Student Spotlight: Winston aka Commodore

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The Jukebox Family. Nothing has developed me as a person as much as these marvelously sympathetic brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, nieces, and nephews, who share only the art of dance, and the blood, sweat, and tear shed that comes with it, in common. Their stomping grounds are places of knowledge, talent, hard work, diversity, love, and acceptance. The sight of the shyest person you could imagine turn in to the most confident person possible makes me believe that dance is not just an art, but a toolkit for personal development. So out to highlight this, I have compiled a few memories, and will share them to the best of my recollection, to tell how I crossed paths with the Jukebox Fam.

I first heard the words “Juke Box” in terms of a dance studio from my first hip-hop teacher: Fro Styles. Fro taught me the ropes: house, top-rocks, and what would soon become years and years of obsession, waves. He also introduced me, and my brother Zac (who went on to join Broken Toyz as Snow Ninja, and is now a professional dancer in New York City), to the Jukebox Dance Studio. At that point, the Jukebox was in a tiny room at the corner of a strip mall on Baseline, with a concrete-covered dance floor, and a little couch off to the side. Zac was on Beat Killaz, the varsity crew (now known as Young Jukebox), and I would watch practices from time to time, observing what I wanted to be doing. This also gave me the opportunity to watch the USA Hip Hop Dance Championships two years in a row. I was practically begging the world for an opportunity. Finally, after HHI 2012, it came.

The first day I actually danced at Jukebox was for a crew called Cereal Killaz, now known as Mini Thrillaz. The junior crew audition was where I could take everything I learned up to that point, and prove myself to Fro, Zac, and now, Leah and Rae. When I got on the crew, the next blessing came: B-Boy Shadoe of Rock Steady Crew. Shadoe was the coach for the Mini Thrilla Fellaz, the boys crew, at HHI 2013. He was the one who started me down a road that lead me to integrating power into my current style. USA Championships in 2013 is perhaps the most magical day of my life to date. That was the day that convinced me I had to get better. I had to keep dancing. I could not stop.

So I didn’t stop. I learned other styles, and diversified from my rigid popping and waving robotics style, starting with locking, which still has me enchanted to this day. I learned how to free myself in music from X-Savior. I learned patience in freestyle by building an ear for music, then combining it with my waving to take advantages of build-ups in songs. I learned how to chain styles together from a Professor Lock workshop, one of my favorite memories from the first studio, we moved to a new studio a few units down, and I got a good kick in the butt to work harder after I did not make it on to the Mini Thrillaz competitive crew in 2015. Then, the next blessing: Beat Killaz. Beat Killaz, and later Young Jukebox, helped me again to build up. It was at this point that I left the back of the room and actually pushed my pop n’ lock combo to the brink. I was able to give everyone a little surprise. Then I went back the lab.

That crew broadened my views, especially one in particular. He was a tutter. He was a krumper. Call him whatever you like. He’s Jameel Buntley. Labeling him, and any dancer for that matter, does a disservice to how amazing he is at balancing control and power. But I digress.
The point is Jameel “Big Heffa”, and another crewmate from YJB, Stefan “Heffa/Lightskin”, inspired me to push even harder. So did the rest of Young Jukebox. Maggie, Elijah (“Soulja Beast”), Kylee, and Sean (“Finch”) were and are influences on me, both as a dancer and a person. HHI 2015 was not only special because it was the first time to the second round for me personally, but also because of the time spent with these crewmates.

Then it was time for another blessing. The Jukebox Fam megacrew did very well at HHI 2015, and at the recruitment month for the next year I became part of the megacrew as a full member. Albeit before competition time. Then I was an understudy. I wasn’t entirely sure what I was supposed to do as an understudy, and it was a difficult time for me personally, especially later on when I was shuffled in and out of parts to stand in for. But Leah, Rae, Jeff, and AJ, being the understanding and compassionate people they are, gave the understudies an opportunity to choreograph a piece to perform at the Jukebox Grounds Grand Opening/Mad Hatter 5 event, that was used to show off the new space. This team, “JB Prospects” as we called ourselves, is where I became good friends with Chris Short, Young, and Kai. In particular, Kai took me to the next level. I was on the verge of discovering within myself an art that had amazed me for years: tutting.

Kai taught me how to take images in my head and transform them into angles and tangible pictures. Sure, they may only ever make sense to me, but the time I’d spent learning at Jukebox showed me long ago that’s okay. Kai took me in as a student (enough so that I started calling him “Kai Sensei”), and Jazzy Fresh (Young Jukebox crewmate) accepted me as a crewmate… again. We had planned a tutting crew that would debut with a Wild Youth video on Instagram. Since then, I have tagged every video with “#jbtutting”. Then, on a trip to Flagstaff with the Fam, Jeff shot a video featuring himself, Kai, Jazzy, Leah, Rae, and me, tutting in the icy woods of northern Arizona.

I have plenty to look back on, but even more to look forward to. At the end of 2016, Kai made me a prospect for his Hawaii-Arizona crew, Art of Bot. I have improved my power enough to integrate it back into my style, thanks to weekly training with B-Boy Conrad of Furious Styles Crew. To start off 2017, I was asked to write a student spotlight about my history with the Jukebox Family. I’ve chronicled every major point I can remember, and I think what I have learned from writing this is that I owe a tremendous debt to Leah, Rae, and entire fam, and I am paying it in hard work. Paying it with a smile on my face the whole time.

6 Responses

  1. Andreas Alestri
    | Reply

    Winston you’re awesome!!!!

    • Winston "Commodore" Birdwell
      | Reply

      Thanks Bro!!!!!!!!!!

    • Sailor
      | Reply

      Too many comtpimenls too little space, thanks!

  2. Krista Foutz
    | Reply

    This is awesome Winston! You got a hidden talent in writing mixed in with all your dance styles of talent 🙂

  3. Kalea
    | Reply

    That addresses several of my concerns actually.

  4. na tej
    | Reply

    You’re on top of the game. Thanks for sharing.

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