GET FAMILIAR: JOHN AGESILAS
After a successful edition of this years' Summer Dance Forever that took place online August 18-26, Patta presents a trio of interviews with key figures in the world of dance. For this Get Familiar we have John Agesilas, one of the founders of jazz-fusion, not only as a dancer/choreographer, but also as a DJ. On top of that, John is one of the co-founders of the festival. Read on, Get Familiar.
Name the pinnacle moment in your life that made you fall in love with the art of dancing.
Oh gush, remember back in the days during the coup in Ghana seeing Captain Hollywood dancing to Packjam (Jonzun Crew) and the movie Breakin' just blew my mind. Coming to Europe in the early 80's watching Scoop and Scrap ( Big Daddy Kane's dancers) just took it to another level and made my love for Hip Hop grow even bigger.
You came to The Netherlands in the late '80s when hiphop and house started hitting the country. What are some of the early moments experiencing House dancing?
My love for House music started in the late 80's when I heard Gypsy woman by Crystal Waters, that moment was just unforgettable. Never knew there was a dance style attached to this music genre. When I found out about this club style that emerge from the New York clubscene called House dancing, I just wanted to know more about it. So I started travelling to events like Funking Styles (Germany) and Juste Debout (Paris) in the early 2000's, so i could learn more about it and it's culture. I found another inspiration, another challenge. As a dancer, you always looking for something new to connect with, this was what I wanted to do. Not only was I in love with the music, but I fell in love with the dance attached to this music that changed my life.
Why do you think you gravitated most towards UK Jazz Dance instead of other styles of dancing?
It wasn't only the dance, it was everything around it, the whole movement, it took me back to my roots. Remember going to this club called Bebop ( now club Air ) and seeing these guys ( a jazz dance crew called the IDJ's) performing and having a crazy style. It was a style with a lot of footwork ( very similar to one of the traditional styles in Ivory Coast called Zaouli where I was born ), not what I was used to because HipHop was more my thing back then. It was madness, chaos but it made sense. They were all wearing suits, black and white boots ( Spats, Jazz Dancers shoes ) and it just looked amazing. After seeing this crazy performance that made so much impact on me ,I started doing my own research travelling to London checking clubs like Dingwalls, travelling to festivals such as Southport weekender where I came across other Jazz dancers who were doing a similar style to what I saw ( next to the Fusion style and the Bebop style, you also had the Boogie ), it was just fire on the dance-floor. One thing led to another and I ended up in different crews. Most important were the parties where you would meet and battle it out in the cyphers. There were a lot of Jazz parties in Amsterdam too, Jazzbop (Paradiso), The Message (Havana), Tea Dance (Roxy) and more. The fact that we had places to go where we could speak the same language, helped us grow even more into the Jazz culture. Everytime you would step in a club and a certain track was dropped, you had to be ready to rumble cause they were waiting to battle you and take you out from the moment you stepped on the dance-floor .
Jazz dance taught me a lot. You don't just become a Jazz Dancer, you have to feel jazz, Eat Jazz, Dance Jazz, Be Jazz, know every record you danced to. It (The jazz dance culture) taught me discipline, Style & fashion, musicality, rhythm, freestyling, how to perform and more...... UK Jazz Dance is just massive.
Together with Kees, you started SDF back in 2009. Tell us a lil something about the early days of SDF and what made it grow to the platform it is today.
I'm gonna try to keep this short, but I need to go back.
From my perspective The Dutch Hip Hop dance scene needed a challenge, something needed to be done. I've always been fascinated by the French and German underground Hip Hop dance culture and the Hip Hop culture in general. I was always going back and forth travelling to witness and experience the growth of this competitive scene, the battle scene. In 2009 I teamed up with John Olivieira to organise the first dutch edition of a French international Hip Hop dance festival called Juste Debout. This dance festival was based on the battle culture of Funk, Club and street dance styles. It was the biggest Stand up battle festival at that time. After a sold out edition at Pakhuis de zwijger, we moved the 2nd edition to a bigger venue, Paradiso.
It was late 2009 that Kees Heus (Paradiso head music programmer & dj) and I sat down to brainstorm about a new concept where we could merge our expertises. Kees wanted to play for more dancers in the club like back in the days (when he was playing and we was dancing and battling in the club). I always wanted to close to gap between the older and the younger dance generation, and pass the torch of experience I build along the years. Inspired by the fire that the younger generation has for battles, and the experience of the older dance generation, a new battle concept emerged.
The first edition took place during Kees his 25th anniversary as a DJ in Club Trouw. The party was called KC the Funkaholic Forever, I loved House music, House dancing and its culture, so it only made sense that the first edition of forever was based on House Dance & music.
That's when House Dance forever was born.
It started with a crazy battle concept that took place before the party. After the battle dancers would stay in the club and experience the importance of exchanging and clubbing.The magic of forever has always been the synergy between music and dance. House Dance Forever turned out to be an incredible success, so we decided to expand and do the same with different dance styles (Hip Hop, Popping, Locking, Bboying and now Waacking) and it became a festival, with that the team also expended from Kees and I to Kees Heus, Luc De L'eau and I. As we expended we also created a platform where Hip Hop could challenge the boundaries of what we know as theater. Eleven years later Summer dance For Ever has become the world most important Dance event and meeting point for dancers, music and Art lovers.
This year is the first year a waacking contest was included in SDF. Can you tell me something about the importance of including this dance?
As a Jazz man I always admired Funk styles, they are also apart of the UK Jazz dance culture. Waacking is an African-American dance style that was introduced to me by Archie Burnett (Who I met in the late 80's) and Sonia Soulshine (Who was dancing in my theater show called Interpretationzz back in 2000). Next to the fact that it is part of the street and club culture, it caught my attention because it reminded me of the jazz culture I am from. The dance matters but also the way you present yourself and everything around it. So it only made sense to give it a platform for it to shine. It is important to know what is out there, it is important for us to learn about other cultures and introduce it to the world so the world can learn and get educated.
Apart from dancing you also DJ during SDF. Name a couple of the jams that tear down SDF over and over again.
Can't Let You Go (Louie Vega & Josh Milan Truth Dub 1), The World Is a Family (AfroHouse Vamp Dub) from Louie Vega & Josh Milan, TBT3 from Rocco, Future age from DKD, Air's force from DJ QU, Moon Circuitry from Ge-Ology
This year the festival took place online because of Covid-19. For a festival/competition where energy of the crowd is key, did you accomplish to maintain this energy?
I must admit, it wasn't easy and very challenging to reach our goal but we had an amazing festival. You can not get stuck in your comfort zone when the world around you is moving. You need to adapt, get creative or you will be left behind.
What were some of the adjustments you're most anxious about? What were some of the adjustments you're most excited about?
I gotta say, stepping in the future is exciting but scary at the same time, but I'm already thinking about how dope next year is gonna be! Creativity is key and never be afraid of the unknown.
Give me some of your favorite moments of this year's festival.
1) Being together with my fam ( artists and crew ) achieving something phenomenal to cherish for the years to come. 2) The introduction of Waacking Forever. 3) The transformation and result of the physical to the digital when it comes to the battles. 4) the collaboration with Patta. 5) The joy and appreciation of the viewers and participants when it comes to the battles and the theater competition.
Is there something you'd like to add?
Always be a student of life.
John is wearing the Patta Soundsystem x Summer Dance Forever Longsleeve
Missed something? No worries, the great thing about an online festival is that you can rewatch everything online forever and ever.
Check out the official aftermovie and (re)watch all TV shows below.