Bringing It All Together interview with Choc James Back
Feb 27, 2016
By Tracey Bivens
“I don’t expect a heavy hitter female to come and get me but if I ask her to dance I don’t expect her to turn me down because I’m not a heavy hitter in her eyes.”
There is always excitement when new and talented men come on the steppin scenes. It provides women with more dance opportunities and keeps the existing male steppers on their toes. These days, if you enter the steppin arena as a male, if you want to stand out, you have to bring it…literally! You can’t look like someone else who is already out there and you have to be humble enough to ask for the help. Cleveland’s Choc James, by way of Cleveland’s Maurice Keys, is no exception to that rule.
I have steppin goals where I want to be a legend in this dance one day. My struggle is learning the dance and obtaining the knowledge outside of Chicago, because by the time it gets to me it is watered down. How do we all get on the same level of Chicago steppers if we don’t go there or talk to the people who helped develop the dance? It will definitely show in one's performance. I look at each person individually when they dance to see if there is anything I can use that will show or give that Chicago flavor. You know you have legendary potential when the NOW Legends speak on your accomplishments talents and contributions as it pertains to this dance world. I want my partner that's on that floor with me for those 3 1/2 minutes to know that it's all about us and for her to take from that dance one of her most memorable moments on the floor.
For those that instruct their talents are worth getting paid yes they put in their time and time is valuable, but I feel if your speaking on how you want the dance to grow, I would think that at some point they would donate some of their time to other instructors so that we all are on the same page with the terminology and not charge an exorbitant amount of money for the dance. It's not often you see someone of great knowledge and wealth not donating to a cause. The Legends that has given back to me over the past two years did it because they saw the potential or they are just those type of men which consist of: Josiah Burt, Jerry Rhodes, Maurice Thomas, Tony Dow, Edward Donaldson, Donnie Davis, Jacques Sanders.
WLSC (Worlds Largest)
The ones I look up to in this “steppin world” is limited. I don’t go to Chicago often so I don’t get the history and the pureness that comes with the dance. I’m not saying the out of towners can’t capture the dance in its essence, but it’s not many legends we can name outside of them coming from Detroit or Chicago. Popularity and winning major contests helps to establish legends these days and guess where they are from? The World's Largest Beginners Category allowed me to compete and entertain other steppers last year, but I got caught up with not wanting to disappoint anyone, which in turn caused me not to dance my dance. My swag is kind of crazy and flavorful, but I was told to “calm that down.” I found myself listening to people and not going with what felt comfortable to ME I also put my wife's safety first on that high stage especially since we both were a bundle of nerves. But it's okay to take constructive criticism but we shouldn't lose ourselves behind it. To sum it up it was one of my greatest moments in dancing.
What’s really bothering me these days about this dance is that those that come before you make it seem as though you have to be a certain standard or have a look that THEY want to see. You hear comments like, “This person doesn’t have swag” “They don’t have that THING!” Some of the heavy hitters may not speak to you when you come in a room unless you go out of your way to approach them and you just saw them last week. If you are so big on etiquette, then why don’t you practice it? As a freshman, you do get hazed it seems. This is a dance that’s supposed to be fun. However, many heavy hitters do not go out of their way to dance with beginners. I don’t expect a heavy hitter female to come and get me but if I ask her to dance I don’t expect her to turn me down because I’m not a heavy hitter in her eyes. It’s happened.
I Didn’t Know…
I didn’t know that when you are in the WLSC that you get points taken off for not moving your feet. I asked for feedback from the judges after my first competition and I was told, “we wanted you to dance…not step.” I was like, “Huh?” I would like to be in other contests but I definitely want to be more prepared instead of pushed into one when I know I’m not ready.
Doing Too Much on the Dance Floor
My wife trusts me. She wants me to have fun when I dance. She’s not one to be huffin and puffin when I dance my style with other women. I like to be silly, I like to drink…I’m having fun on the floor. My wife grew up dancing and we both came from the ballroom dance world. I will admit that at first, I was jealous when I first saw her in the arms of other men dancing but as time moved on the “dancing brothers” from my Cleveland community…we formed a brotherhood. Trusts plays a major role. I know these brothers will look out for my wife and keep her safe as well as give her other dances. But getting back to the dancing that I do…it’s only a 3 ½ minute fantasy.
I love to watch Drew Alexander, Sherry Gordon, Charnice Simmons, Josiah Burt, Shawn Bandy and Donnie Davis amongst others. It’s fascinating to see Sherry dance with a beginner male student and then amp it up when she dances with Drew. Sherry can go from 1 to 10 at any given moment she is in my eyes a legend. She smiles, she follows what u give her, and she also SPEAKS she's awesome all the way around. Angie Faine is another one that can go on the dance floor and provides carefully worded constructive criticism not destructive criticism.
Thou Shall Not Commit “I-dollar-tree”
This is a big problem with heavy hitters. With some of them, it’s all about the dollar. The ones I’ve named, are like, “Call me when you get to the city and I’ll hook you up. I see potential in you.” Tony Dow and Maurice Thomas are two of the biggest ones. I am always grateful for the time they give me and I am always humble. Keith Hubbard spent some time with me that went above and beyond the time we agreed to. I was truly touched by his “charity” and I’ll leave it at that. There are a lot of guys who haven’t been stepping that long and are quick to tell someone they can’t step...even ones that have been stepping longer than them. Who does that? I guess when you’re not used to getting some attention, you feel like you can charge $75 for a private. Did someone charge THEM $75 when they were learning this dance? That’s crazy. I feel bad for the people that pay that fee and the struggle with the dance because they still ask a lot of questions after they leave that $75 private.
It’s time to unite and figure this thing out. The dance came from humble beginnings so let's uphold its integrity. I’m originally from Detroit and didn't know the dance existed, but 4 years ago I moved to Cleveland and now I can't stop dancing (Laughing). So as a lover of this dance I feel the need to contribute so we formed a group Ohio's Most Wanted Steppers (OMW) with one person from five of the major cities in Ohio that has embraced this dance and feel what I feel about being able to get more dancers to visit Ohio make it a place they want to come more often. So be on the look out we are preparing to have a competition here in 2017. I think you will want to be a part of the best category being out here YES Detroit vs Chicago. Remember in order to be a Legend, you have to do legendary things. I’m ready.