Ateam Black Label want to change the way we perceive dancers

Ateam Black Label want to change the way we perceive dancers

Words by Augustus Welby

Ateam Black Label was founded in late-2018 with the goal of changing the perception of dancers from on-stage accessories to recognised artists.

The US-based label, which was formed by a collective of innovative professionals specialising in hip hop and krump, will present five days of workshops and events in Melbourne this November.

The crew’s combined career credits include tours with the likes of Jason Derulo, Taylor Swift and Camila Cabello, while Ceasare Willis, aka Tight Eyez, is the founder of the socially significant dance movement, krump.

“2009, Butta, myself, Toshi and a couple of others that are no longer with us, we started a dance crew called Ateam LV,” says Black Label co-founder, Adonis Xavier Lewis. “We started doing showcases, we produced a show in Vegas every year called NEON, and we had some pretty awesome success. But we started seeing some things we wanted to change when it came to how dancers were perceived as artists, especially in relation to when you talk about dancers on tours with other artists.”

Roughly 12 months ago, Lewis and Butta, aka Bryan Robinson, convened in an Airbnb in Sydney and formulated the label’s ethos and mission statement.

“We were like, ‘You know what, I think it’s time to have a paradigm shift as far as what the term artist actually means’,” says Lewis. “Dancers, for whatever reason, get sat on the bottom of the totem pole when it comes to recognition, when it comes to skill set, in the public eye. It’s unequivocal that dancers have
immense value on stage for artists, but there’s a lot of times where that doesn’t equate financially, it doesn’t equate socially.”

Ateam Black Label’s Melbourne schedule encompasses a two-day intensive dance workshop, a two-day open workshop for dancers at all levels of experience, and
a community outreach event with Reclink Australia who provide evidence-based sport and art programs to disadvantaged Australians to create socially inclusive, life-changing opportunities. They’ll also slot in pop-up appearances at clubs and some unexpected surprise locations.

“[The purpose of] this particular tour is for us to come out there and really give back our know-how of years and years of experience on how to open up the mind of dancers in Australia,” Butta says.

The itinerary is representative of the group’s interest in working with dancers at various skill levels and from a range of socioeconomic backgrounds.

“We grew up in an era where it was us meeting up with our friends, going to our garage and figuring stuff out on our own,” says Toshi. “We never actually learned
knowledge from the sources. It’s the same thing in Australia – you don’t have the dancers that have been dancing for your favourite artists and battling and travelling around the world and doing what you dreamt of doing. You don’t have those people teaching you, so that’s what we’re trying to bring to all ages.”

The purpose of the workshops – which they’re also hosting in Sydney and Brisbane – is to equip dancers with the necessary means to make a career out of doing what they love without having to take the traditional route.

The traditional route, says Butta, involves flying to California to network, then hoping to land an audition.

“Once that’s done and nothing happens, you come back to what? To doing the same old thing without having the tools or the knowledge or the know-how to actually invest in yourself and promote yourself on another level, to separate yourself from the pack,” he says.

“Anybody that’s done world tours – like Toshi, Havoc and a couple of other guys doing world battle tours – they never come and actually teach with the mindset to give what we know versus just teaching you moves.

“So we’re giving knowledge on something that [dancers] can hold onto, not only just in dance but in life. They can continue to grow and separate themselves
and add value to their selves and be able to take what we’re teaching them on for life.”

The Ateam Black Label will be in Melbourne from Wednesday November 6 to Sunday November 10 conducting a series of workshops alongside a live showcase at The State Library and a block party at Section 8. Tickets for the Open Dance Workshop and two-day intensive Dance Workshop are available via Eventbrite.