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September 1, 2019
Lady Beast

Lady Beast

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Hi, I’m Lady Beast and I am originally from Montreal, Canada. I grew up in Boston, so I’ve been in & out of Boston since I was 6 years old. I mostly specialize in Popping but, you know, I just consider myself to be a dancer. And yeah, that’s about it, just trying to rep.

How would you define Hip Hop?

How would I define Hip Hop? It’s a few things, I mean, I don’t really hear a lot of people say this but a lot of people may consider Hip Hop as a parent or like a father figure. It’s a lifesaver, it’s a revolution. With revolution, it’s something that’s always done in the dark, like with Jazz - or Hip Hop - it’s a movement. For me, its helped me speak English. It’s kind of like a 3rd or 4th language for me. It’s a lifesaver, it’s a movement, it’s a revolution, it’s a culture, you know, it’s the language of a struggle.

What other languages do you speak?

So, my first language is French and my parents were born in Haiti, so I also grew up speaking Creole to the best of my ability but I understand it. English was my 3rd language, but it was mostly watching music videos when we were young and taping songs off the radio - just perfecting my English that way.

When was the first time you were exposed to dancing?

What’s funny is that I never really thought about that question until I started dancing because I think with dancing, it really stimulates your memory. So I would say, one of the first memories of just movement itself, I remember I went to the museum of science when I was, maybe in 3rd grade, and I remember there was this type of camera that was taking pictures of shadows and movement, so we would jump in the air and then it would take a picture of our shadow. So that was my first awareness of just movement, you know what I mean?

Outside the basic walking and running but as far as dance itself, I would say pretty much music videos back in the day and I remember the first song that really made sense to me, I mean it’s more on the R&B side, was Bobby Brown’s “Every Little Step I Take”. So, he was doing the steps and saying it and he was dancing with it at the same time, so that was my first “Oh, that’s musicality. I understand what he’s saying, I understand the movement, and I understand the dance.” It’s not initially under the Hip Hop trade but that was my first “Oh, he can actually dance to the words”

When were you first exposed to Hip Hop?

I have older siblings and the benefit of it is that they would be exposed to different things and then they would bring it home. I think the first song that made me aware of Hip Hop was LL Cool J’s “I Need Love” and that was the first song that I learned in English, so I had no idea what I was saying but that was the first song. My sister was hanging out with a neighbor and they were listening to music, so my sister was learning the words and I was following my sister around and I was like rapping but I didn’t know what I was saying at the time.

When did you start dancing?

I always danced since I was young, it was just something that I always did. I think as kids, its not an ignorant mind-frame but more of like a naive mind-frame that i was in and I thought everybody was dancing. So when I was growing up, it was weird to me that people weren’t dancing because I thought, I’m a kid, why isn’t anybody else doing this? I thought it was weird that nobody else was doing it but over the years, I realized that I would just run to my room and if I’m watching TV and there’s a commercial break, I put on music and just start dancing. So it was something that I always liked to do in any free-time i had - just something that I naturally ran to and I always did that when I was a kid. But as far as doing it publicly, it was more about just finding my identity artistically, and I felt like something was missing went to school. I graduated but something was always missing and I felt like I should put myself out there dance-wise because it's something that I can’t escape.

So even though I was doing it for my own enjoyment, I still felt like “Okay, I think I want to step out there more and just expose that part of me.”

When was that “aha” moment, where you were like “This is what I want to do”?

This is a deep question, I mean, because it’s a deep answer. Maybe people experienced this before but I think it came with having an out of body experience and I think the first time I had that was in 07’ and it was during a competition. So I had an experience where I felt like I was actually watching myself dance, for a second, like for a little bit, and I saw the judges too so I saw myself and then I saw the judges and then I went right back in. So it wasn’t necessarily an “aha” moment but that was an experience I never had before and because I had that once I’ve been chasing it since that day. I’ve had it again , a little bit, but not as intense as that moment, it usually feels like it’s a natural high, so how could you not want to keep feeling that all the time.

How do you feel being a woman in the scene?

It sucks! No, I’m just kidding! It’s great, honestly, there's up & downs with anything, with any situation that you're in, there's pros and cons.

It was a while until I noticed that I was the only female when I started dancing in Boston, and it wasn't even a focus, it was just like i was with some guys, and we’re exchanging, and we’re learning from each other. And at the time again, my mind-frame was more like I'm trying to find myself, so as far as noticing other genders, it wasn't even something that was, in my radar.

But it wasn't until later on when I was going to jams battling only guys all the time, that I was like “Am I supposed to be here? I don't know whats going on?” But that has its pros as well, and it was also refreshing to see more females come into the Boston scene the more that I danced. I don't know if I had anything to do with that, as far as females coming into Boston to battle but, to me, oddly, it’s not a coincidence. It was kind of like “well that’s interesting” and also, it was pointed out by my teachers like “You’re a girl, you know, it’d be great if you did this because you’re repping." But it had to be told to me.

So, that’s one aspect of it and also as a black woman, that was even less common. I think there’s a few that was in DC, maybe some in Florida, but as far as like the tristate area, it was like -- well, in some in New York but I think that they were dancing way longer than I was, but as far as new faces, and like solo black woman, I didn't see that for a long time, and just being aware of your surroundings and knowing how to teach people how to treat you and to have more self awareness of who you are, just not allowing disrespect. It’s just assertiveness and basically teaching people how to treat you, eye contact, firm handshakes, the little things, you know?

So dance definitely has developed me as a woman even though I was surrounded by guys.

Did you have to face any challenges being a woman?

Because I grew up around guys, I have 3 brothers, and I always had a sense of protection and even when I started dancing-- it’s kind of like, if you’re the only female rapper, you’re backed up by a crew. Like Ruff Ryders, or Young Money, or Cash Money, the female is always backed up by a crew to be cosigned but it’s also, as a protection thing: “She’s the female pit bull.”

So I felt like that most of the time but I think the challenges come in not so publicly, it’s more on the side, like side comments or condescending comments. And it’s not just guys, it’s women too. So, you know, it could be your image, or how you look, or your hair, or your lips, or whatever.

It can come from women and men but when it's in the dance world there's much more women that are being exposed nowadays and getting sponsorship, which is absolutely incredible. So I feel that my experience, whenever I see other women, is that we always embrace each other. We’re always congratulating each other, we always reminisce on some type of memory, or we’re like, you know, “It’s really great to see you!” But most of the time, it’s like, if I'm battling a guy, they'll secretly come to me afterwards and be like “Yo I thought I won that yo, just to let you know.” You know, there’s always those little things and it’s like, well, alright, I understand that, you might have your feelings hurt right now but it’s always on a secret-tip, it’s never publicly said, and they know that they're wrong because they’re being secretive about it - so that's really my experience.

What advice would you give to women within the scene?

You have to trust your evolution. You have to trust that it’s okay to make mistakes, I think that’s one of the best things about it and to not be so hard on yourself because we have a whole community of people who can critique you. To not rush it and to be really proud of yourself because I think people forget how hard it is or how nerve wracking it can be to just enter a battle or to just do a prelim, you know, or to just do a showcase. I still get nervous to this day but I’m okay with that and I think, generally, if you’re feeling some type of discomfort in any field, whatever artistic field it is, it’s okay. You have to honor that feeling, you have to-- you can’t pretend like it’s not there and if you really trust yourself enough, you’ll know how to work through that emotion and you’ll find out how to be artistic throughout that emotion.

If you’re curious about something, go for it, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Find out who you are because individuality and trying to be as original as you can be is the most important thing. It’s the simplest things like taking your time, patience, asking questions, that push you to the next level - if you really allow yourself to explore those things.

How do you define Popping? What is Popping?

Well before I answer that, I was actually watching an interview, and I’m gonna give credit to Future from Assassins, and the whole crew, because I think they’re absolutely amazing, and in the interview he was talking about dancers who Pop versus Poppers who dance, and it was like a huge “Ah man, I remember that lesson” because it’s a dance first.

He was also expressing how if you have dance as your base, if that’s your foundation, you’re able to grab other styles and you’re able to execute those styles. It’s fine if you want to categorize as a Popper, that’s fine, but he was saying “I’m a dancer that Pops.” You know, so it’s easy for him to like throw in a tut, even if it’s not necessarily clean, you can do like a funky tut and just go back to waving and doing like whatever. But his base was “I’m a dancer first” and that was something I didn’t necessarily forget but it was nice to hear that, to be refreshed on that lesson. So as far as, if someone says “Oh, Ladybeast is a Popper” I’m not gonna condemn it because that’s what I do but I do consider myself a dancer first.

But as far as your question “What’s Popping?” - It’s all a lot of stuff. I mean technically, it’s the relaxation and the intense pop of your muscles. It’s the compact hit with your muscles and it’s in your neck, it’s your arms, I use my back sometimes, it’s in your legs. There’s different styles of Popping, there’s Boogaloo, there’s Electric Boogie, there’s different styles that you can incorporate in it. You can have a base of waving and incorporate Popping into it. You can be a tutter, or do mostly tutting, and incorporate the pop into it, so technically, it’s something that you hit with and contract of muscles, and again, it’s a dance first and you can add the funk within the pop, so, that’s how I define Popping.

So today we have Hip Hop in schools, worldwide, etc. How was it before these changes, before the internet?

Well, oh my lord… I think it has its benefits now because people can use it more like a tool. I think what’s a little heartbreaking is that people get emotional about it. Let’s say you have Instagram nowadays, it’s all about the numbers and the algorithm and everything, and I think people can get inside their head if they don’t have enough exposure but instead I think it as, you know, if you have 30 or 40 likes its more like “Okay, well 30 or 40 more people saw what I did.” You know?

When I did start dancing, I think YouTube was just starting out. I think one of the first people that I saw dancing that got exposure from YouTube was this guy I used to dance with, his name is Onion, and he was one of the first that I remember getting exposure because he went on So You Think You Can Dance. That’s my first memory of it, as far as monetizing and all that stuff with YouTube, it was just none of that really existed and the idea of it being used as a platform, as a career, that wasn’t even there.

Since the internet is there now you can use it as a good tool but the emotional part of it as far as “I need to have so many views on this or I’m not gonna make it in life.” it doesn’t matter because they might disappear someday or Instagram might disappear someday, so what are you gonna do after that? Now you're going to have to actually talk to people and try to hear what’s going out based on word of mouth and before all of that started, it was all word of mouth. It was like “Oh, you heard about Freestyle Session? That’s in November.” Or, you know “Did you hear about this dancer? Yo they’re nasty! You know, make sure you look out for them.” And then next thing you know, you’re at a jam, you’re like “Oh I heard about that dude a long time ago” or “I heard about that girl a long time ago from such & such.” So I kinda miss that feeling of waiting to see a dancer instead of looking them up. Everything has its pros & cons but I do miss that time when it was like word of mouth.

AB-Girl & Chrybaby said the same thing. It definitely seems like the journey was more exciting.

It was way more organic. But even if you are able to look at someone on YouTube, it could be footage that they did like 2 years ago and you have no idea how they look like now. Let’s say if you have an exhibition battle and your like “Oh, I’m gonna look up who my opponent is” but the last time that they had footage was 5 years ago and you have no idea what they have now, you can’t really study that dancer. So, what are you gonna do? Regardless, you still have to practice, you still have to deliver on your end. I mean it’s a cool way to find out who is who but it’s not as organic as it used to be.

How were jams different?

Well, they’re different because of the internet as well. I think people are trying to be more creative with jams now because its been pretty much the same structure over the years, as far as like there’s either 1 judge or 3 judges, which is fine. But I think because people have been exposed to that so many times or they've experienced that so many times, I think promoters are trying to become more innovative - I think they're trying to change the approach of things. I’m seeing it little by little that people are just trying to provide what they feel that's lacking when they do go to a jam.

I feel that music-wise, it’s getting better. Also, you know now there’s like all-styles that has been incorporated into jams and everything, which I don't necessarily mind, it’s just dancing, it’s dancing to me but I think the categories are changing - they’re adding more categories, or sometimes they go back to being more simple but, you know, technology’s definitely a part of it. It comes in waves, you know, I think it’s a good thing when people get tired of something because now it’s a chance for people to start creating something else. So it’s always changing.

As a judge, what are you looking for in competitions?

I want them to fly around the room and make sure they land. I look for individuality, for rhythm, I look for emotion, I also look for a story, I look for aggression, and aggression doesn't necessarily mean you're in someone's face. You can be aggressive with just the movement. I feel like there’s aggression and there is also intensity and vulnerability. If you’re letting go as much as you can and I can see what you're doing and I can understand what your doing, what you're actually communicating, that's a big thing for me.

Executing, obviously, rhythm and everything but I feel like overtime I've been more focusing on the emotional aspect of it, your vulnerability. And vulnerability doesn't necessarily mean sadness, it’s just you letting go and showing me who you are with whatever emotion you're feeling at the time. It can be happiness or fear or whatever, as long as it’s genuine and I see it and -- You know when someone’s killing it, like you feel it in the room, there’s no lying. So I don’t want to feel like someone’s lying to me when they're dancing, I want to make sure that you're telling the truth, that you're telling your truth when you're dancing. 

Do you have any favorite battles, moments, event, or against someone? Either or?

One of the most significant ones was when I did an exhibition battle with Pandora - she was always someone that i looked up to. She’s someone that's held it down for a very long time and she was shown to me by word of mouth and that's why it was even more important because it was like “Oh have you heard of Pandora? Like, you know, she’s coming to town, she’ll be at this competition.” Then later on I saw more of her stuff through the internet. So she’s one of the people that really-- she was the prototype for me. So when I got to battle her, it was an absolute honor because that was a full circle moment, not necessarily an “Aha” moment but it was like “That’s a good one.” So that one was a good battle.

Other battles? I’m trying to see. There was one at Juste Debout, I saw Hurrikane and Firelock battle, actually I think it was a prelim but it was at Juste Debout, I think 2011 in New York, and you know Lockers, they’re very happy, and I’ve never seen someone do a slow-motion Locking prelim and it was the dopest thing that I’ve ever seen, like one of the dopest things I’ve seen in my life because it was like you can be funky and slow all at the same time and show patience all at the same time. So that was a dope one for me because it just broke all the rules.

There was another one with Rashad and Future against Kid Boogie & J-Smooth, and Rashad & Future, their whole thing, they were just-- they were characters. I felt like I could see what they were trying to set up, not only did I see them as dancers, I saw the scenery, I saw what they were trying to say and I felt like I could see what they were seeing, in a way. Sounds weird for me to say but just their whole delivery, their routines are always on point. Waacking battles always dope, I don’t know a lot of Waackers but every time I see Waackers, they encompass everything. They encompass character, they're in the moment, they know the music really well, so yeah, it’s just different battles, different categories, I would say those moments have stood out a lot for me.

What are some of your favorite artists that you’ve worked with or gigs that you’ve done?

So I’ve had a couple full circle moments, one of the biggest ones was with Whoopi Goldberg. I used to watch Sister Act 2 religiously when I was a child and there was a lot of dancing in it too, it’s the one where Lauryn Hill was in. It’s just like man, rewind, all the time. Love that movie.

If you could explain how dancing makes you feel, how would you explain it in a few words or sentences?

So dancing makes me feel like I have another life coming along. It makes me feel like I’m praying for things, I’m also foreseeing things, I’m also remembering things. It’s a way for me to forget some things at the same time, it makes me feel like I’m in the most honest place that I can be at. I feel like I understand everyone, i feel more sympathy, I feel more empathy for people. It’s just a whole bunch of good things combined into one and it’s funny how you’re able to get to that emotion when you are feeling sad, so in order to get to a happy emotion, the transition is the dance itself. It’s one of the most innocent feelings, it’s one of the most free things, you don't spend money necessarily, like when you’re dancing in your room. It’s free, it’s accessible, and it’s one of the most innocent things you can do for yourself. It’s therapeutic, it’s self-therapy, you may not be able to know all the answers but it’s a way, for me, to get to the next step. It’s a way of expressing for me to understand me better, it’s a good way to navigate myself better. So it’s all of those emotions all in one.

What are your favorite aspects about the dance?

It’s pretty much all of the above. One of the things that I really do love is definitely the community and catching up with people and finding out what people are up to and having shared memories with people and actually being able to remember dates or the year, like “Yo when was the last time I saw you? Was that 2011? Was that 2012?” You’re able to reminisce and have a shared memory when it comes to getting together with a community.

The party aspect definitely, getting to know new people, seeing new types of dances, new dancers. I get excited when I see new dancers because I’m like “Man, you’re on a very exciting path if you choose to continue with it.” It’s exciting to see new dancers who come with something original or when they present their originality. I always get excited for them, I like that aspect.

The battle aspect as well, and also learning to lose graciously, but there are a lot of sore winners out there too, it’s not just sore losers. There’s a lot of sore winners and a lot of good losers. If you know how to lose well, I think that’s a very hard thing to accomplish,  but that’s a lot of self-awareness. If you’re okay with losing, that’s half the battle, it’s like you’re good, you’re gonna be alright. There’s a lot of lessons in not passing prelims, or not winning the finals, or not passing semi-finals. There’s a lot of lessons in each one, that’s where the jewels are, the meat & potatoes of things. I feel like I learned more when I didn’t pass certain rounds because you have to look at yourself and before you ask the question of what I should work on, try to think about what you should’ve done or what did they do more. That self awareness is very important, before you ask that question, just be like “Am I going to ask this question because I wanna hear what I want to hear or do I really want to hear the honest truth about it?” So you have to ask that. That’s what I love about dance, it’s that self-awareness man, you gotta look at yourself.

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