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Sonic Shadows Vol. 1

The spotlight shines down and illuminates a shadowy figure. An iconic image in Americana. High end stereo speakers bring us to a time before digital music, when analog boom bap sound waves moved dancers in the dark clubs of the underground. An era before major competitions and instant global sharing capabilities. Under hoodies or hats pulled low, dancers entered cyphers ready to express their individual take on the aesthetic of a culture. Implied is the symbiotic connection to the rhythmic vibrations between the DJ and dancers. Sonic Shadows is our homage to that special time in Hip Hop. It is collaborative project between Matt McDonald aka MacM1ghty behind the lens and technical set up and myself with the artistic vision I asked him to create.

There is a clear representation of some deeper messages as well. From out of the darkness, we often shine brightest. Cliché as that is, mental health has been a huge issue in our community recently, and as I wrote in my last blog, these past years have been tough for me personally. My life has been full of challenges and growth. I hope Matt doesn’t mind me saying the same has been true for him. When we face our struggles and push forward, great things await. From the shadows, the photographs capture figures pushing through the darkness and into the light, giving features of skin and outfits bold and simultaneously delicate highlights. The images are both powerful and suspenseful. A moment captured reveals each dancer's movement gracefully and without force.

Matt and I have worked on many creative collaborations over the past decade. We have curated Breakin jams together, travelled abroad on an US embassy outreach trip to Morocco, designed merchandise, flyers and web media together. We have performed together and have done more photoshoots than I can remember. From 2013 to 2016 he was a weekly Breakin instructor at the Bboy Factory and we have never stopped working together since. He is a creative force and I knew our artistic chemistry would produce something special. Matt proved himself once again to be a consummate professional and worked brilliantly with our other dancers as well.

Those other dancers featured in Sonic Shadows are all current instructors at the studio, with the exception of one. We are truly a skilled team of veterans along with some fresh young talent. Jared aka Fynes aka JRed has danced professionally for the better part of 30 years. He is a master of many styles and his vast credits include B.O.B., Soul Train and Gary Kendall. Jared is no longer on our weekly schedule, but he is always a welcome member of the studio. Coach Cuba is a Bboy with multiple decades experience teaching, battling and performing. He is a super funky creative and teaches our littlest Breakers with huge amounts of energy and joy. Our Yoga instructor, ReachOne, shows off his strength and flexibility. Yoga for Breakin comes from his veteran experience as a high level competitor. I personally feel my life has been transformed by his class. Boog aka Brandyn Harris is the son of Hip Hop Theater Pioneer and House legend Rennie Harris. But Boog is a powerhouse in his own right. He is an active performer and teacher, and you will find him in every battle and cypher Poppin, Rockin, Lockin, New Jack Swing, House... you name it. Of course, Nanz, is not quite a veteran like us old guys, but she is certainly one of Colorado's top talents. Her House dance flow and finesse drip from these photographs.

There were also multiple inspirations behind the artistic vision, 3 of note. The first is the Bboy Factory facility itself. There is a pendant light that hangs above the center of the dance floor. For the past 10 years on almost every Thursday night, you would have found an open practice happening. Breakers from our local scene, around the country and even the world train with the big overhead lights off and the dim halo from the pendant spotlighting the center of the floor. Two Bboys also deserve mention. The first is Bboy Born, and a photo of him from 2008, at an event in called Match One's Skill, in Seoul, South Korea. I was living in Seoul at the time, as an English teacher, and attended the showcase jam hosted in a small Theater. It was a night I have not forgotten.

There were many incredible showcase battles, one of which was Born vs Vero. Born would later move to the United States and has taught many times at the Bboy Factory. I consider him a friend today. The second is Bboy Venum. In 2012, the year I opened the studio, Venum put out his video “Moving Through the Dark” on Youtube. Today that video has over 710k views. Venum came to the Bboy Factory in 2016 and again in 2022 to teach workshops at the studio and judge our Anniversary event. He is another friend who continues to inspire me today as he is a few years my elder and still Breaks extremely strong. As for the inspiration for Sonic Shadows, I will let the video speak for itself.

There must be 50 amazing photos from this shoot. To show our work, we had to cut that number down. In October 2022, we teamed up with our friends Lorenzo and Fa’al at ILA Gallery and produced a gallery show. We selected our top 13 photos and blew them up to 22” x 30” and matted and framed them. We curated the space with individual wall lights over each photo, a charcoal grey accent wall and a pendant light to replicate the feeling of the original shoot. Layer upon layer presenting our art. The reception was packed with party energy and dancers and the feedback was amazing. People really loved these photos. It was a remarkable feeling. No competition, no judges, just creative expression, raw and electric. I am proud of the work that went into the entire project and the quality of the results, and I am grateful to everyone who was involved.

Without further ado, I present, Sonic Shadows Vol. 1:

"Set It Off" with dancer RuleOne.

'"93 Til" with dancer JRed aka Fynes.

"Chief Rocka" with dancer RuleOne.

"SSSHHH" with dancer Cuba.

"Catch Wrek" with dancer ReachOne.

"Infinite Thought" with dancer Boog.

"Egyptian Lover" with dancer JRed.

"Die For the Funk" with dancer Boog.

"Funky Fly Sh*t" with dancer Nanz.

"I Originate" with dancer Cuba.

"Ears Start Humming" with dancer Nanz.

"Freeze, Music Please" with dancer MacM1ghty.

"Shadow of Death" with RuleOne.

All photos are available framed and matted at The Bboy Factory for $200 each. Please email for inquiries and viewings. All images are property of Matt McDonald and Ian Flaws and are not to be used or distributed without written consent. #bboyfactory #eachoneteachone #denverhiphop #culture1st #hiphopphotography

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