Throughout his dance career, Loose Joint has stayed true to the MOPTOP code – “Motivated On Precision Towards Outstanding Performance”. In the early ’80s he formed the Fantastic Duo with Robert Steele and placed second in 1983’s Big Break Dance Contest to determine which b-boy crew would appear in Beat Street . Later the two toured with the hip-hop extravaganza, the Fresh Fest. They also performed with Shannon of “Let the Music Play” fame, and opened up for Kool & The Gang, Chaka Khan, New Edition and Patti Labelle. Loose Joint went on to appear in music videos by Slick Rick, De La Soul, and Gang Starr. He joined the MOPTOP crew and later formed Elite Force on the set of Michael Jackson’s “Remember The Time” music video with his partners, Buddha Stretch and Link. Through it all he has stuck with his roots as a b-boy. Loose Joint will be one of our special guests at our screening of “The Big Break Dance Contest” this Thursday, March 28th (buy tickets, HERE ). Here, he discusses his elaborate history in the hip-hop dance game.
You formed the Fantastic Duo with Robert Steele. How did you two meet?
Loose Joint: I moved to the Martinique Hotel with my mother and sister from Brooklyn, probably in 1980, maybe ’81. It was located on 32nd Street and Broadway. It’s a type of building for people who were on welfare and have been misplaced from their homes. If there had been a fire where you were living, the city would relocate you and your family to this temporary housing.
I met Robert Steele through a mutual friend named Damien and his brother Tranel, because we were all living in the same relocation building. It was through Damien that I learned how to [do the] wave. He introduced me to a friend of his and that was Robert. We all became friends and started practicing together. Robert was one of the best dancers I had seen at that time, a kid dancer who could really get down. He was really influential [to] my growth.
Before the Fantastic Duo you were both down with the Float Committee. How did you join them?
Loose Joint: The Float Committee is a New York City street dance crew. I was introduced to them by Robert and Damien. They both danced with the Float Committee before I did. We often would dance across the street from Macy’s on 34th Street, in front of what was then a department store called Woolworth’s. We used to perform in the street and get tips in a shoebox. We were the younger kids in the crew so we would get paid whatever the elders in the crew wanted to give us. Robert and I decided to start our own thing and go out as a duo. It was shortly before The Big Break Dance Contest that we named ourselves the Fantastic Duo. I was 13-years-old when I did The Big Break Dance Contest. Robert was 11. Today, he’s in the Bronx but I haven’t seen him in a long time. I wish I knew how to get in touch with him.
Did you have any nicknames at that time?
Loose Joint: Robert’s name was Whiz Kid. People knew me as Young God Allah. That came about because I was member of the 5 Percent Nation of Islam. I was introduced to the 5 Percenters through friends at the hotel where I was living. As a member of the 5 Percent Nation, I was taught to study lessons called “mathematics” to gain knowledge of self. That helped me take pride in being black at a time when black people were often looked down upon because of the impoverished conditions.
Since you placed second in The Big Break Dance Contest you weren’t guaranteed a part in Beat Street . So how did you and Robert eventually end up in the movie?
Loose Joint: We did go to the Beat Street audition like every one else. If you were a breaker or boogie-boy you wanted to be in this movie. This was the biggest thing in New York. Everybody went to The Roxy to audition. There were a bunch of circles and we were just battling people. As the producers walked around, they picked up dancers that they liked. I don’t really remember what the outcome of the audition was but because we had won 1st place in the preliminary and placed second in the final (after Dynamic Breakers) we were invited to have part in the movie.
Who were some of the dancers you looked up to?
Loose Joint: I loved Boogaloo Shrimp, Poppin Taco and Poppin Pete from the movies Breakin’ and Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo . Locally, the dancers I was looking up to were in the Float Committee. It was people like Clown and Universal and on the b-boy side it was Wayne, Doug and Poe. They were also members of the Float Committee. There was a dancer named Rubberband who also lived in the same hotel as I did. He really taught me how to wave deeply. His waves were the best I had ever seen.
Lock-a-Tron John was another one I looked up to. There was also Float Master John. He was the master of the float. It’s also called the side slide but in New York we called it floating or gliding. I think that was one of the reasons why it was named the Float Committee because everybody could float really well.
How did your partnership in the Fantastic Duo end?
Loose Joint: The end was due to disputes over money with our manager, Chris Williams. He and I did not get along. I felt that he wasn’t doing the best he could for us and maybe the thing wasn’t right with the money. When our contracts were up, Chris kept Robert but not me. This was the beginning of the end of the Fantastic Duo. Chris started sending Robert out alone to jobs. That kind of locked me out of a lot things. I had done a commercial for Hershey’s milk chocolate and that kind of kept me going for a while financially. It was probably around ’85 or ’86 when things started to go down hill.
This is also around the time when breakdancing as a fad was declining, right?
Loose Joint: Yes, it was shocking for all of us dancers in the hip-hop community. We had belief in ourselves as dancers and what we had accomplished. We thought we could do so much more. The opportunities back then weren’t what they are today. It wasn’t easy. There weren’t any studios that were teaching hi-hop [dance]. It was a very small window for the hip-hop culture because it was still so young. And when breaking was dying down, all other jobs was drying up too. I think crews like Rock Steady, Dynamic Breakers, and a few others were able to keep going because they were the most famous crews in New York at the time. We were just a small crew and at the height of our fame things started to go wrong between our manager and myself.
You were able to transition from being a b-boy to also becoming proficient at a style of dance known as “hip-hop freestyle.” How did that happen?
Loose Joint: I never stopped going to parties. I would go to the Latin Quarter with a friend named Silky. It was there that I started to re-invent myself. Back then you also had the IBM Dancers and the IOU Dancers. I was dancing because I am a dancer and I love hip-hop. I just went back to party rocking because that’s what you did at a jam anyway. In the break dance era there were also people just party dancing. Not everybody were b-boys, some people were just dancing. That’s pretty much what I went back to. It was really my developmental years, like ’88, ’89 and ’90. It was a process but with hip-hop freestyle we took it further and we became a lot more free in what we were doing as dancers.
When you started doing rap videos in the late 80’s and through the 90’s, how did it feel to be a working dancer again?
Loose Joint: It was great to be in front of the camera again but at that time they didn’t really want to pay dancers for music videos. Sometimes early on we did music videos for free just to be a part of them. It wasn’t until later that we started to getting a little bit of money for appearing in videos. One of the first I was in was the video for De La Soul’s remix of “Buddy.” Another one of the first was by Twin Hype and also Gang Starr’s “Positivity.”
Who’s the guy dancing in the frame as a marionette doll in Gang Starr’s “Positivity” music video?
Loose Joint: That that was one of my partners. His name is HL Rock. Me and Peter Paul were a part of a three-person routine with him. You’ll see small clips of us in the video as well.
Before you teamed up with MOPTOP you were a part of the Rhythm Technicians.
Loose Joint: Yes, that was started by Mr. Wiggles and he invited me to be a part of the crew. The crew also included Fabel, Adesola, Leon, Doc, Jerry and Tony Touch, I believe. I got to give credit to people like Mr. Wiggles, Fabel, Kwik Step and Ken Swift [of Rock Steady Crew] because they were responsible for taking street dance to the theater. They had [an off-Broadway show called] Jam On The Groove . They were instrumental in keeping poppin’, locking and breaking, alive here in New York.
You can follow Loose Joint at loosejoint.com