DANCE: Q&A with Ginette ‘Phoenix’ Marte
ARTISTICALLY SPEAKING: Q&A WITH GINETTE ‘PHOENIX’ MARTE
Choreographer and performer Ginette ‘Phoenix’ Marte gives it her all when she teaches students footwork theory as a founding member of the Coalition for Creative Exchange in New York City: showing musicality, rhythm and exchange (how to dance/vibe with others). But, don’t expect to see this petite dynamo with a megawatt smile rushing into a cipher on the dance floor. “Unfortunately, dancers are becoming victims of the politics that revolve around battles nowadays,” Marte tells Tania Fuentez Media in a recent interview. “In my opinion, ‘rules’ are becoming a little too ‘over-structured’ for the different genres of dance. Dance is ALWAYS evolving, ALWAYS changing. It doesn’t matter what style it is, ballet to House to Locking, there is ALWAYS someone who will change the way things are.”
This year, Marte joined the respected Hip Hop dance company Full Circle Productions (Full Circle Soul), and she speaks highly of its creators, Ana ‘Rokafella’ Garcia and Gabriel ‘Kwikstep’ Dionisio. “There’s so much that they do with this troupe,” Marte says about two of her mentors. She shares more in the following Q&A.
TFM: When did you start dancing and why? Who are your mentors?
I took a couple of traditional (ballet, jazz, modern) dance classes in 1987 but didn’t really ‘feel’ that as much as the street dance that I grew up around. I was lucky enough to witness the growth of crews like Rocksteady and NYC Breakers, etc. It was my brother, Future Ninja, who took me to my first real club … The Red Zone in 1989. It was over after that (LOL). He opened my eyes to a world that I would be intrigued and in love with from that point on! It was then when ALL the dancers that are now the OG’s of their craft were just getting started as well. Ejoe (Wilson) – I went to high school with; Marjory (Smarth) – I would hang out in Washington Square Park and go to the club; Willi Ninja – knew him before there was a ‘House’ of anything! Buddha Stretch, Caleaf and those guys (except Seku) I didn’t meet until recently as they came into the scene later (after I took a ‘hiatus’ LOL).
My true mentors: My brother – I wouldn’t know ANY of my movement if it weren’t for him; Brian ‘Footwork’ Green; Jeff Selby; Byron; Rokafella and Kwik (Full Circle Productions/Ful Circle Soul) ; Cricket … that’s naming a few :)
TFM: What defines you as a dancer?
I’m still learning (LOL). I’m constantly wanting to be more creative, learn another style or something. I would have to say it’s the music for me. I hear it and I’m in it … whether I’m walking down the street with my headphones, sitting at my desk in my office … when I hear it, my mind goes to where I wish to be … dancing … just like the song says, ‘When I hear music, it makes me dance.’
TFM: Explain the motivation behind the Coalition for Creative Exchange. Any new projects?
Coalition for Creative Exchange was founded by: myself (Full Circle, House Of Ninja), Shea Butta Martinez (Full Circle), Lisa Pitts (MAWU) and Omar Holmes. We all shared the desire to reach out to the inner city kids (and adults) that don’t have the opportunity to step out beyond what they know … their ‘hood.’ It is our wish to bring different forms of movement and creativity and let them see a world that they thought they would never see.
* Shea Butta – teaches break-dancing basics, giving an intro to the style and creating a fun environment for all ages.
* Omar Holmes – teaches martial arts, giving discipline and fighting skills that can be used in everyday life, as well as dance.
* Lisa Pitts – teaches floor movement, rhythm and flow, giving the student a new way to ‘feel’ the melodies of music … ranging from Hip-Hop to House to Dubstep.
At the end of our classes, we have an open session where the students can utilize some or all the styles learned in dance. Basically, letting them understand the true meaning of ‘freestyle.’ We are focused on keeping the arts alive in our country (i.e. dance, art, physical fitness, etc.), as we are the ONLY country that does not support the arts and the artist/performer.
TFM: What is your philosophy on the current popularity of dance battles/circles versus more individualistic, intuitive dance.
Hmmm … this has become a touchy subject lately (LOL) … For the battles, I believe they can be great and inspiring when held appropriately. Unfortunately, dancers are becoming victims of the politics that revolve around battles nowadays. In my opinion, ‘rules’ are becoming a little too ‘over-structured’ for the different genres of dance. Dance is ALWAYS evolving, ALWAYS changing. It doesn’t matter what style it is, ballet to House to locking, there is ALWAYS someone who will change the way things are. So when I hear ‘that’s NOT popping’ or ‘that’s NOT House’, I can’t help but feel discouraged because these comments are coming from those who SHOULD know better as they came up in the dance scene at the same time I did … We all watched the dance grow and we all had a part in it … to deny that now? Not cool.
Where ciphers USED to be goin’ in for fun, even those are changing to ‘mini battles.’ I’m not quite sure how that happened but it has (LOL). ‘Dancers’ (I quote the word dancers, because lately, I don’t think they realize what the word truly means) are becoming so competitive with each other that the fun of dance is being lost. People getting angry because of some move that someone else did in a cipher? REALLY??? I thought we were there to exchange, to share … This is why I don’t enter battles, circles, none of it. I exchange or dance solo just to not get caught up in that nonsense.
TFM: How does House dance culture distinguish itself from Hip Hop culture?
For me, House dance is allowed a little more freedom in movement and feeling. Since it involves ALL styles, you can play a little more on that dance floor :-) You can House dance to Hip Hop, Dubstep, funk, etc. Hip Hop seems to follow more of trends as of late, but still has the potential of being that ‘underground’ dance. All ‘street’ styles have history.
What’s the connection? It’s important to learn it if it’s going to be someone’s life. Living the music as opposed to just listening and occasionally bumpin’ your head to a beat is something that the dancer needs to decide upon. Both styles have come a LONG way from the ‘Cabbage Patch’ and ‘Bus Stop’, with the two styles constantly growing around each other and occasionally intertwining. But what the newer generation doesn’t realize is that basic House dance came from Hip Hop! It was about the music back then … Hip Hop was just as huge in the culture as it is today, BUT House music was coming on strong … Hip Hop dancers didn’t really know how to move to it, so they took what they knew and changed their rhythm and poof! They were dancing to House!
TFM: As a certified Pilates instructor, describe its benefits in contrast to other methods such as yoga or weight-training.
ALL forms of exercise are beneficial to us. For dancers in particular, these styles increase out flexibility, strengthen core muscles (which is fabulous for the b-boys!) and our range of skill increases. Pilates elongates and strengthens the muscles concentrating mostly on core and spinal alignment (better posture); using the breath to control range of motion and exertion. Yoga provides the same benefits but concentrates more on the mental health using focused breath but still receiving similar benefits as Pilates.
Both can provide quite a vigorous workout and still increase flexibility with stretching and breath control. Weight-training is beneficial for keeping toned/building muscle but one still needs to stretch afterwards to cool the muscles down to prevent injury. Therefore, they’ll go to a yoga or Pilates session to get just that. Yoga and Pilates can be used with small weights, medicine balls, etc. … giving similar results as weight-training but with less impact and risk of injury.
TFM: How important is adhering to a healthy, more holistic lifestyle to fulfill your goals?
EXTREMELY IMPORTANT :-) !!! I try to keep as fit as possible, but I am Dominican so yeah, I LOVE FOOD! I don’t eat meat or poultry (as a choice) and train almost everyday. I try to maintain a low stress level as much as possible (unless it’s ‘that time’ then yeah I hide from the world to prevent mass destruction .. LOL). This lifestyle has done nothing but benefit me. I’ll put it this way, I’ve been House dancing since I’m 15 (1989). I am only NOW learning break-dancing … I’m 38 … My body doesn’t feel it as those that are my age and live more sedentary lifestyles. My students think I am the same age as they are (they are in their early to mid 20s, so yay!!! LOL) But when I tell them my age, after they’ve picked up their jaw from the floor, they ask how. I tell them to never stop dancing and take care of your body. It’s the only way!
TFM: What lessons have learned from your students?
My students have taught me humility. When I have the doubts of my own worth, they remind me of what I have inside. It’s them that make me look within so often. That’s the best lesson I could ever get from them …
Full Circle Soul/Full Circle Productions: http://fullcirclesoul.com/