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The Search for Authenticity: Why Dancers are Researchers Pt. 2

Updated: Jan 22, 2021

Hey it’s Fabian from the think-team!

I’d like to draw parallels of the science and the art industry. In one of my previous post, I talked about the culture of dance battles in the street dance scene.

The picture I selected was one of my favorite battles of the history of Summer Hiphop Forever, a battle held annually in Amsterdam. I think the level of creativity, emotion, passion, and talent here is undeniable. But what makes this battle so fun to watch is the fact that you get to see two very different dancers with such unique taste. They were authentic.

Despite still being under the hiphop style, they were sort of outside-the-box. They didn’t look like other hiphop dancers. You won’t get tired of watching Dedson, as he treats his rounds like a blank canvas, a medium for him to explore his wide range of vocabulary, surprising you with floor works, turns, and absurd concepts. While Kyoka, flowed like water. She was liquid, yet on still on beat. They simply grooved like no other.

If you’re new to the street dance scene, it’s really interesting to see the taste and styles of the dancers of each country. Generally speaking, although the dancers in each country are pretty diverse, there is a somewhat similar character to each country. The Japanese hiphop scene is filled with the grooviest dancers with dynamic movements. The Dutch is filled with one of the most creative and powerful dancers such as Shay and Paradox. Personally, I very much enjoy exploring the French dance scene. They are filled with experimental dancers that are not so alike such as Icee, Waydi, Scuibi, my list of favorite dancers can go on and on. Bouboo is master illusionist with his limbs. You can watch him smoke seven dancers in a row below with his versatility, in possibly the fastest 7tosmoke battle ever.

I think the French dance scene is not so shy to go outside of the box. To push boundaries, finding infinite ways to create misdirection and illusions. To be a crowd-pleaser but remain original and authentic. But what makes one authentic in the first place?

To understand the desire to be authentic, I’d like to talk about competitions or competitive environments. I think any industry is competitive. In the research industry, you’re likely always competing to get funds, to write research papers and chase journals to get your name out there. If you want to enter a dance school or be a judge at a competition, you cannot be a ‘beginner’. In both situations you have to be at the top of your game. So, why is it important to be authentic?

Nowadays I think it’s not enough to be at the top of the game. Any institution demands above-average, which can get really blurry and meaningless when everyone is an overachiever. I think the world is always demanding something different, because there are many above-averages, making them all look the same.

Take one scenario. Your grades are outstanding, you may be a top 5% in your class, but there are still thousands of others out there with high grades and performance from other universities. There are only two slots to enter a reputable company with 2,000 applicants. A fancy cover letter might not cut it either. You need to look and be ‘different’.

Take another scenario. I was watching a dance battle with my dancer friends. She was telling me how different the dance scene is in Europe vs Asia. Especially, in Jakarta, she thought that most dancers stick to trends and moves that would hype the crowds. Cheap tricks, that work really really well. However, they get boring when 10 dancers pull the same moves to wow the crowd. In the end, the winner of the dance battle is someone that really stands out. Someone authentic.

I realized that, maybe I prefer to have a different desire than to be number one. It's so easy to play by the rules, to be able to work hard for 24h nonstop, to have an insanely good technique in dance. By no means am I saying that it’s easy to be number one, in no way am I saying that I am the best at either research or dance (imposter syndrome, a different topic for another time). But if being the best is the only quality you own, then I feel that you might be missing a more personal thing to offer. I think being authentic is so difficult and probably something not everyone will ever discover if they only put their mind to fulfill other’s expectations.

Maybe it is not important for everyone, but I think it prevents one from being a robot. After all,

"a robot is what you become when at some point you get the idea in your head that someone else is more qualified to be you than you."

I enjoy working in because I feel that everyone is authentic, especially our CEO. I mean, day one, my biggest lesson was not to be a robot that follows instructions. A robot is replaceable. There is some creative liberty in performing a task (to some extent of course). I feel that in itself is authentic. One word is not enough to define who we are and I think that feels more genuine than to look like others.

To conclude, I think competition should exist mainly within oneself. Trying not to be better than anyone, but to be better than one's old self. I hope after reading this, you’ll find some value to be more ‘you’ rather than a ‘you’ defined by a system. How to be authentic and find one’s personal taste can be another blog of its own. But maybe you can start learning by watching French dancers.

Thanks for reading.

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