In 1979, Soul Train host Don Cornelius introduced the nation to five dancers who called themselves the Electric Boogaloos. “As you may know, these very creative young men have invented a dancing style that’s becoming very popular, and it’s described as ‘popping,’” Cornelius announced to the cameras. Shortly after their 1979 performance, Hollywood produced a series of breakdancing films that featured actual poppers like Bruno “Pop N’ Taco” Falcon and Michael “Boogaloo Shrimp” Chambers showing off the dance’s characteristic pops, ticks, jerks, and spasms. By the time kids in Kenosha, Wisconsin marveled at Pop N’ Taco’s spastic, yet simultaneously fluid, dance routines in the film “Breakin’” or even Michael Jackson’s flawless execution of the backslide3 during his “Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever” performance, they were bearing witness to a dance whose kinetic genealogy was rooted not in the Bronx or Hollywood, but in Fresno.
In the fall of 2016, Fresno State’s Valley Public History Initiative: Preserving our Stories set out to document the origins of popping and its influence on Fresno’s hip hop culture of 80s, 90s, and early 2000s. Professor Romeo Guzman, Sean Slusser, and a team undergraduates conducted thirty oral history interviews with African American, Native American, Chicano, and Asian-American dancers, wrote an essay about the origins of popping for KCET Artbound, and hosted a talk and dance performance at Fresno State. In March, we will share all this material through our new digital archive, to be housed on the Madden Library website. In anticipation of his new collection, we seek to share some of our findings. Written mainly by our Fresno State undergraduates, this section provides short profiles of a few of Fresno’s dancers from the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s.
Know someone we should interview? Have photographs to share? The Valley Public History Initiative will host events in the Spring and continue to conduct oral histories. We can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com and you can follow us on Facebook and Twitter
The first post in our series, TJ Medina’s “The Story of Boogaloo Sam as Told by Izel Gaye,” can be found here.