Temple Students Learn New Styles of Action Meditaton on a day of Urban Dance

It was a day like any other at the Shaolin Temple – students of all ages and backgrounds had come to practice action meditation through movement. Only on this day, it wasn’t the usual combination of kicks, stances, and jumps. Two of the urban dance world’s most renowned practitioners, Jazzy J and Future, had come to share their philosophy with the temple community. In addition to the temple students and disciples who were looking to expand their knowledge and practice, many of the dancers’ students came as well, enjoying the opportunity to practice in a unique environment.

The day started off with a popping workshop led by Jazzy J. Jazzy started by asking Shifu to pick from one of several CDs to use as background accompaniment. The class then began right away just like class at the temple – with action! As soon as the music came on, Jazzy started dancing right away, and everyone followed along with his movements. Just like in Chan philosophy – mind to mind, heart to heart, with no words. He led the students through several basic popping routines, and finally finished with a longer sequence of movements that combined many of them together. The temple students remarked how similar some of the motions and stances were to the ones they normally practiced.

After a short break, the next workshop began, with Future teaching waving technique. He began class in a much different way – by discussing the philosophy behind the movement. Before even the first music, he discussed the importance of just being able to listen to the music  and hear all of the different levels and layers of sound, and how one can move to any of them. He also broke down the fundamental feeling of waving – being like water – and discussed the importance of finding self-expression through the movements. As Future is also a martial artist, the temple students easily related to his philosophy of movement. The class continued with more basics, with future showing basic waves through the arms, legs, and entire body, as well as combining all of them. Finally, as in Jazzy’s class, the students practiced a sequence of movements combining everything they’d learned.

After another small break it was finally time for the day’s main event – a dance tournament with a $300 cash prize! Additional members of the dance community began arriving, ready to represent. After about 16 people had entered, the battles began. In the first series, dancers were paired up and went head to head in a best of 2 rounds match. Jazzy and Future were the judges, and when there was a tie, a special guest judge helped to break it. As the tournament went on, the battles went to one round each, so the dancers really had to show their stuff. But everyone was so skilled and expressive, there were still numerous tie-breaker rounds (even though there were 3 judges, Jazzy would often vote for both dancers in a match!) During the final rounds, some fantastic levels of skill were displayed. In the semi-final round, Tiny battled Sugaloo by lowering himself into a full middle split – to the beat of course – then bouncing up and down in the split to the beat while dancing with his arms as well. He then moved in a circle just by using his legs. The temple students were especially impressed with that one, but after an extremely close tie-breaker round, Sugaloo came out victorious. In the final match, he went up against Sun. Sun went first, and took advantage of the spirit of the location by mock-kicking Sugaloo during her routine. Sugaloo countered on his turn by taking off Sun’s hat and dancing around it! But while the matches themself were intense, there was nothing but love and respect going around between everybody. In the end, the judges voted Sugaloo the winner, and he and Sun shared a big hug.

With the tournament over, the DJ continued to play beats for the crowd, who took turns dancing and socializing. Many of them took the opportunity to talk to Shifu and share philosophy with him. Heng Yin, the organizer of the event, spoke about his mission – to unite the urban dance community, no matter what style of dance one practices, with the Shaolin Temple being the perfect location, as much of urban dance traces origins to kung fu movements. This idea is also historically tied to the temple – the abbot Fu Yu invited all of the great martial artists in China to the temple 3 times, each for a 3-year period. The martial artists discussed, trained, sparred, and refined their movements together, finding which styles were the best, and combining them all to make even better styles. This is the one of the reasons that the Shaolin Temple is so famous for its martial arts – all of the attendees returned to their home provinces bringing back the knowledge they’d learned at the temple of the highest level kung fu and philosophy. By uniting the martial arts and dance communities, hopefully we can bring this idea in to the 21st century, and create even more amazing styles and ways of expressing oneself through movement. Amituofo.