TweetieJune 27, 2007 at 10:58 am | Posted in Interviews | Leave a comment
Written by Dasan Ahanu
How often have you watched a music video and wondered where did that dance come from? Been at the club and left watching as a song comes on and everyone but you begins doing their version of the latest steps? You don’t have to feel left out anymore. MTV premiered “Dances From Tha Hood” on Sunday, June 17, 2007 @ 8:00pm. “Dances From Tha Hood” is hosted by dancer and choreographer TWEETIE and Executive produced by Sway Calloway, Sean Lee, Dave Sirulnick and Ocean MacAdams. A half-hour hip-hop special, it mixes the energetic vibe of a straight up basement dance party with fun instructional segments and user-generated videos of kids at home trying the latest hip-hop dances themselves.
TWEETIE has worked with with the likes of Jay Z, Destiny’s Child, N’Sync, Mya and Angie Martinez, just to name a few. She is a dance instructor at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre and the Peridance Center. A native of the Bronx, TWEETIE used her experience at the Fiorella LaGuardia High School for the Performing Arts and as part of All Stars Talent Show Network to catapult her to success. She can also be seen as a featured dancer in the Stride Gum Campaign and also appearing in the NIKE Women spring/summer collection and in the new IPOD commercial featuring Wynton Marsalis. Recently capturing national attention on the Oprah Winfrey Show teaching Gayle, Oprah, and the audience the latest dance moves, TWEETIE has prepared herself for her second major project with MTV. I was excited to talk to TWEETIE about her new opportunity.
I first wanted to ask you how did the show came about? I know you previously completed a short series of the same name for MTV mobile media, and I wanted to find out how that translated into the half hour show?
Hmmm, well Oprah helped. It was really great because it actually gave them push to say that I think we can really turn this into a show. That was really good. Working with Sway, who is my executive producer, and Sean Lee, they really realized that this girl is really good. I think they saw the Oprah show as well and they were accepting that we really needed to do this. I think that is what MTV were looking for because they kinda don’t have a show like this. Basically, I’m giving them that street credibility that I think MTV needs. That’s what I’m coming in on.
I wanted to ask you about that appearance on the Oprah Winfrey Show. How was the experience? Going from having Gayle King in your class to having an opportunity to be on the show, how was that as far as opening up doors for you?
Oh my God, first of all that was amazing. I need to thank Gayle I don’t know how many times. That was really overnight. She came to my class that Monday at Alvin Ailey (American Dance Theatre) and by that Saturday I got an email asking me to be on the show. Ever since then it’s been non-stop love. People stop me in the street. They try to do the old man, which is one of the dances I taught on the show. They stop me on the train and they just smile at me on the train. I have a tattoo of a tweetie bird on my arm so they point at it and they go, “That’s tweetie, I know how to do the old man!” I mean, I went to McDonalds and it was really really late at night. It was like 11:30 or 12 at night because you know those fries, they be calling. Right. This lady and her daughter, she said that, “I just finished talking about you like a block away” and she seemed so emotional and so happy about it. I’m proud that it brought a lot of opportunity, but I also realize it wasn’t just me on that stage. It was me and the whole community, it was me and anybody who ever dreamed of being on the Oprah show or just talking to her. They felt like a part of them was on that stage with me and if that’s the feeling I give off, that’s amazing. I’m gonna try and continue to do that.
Speaking about the idea of the community being on stage with you. I know part of the show allows viewers to send in tapes of them doing the dance steps. How important was that element allowing the opportunity for viewers to be a part of the show?
Well, because I am an instructor and a choreographer I know they are going to want to know if they are even doing them right, to know if they have a chance to get seen. I think it’s a good idea because I need them to interact with me also. I can personally go online and comment on them. I’m a teacher and I want to know if they are getting it in. I really need to see it. It’s not like it’s a gimmick, I really enjoy going online and seeing kids or anyone put videos up on the site. It’s almost like I’m teaching class, even though they aren’t in the same room as me. You know, I still teach my classes and it’s good to know I can give off a feeling that will make them try it after watching the show and put it on the site. It feels good to have that interaction with people.
There has been some criticism of some of today’s dances. Some even calling it modern day buffoonery. How do you feel about the steps folks are coming up with and the negative connotations given to some of today’s dances?
A lot of the stuff may have a little something new added to it, they feel like their creating something new, but it’s recycled from when Hip Hop first started. One of the moves they have is called the freak nasty, but back then it was called the renaissance. So to me it feels like ok we’re doing this again and they may have added a little arms or a little something else, but you know I’m cool wit it. Some people may not agree wit it, but I’m like it’s what we used to do back then so what’s wrong with that. There’s nothing wrong with them doing it again. There’s nothing wrong with having the music with it. Almost every song has a dance to it. Every single song and back then, when Hip Hop first started, you’d hear Biz Markie and you did the Biz. Right. When you heard certain songs you did certain moves. Doug E. Fresh, even he had his own dance going. Everybody knew the Doug E. I enjoy it. A lot of folks may not feel like it’s creative, but there are a lot of other things out there these kids could be doing. Instead they’re dancing and if that’s going to keep them out of trouble, then I’m wit that. I’m going to keep on supporting it. I love it.
Do you see this show leading to new opportunities? Seeing the success that you’ve had from Oprah to MTV do you think this show will open up new doors for dancers and choreographers?
Definitely. I definitely see more dance shows coming out but with more street credibility. There are dance shows out now but what we see on TV other people see it and are like that’s not what we’re doing in the hood. It’s stuff they’ve seen before in videos and they’re looking at it like we don’t do that anymore. I think there are going to be a lot more dance shows but with that raw essence of what Hip Hop music and Hip Hop culture is. If it opens up a door for someone else then so be it because this what we live, this is how we live. We eat, live, and breathe this all day every day. I think with this show, “Dances From Tha Hood”, it gives people a look at Hip Hop that’s not so negative. It can be made to be so negative and about these chics shakin their butts and it’s not about that. It’s for everybody. It’s for guys, girls, it’s positive, it’s for having a good time, and it’s a house party. I remember when house parties were about having fun, not about getting drunk, broken and everything. We’re just here to dance and it’s about who’s getting it in the best. I’m really feeling like a lot of dancers and choreographers have a great opportunity and you know what, I’m even willing to bring them on my show. Let them get their shine on. I’m all love to all birds.
Aight, now I see that you’ve studied multiple forms of dance. I also see that on the show you will be having different celebrities break down the dances in their videos. Is that variety and the breadth of movements that can be put together something that you are trying to highlight on the show?
Definitely. The artists that we have on the show will be breaking down their stuff to me. I love talking with the different artists because you get their opinions, their visuals as far as their concepts. I was out with Lil Mama and it’s just crazy because she’s doing the lip-gloss dance and she’s really like, “this is how it’s really done, you gotta rock wit it”. Then she’s got a new video with Avril Levigne coming out. They got a dance for that. I’m like wait a minute you got Avril Levigne to dance? So she showed me a little sumptin and they got a little exclusive dance going on with that. It’s interesting to see the artist doing their own dance to their own song. You get to see another personality from them because you always see them rhyming or singing, but don’t always get to see them get in there and get down. That’s funny to me and I enjoy it.
It’s interesting to me to see that you got started in an after-school dance program. I know a lot of people are trying to encourage more youth to get involved in the arts. I am wondering what’s your opinion on that and how your show could inspire more support for young people to dance?
Well, when I dance I call it dancing from around the way and around the block, but there is this great program called the all-star talent show network. I definitely grew up in that. We competed in it and it’s for dancers, singers, people that write poetry, people that play instruments, people that rhyme. I think more programs need to open up to the arts because it’s just not enough out there. If we can do anything to keep these focused and give them that support system, I mean it helped me a lot especially with school. Not only did I have a dance group in the talent show network I had one in my high school that we started. Even after we finished high school we continued that there and I don’t think people realize that’s a domino effect. So in these communities if you build these kids and keep their minds focused then soon they will pass that on. So when people watch my show and it gives kids a reason to feel encouraged, motivated, or their creativity just explodes through the brain I’m all for it. I hope to one day have my own dancing school and I know a lot of dancers say that, but I want to see an all Hip Hop dancing school. Usually at dancing schools you have ballet, modern, and jazz. Now I’m all for technique, I took technique in school, but I want an all Hip Hop school.
As a successful woman in Hip Hop and a woman who has a concern for the image of women in Hip Hop, how was it negotiating this opportunity and making it happen?
I definitely felt like my image was very important. I didn’t want to come out and feel like okay I’m this female and I need to show this, that, and a third. I didn’t want to have to do that. I wanted people to recognize me as a black woman of today and that yes I can handle this position and handle it professionally. Because sometimes they think she had to do certain things to get in that position and No I didn’t. I need them to know that I have skills and I need other females to see that you don’t have to take that role where you have to degrade yourself. We can make on TV to and you don’t have to lose yourself within this industry. So many females lose themselves because they feel the pressure of men or that if I do this, that, and a third I’ll get to a, b, or c. Or that they try to skip a, b, and c, and jump to q, r, and s. You know what? I had to work to get here and it’s possible. I come from the hood, I come from the Bronx and I’m still working hard at it. Hopefully it will change women who are 21 and older. Hopefully, this will motivate females who may not have a job, who have kids and are struggling, females who are going through some things, running away from home, or getting abused. Hopefully, watching my show will motivate them and make them feel a little better about themselves because for me music is my outlet. Whenever I’m going through something I turn on the music and let that negative energy out. So by watching my show, I’m hoping they can do the same thing.
Can anybody watch the show and start trying the steps you break down? Does the average person need to be in any special kind of shape?
Nah, Nah, this is for any and everybody. Anybody who has the courage to get up and get it in, let’s do it. Just like I got on Oprah’s show and you saw all those people get up in that audience and they were trying it, if they can do it you can do it to. There is no disclaimer or anything like that whatsoever. This is for any and everybody. This is for my aunt who is 67 years old and saying I need to teach her some steps. This is for the cops outside on the corner. This is for the messenger tired of taking them packages to the MTV office. This is for everybody. This is for soccer moms, agents who have clients, everybody babes.
Now how many shows in the series?
In the mobile series or the TV show?
In the TV show?
Oh, I can’t really give out that information. You just have to watch and see.
It looks like the mobile series is continuing also. Now where is the mobile series available?
It’s linked up with all mobile carriers and MTV on demand. You can definitely download that.
Now is there anything else you want the public to know about yourself and the show?
That I’m from the Bronx and I want to give a shoutout to anybody from the Bronx. Also I want to send shoutouts to the people that I’ve worked with like LL, Fergie, Ciara, and Mya. You can check me out in the new Mya video. The show airs Sunday June 17th at 8:00pm. I’m excited. I want to thank everyone who has supported me including MTV, my family, and my friends. Oh, and you will still see me in the clubs getting it in.
You can find out more about TWEETIE at www.myspace.com/birddance2. You can also visit the show’s website, www.dancesfromthahood.mtv.com. Be sure to check out the show and support TWEETIE as she teaches the world how to get it in.