The battle does not necessarily use burn after burn; there must be a constant rotation of burns and jerks in order to give each opponent the space to burn the other with style. There really is no losing in the battle; it is the knowledge of the music and the styling of dance that wins in favor of the dancer. Creativity and execution of the moves in accordance to the music being played was the way it is judged.