How one Toronto dance crew fights (and feels) the power

Meet BUCC N FLVR. The WWE should be choreographing Wrestlemania off their freestyle sessions — it's all hollers and stomps and jabs. But this Toronto dance crew is all about the feel-good stuff. “Spread love, light and fun” is their motto, for real. And their fight? It’s all about taking your personal battles — all your stress, your aggression, your frustration — and channelling it into dance.

Meet BUCC N FLVR. They're this week's Exhibitionists in Residence

Toronto dance crew BUCC N FLVR are this week's Exhibitionists in Residence. (CBC Arts)

Sunday on Exhibitionists, BUCC N FLVR will come at you with arms swinging — but that's just 'cause it's one of their signature moves. Since 2009, this Toronto dance crew's been blending krump and hip-hop styles, gaining acclaim as performers (they're the winners of MuchMusic's 2012 New Music Live Battlez competition, by the way) while they mentor kids at high schools and community centres around the GTA. 

This week's episode is about resistance, and the men and women of BUCC N FLVR are our "Exhibitionists in Residence." That's because they've mastered the art of war through total non-violence. The WWE should be choreographing Wrestlemania off their freestyle sessions — it's all hollers and stomps and jabs. But these guys are all about the feel-good stuff. "Spread love, light and fun" is their motto, for real. And their fight? It's all about taking your personal battles — all your stress, your aggression, your frustration — and channelling it into dance.

BUCC N FLVR's co-founder Matt "Babyboy" Cruz and dancer Dujean Williams (maybe you remember him from the Amazing Race Canada?) told CBC Arts how they jumped into a life of dance.

So…What is BUCC N FLVR?

It's a dance crew — roughly a dozen guys and girls from the Toronto area who've been competing, and teaching, since 2009. At first, they were just doing it for the trophies. But after leaving their first competition as champs (Stomp, 2010), Cruz says they gradually discovered a new direction. They quickly found a mentor in star choreographer Lenny Len (you met him on last week's Exhibitionists), and after people in the community began to drop by BUCC N FLVR's studio for sessions, the crew found themselves mentoring more dancers in turn. "We met a lot of kids and we got hired by a lot of schools and from there we realized, 'Hey, maybe this is our purpose?'" Cruz says.

"We're performers, but our main focus is to educate and just use our art to open everybody's minds to follow their dreams. Dancing unlocks a lot of things. We use it to unlock whatever you're looking for. Dancers realize the training process they have to go through is similar to any [challenge] you deal with in this life."

Toronto dance crew BUCC N FLVR at the 2015 Kultura FIlipino Arts Festival. (Facebook/BUCC N FLVR)

Why dance?

First, a brief Wikipedia-style history lesson: BUCC N FLVR have created their own custom blend of dance styles, but krump is a key influence, an exaggerated street dance that doesn't have a huge community in Canada despite coming out of L.A. more than a decade ago. Williams has been krumping for 10 years, teaching himself by watching YouTube videos at first, then gradually finding other dancers to battle.

"The art of krump, it kind of spawns from troubled youth that didn't have another outlet. Maybe they couldn't play football, maybe they couldn't play basketball. And they would've been drawn into the gang life, but krump is out there," he says.

"Me personally, my mom passed when I was 16 years old and I felt like I had a lot of anger and a lot of frustration that I needed to get out. So krump came along around that time and gave me something to focus on with all my energy, which basically, I think, propelled me to master it."

Both he and Cruz are motivated by seeing other dancers "level up" like they did. Cruz has been hooked on breakdancing — and thrill of performing for an audience — since he was a kid doing the running man to MC Hammer tapes. "When I say that Dujean and the people around me inspire me it's 'cause I see them work from the ground up," says Cruz. "I know that they're humans too and when I see them improve it just fires me up, that it's possible. I feel like I can do it myself, it empowers me."

Fight (and feel) the power

Imagine seeing Sunday's Exhibitionists clips live. "People get scared!" Williams says. "You know, it gets very grimy. It's a very powerful dance. And if you don't understand it, you're not in the session with us and with the flow, you'll look at it like, 'Whoa! Look at these kids, what's going on?'"

Part of that power, he explains, comes from a spiritual place. Krump, specifically, is a dance of praise. "It's almost like you're giving thanks to the fact you can do this with your body, because a lot of people on this earth can't even move that way. You know, period," says Williams.

"It's a spiritual dance," he continues. "Through krump it's almost like we're fighting the negative emotions in our life, or the negative demons, or anything negative around you. You're cutting it up. You're taking control of it — your nerves, your fears — through the dance because you're so powerful.

"Because let me tell you, when you're krumping, and you're in a session and everybody's yelling, you feel like a thousand feet tall. You feel so strong, like a superhero, like you could do anything. You're really fighting in a spiritual realm. You're giving thanks while cutting up every dark thing in your life."

BUCC N FLVR perform on CBC Arts' Exhibitionists. (CBC Arts)

How can I do that?

Cruz's advice is simple: "Just listen to music. We always tell the kids we teach, we always tell them it all begins with music. You can just listen to music and bop your head, and that's dancing. Without knowing it, it makes you happy," he says. The next step is being conscious that dance is all around you, and then spreading that happiness.

Says Williams: "We're all about going for it, being fearless. Join a class, follow us, watch our stuff. Be a part of it, don't be afraid of it. Jump in."

Want more BUCC N FLVR? Find them on Facebook and watch Exhibitionists Sunday at 4:30 (5NT) on CBC.