Keepin in Step with Arnel “Tech” Cross Back
Sept 28, 2014
By Tracey Bivens
If you are a male, at first glance, Arnel Cross appears to be a young cat that should be playing on someone’s basketball team (he’s 6’3). If you’re a woman, you're probably going to notice his dreamy eyes and boyish like charm.
If you’re a stepper, you are going to see a young man who, with only one year under his belt, has won the 2014 Beginners Category at the WLSC contest.
You are also going to see him on the dance floor developing his own style and there’s something about those feet, I can’t quite put my finger on it but Arnel "Tech” Cross is going to become a household name around this country…very quickly. I decided to take the reins and go for a ride in the mind of this new male stepper on the set. I talked with him about the difference in having passion for the dance and passion to compete and where he plans to take his newfound swag…and feet.
Tracey: Arnel…I’ve had the opportunity to dance with you twice now and you stand out. It’s not because of the height difference or the skills but you are one of the few men that actually smile when you dance…throughout that dance. I haven’t seen that since Muur Ali (formerly known as Tyk Myn). Is that passion for the dance that I see?
Arnel: Umm….yes. Also, it’s just how I feel when I’m dancing with someone. I truly enjoy the dance and the challenge of dancing with my partner whether it’s dancing for fun or in class practicing. If you are always dancing for only competition it’s like doing homework for something you don’t even like doing.
Tracey: What’s behind the name "Tech”?
Arnel: Information Technology is my other passion and was actually my specialization while I was in college so we just shortened up "Tech” and that’s how the name started. I have several degrees in the IT field.
Okay…you and Wakeba Reid won your first title out the
Arnell & Wakeba
gate in the World’s Largest Beginners Category. The crowd knew that you were from Detroit and that you came out of the Smooth-Tivity Camp with Drew Alexander. I’m sure there were a lot of expectations from other people for you and from yourself when you were up there on stage…what was going through your mind?
Arnel: To keep it simple. Everybody was coaching me on that philosophy and they kept drilling that in my head. Hence my nickname "Tech” came into the picture. I can be a perfectionist at times and thought we needed a bunch of combinations to win. A lot of people kept asking me if I was nervous on the pathway to the competition but I practiced and kept telling myself that "I know that I know I got it” over and over again.
Tracey: Have you caught the official contest bug?
Arnel: Not just yet (Laughing). At first I didn’t want to compete but Drew told me that Wakeba wanted to compete but needed a partner. I said, "Why not? You only live once.” But when it comes to competing it all depends on the individual…I was hungry for the dance itself…and that was it. I really love the style of dancing and what you can do with Chicago Step. Not knocking Ballroom, Latin Hustle or any of the other dancing styles but steppin seems to offer more of a variety for me. It really depends on the individual and what they are focusing on. As for myself…I do love this dance.
Tracey: Is steppin your dance of choice?
Arnel: Yes. Steppin is definitely my favorite dance. There is so much you can do with steppin. You can take it down a notch and feel the passion or you can take it up a notch and experience the energy versus dancing to a line dance where everything is already in place.
Tracey: I’m sure you had to study a lot of males from the city and from Chicago, since you began steppin. Who all stood out for you?
Arnel: Well, the first person that stood out for me was Drew when I was studying Ballrooming. Then I was exposed to Tyk Myn, Ty Skippy, Westside Mike and later down that path…I met Ed Donaldson and he was very influential for me. I loved watching the women as well. Cheryl "Sugarfoot” Powe out of Atlanta and Tori Lynch.
Tracey: Maybe it’s the nurturer in me but have you received the "talk” from others about keeping your nose clean and staying out of trouble on the scene? When young men come out the gate they are pulled in different directions. There’s going to be pressure to join organizations, pressure to join up with cliques, pressure to start teaching. Then there are the women…when the majority of the women see new men in the dance community, I can see them pouncing on you the moment you walk through the door…and not just for your steppin ability either. Then the next thing you know, we have an Unsung episode getting ready to air on TV One (Laughing).
Arnel: I’m a part of the line dance community, that’s where I started. I’m kind of used to that environment and what it brings with it. I have a strong mind. If you like to dance and that’s it. Other than that… I have a beautiful girlfriend and that’s who I’m here for and who I’m with. Ed Donaldson sat me down already and gave me "the talk” (Laughing).
Tracey: You know, here’s some serious skills in your feet. I first saw it in Edward Donaldson and TJ when they really got into this dance. I was happy to see those brothers develop their own style of steppin… below the waist…if you will…and I see that coming out of you. Can you express in words what you think your feet should be doing on the dance floor?
Arnel: I cannot (Laughing). My instructors Drewry Alexander and Ed Donaldson ask me to slow down as far as practice wise but I’m trying to catch different rhythms inside the beat. It depends on the song. Sometimes the snare…the violins…the words…especially if I know the song… I try to match the notes to my feet. It’s unexplainable…I just dance to it.
Tracey: I watched you dance with every woman at Firewater this past Saturday. You might have sat down once. Why is it important that you dance with a variety of women as opposed to the women who are more experienced in the dance?
Arnel: It’s a challenge in both ways. These are the women that understand the chemistry. Dancing with women on the A list are oftentimes intimidating… especially if I don’t know them. I try to watch them first but I know I got to dance with them.
Tracey: Are you ready for the next contest?
Arnel: I’m sure I will be ready for the next contest with more practice. I’m more into watching and learning versus on the stage performing. I like being low key.