Gábor Hartmann is a pioneering representative of Hungarian hip-hop, mostly known for his role as a member and choreographer of Quantum XXL who reached the finals in 2012’s Hungary’s Got Talent. The founder of Black Time Hip-Hop Dance School put aside some minutes from his busy schedule to tell me about his experiences and views on hip-hop.
How did you get into dancing?
When I was at the age of 12, I started to watch a show called MTV Raps on MTV channel. I saw video clips of famous rappers such as MC Hammer, and tried to imitate the moves they made. We frequently went to a local disco which took place on Fridays from 5 to 9 in the evening and was especially meant for teenagers under the age of 14. I learned a lot from ‘jamming’ sessions, where dancers formed a circle and took turns getting in the middle, showing off their talent while the others were cheering and clapping for them. Then I neglected dancing for the next 6-7 years and took up other sports like football, karate and handball. When I was approaching 19, my friend gave me a dance school’s newspaper advertisement. On my first hip-hop lesson, I instantly fell in love with the teacher’s movements and became addicted to the whole atmosphere of dancing. From this time on, I have been constantly pursuing this activity.
Many people reckon that hip-hop dance is a ”bumpy-jumpy” genre.
The dance itself indeed has a bumpy-jumpy appearance. However, hip-hop is much more complex than that. It is not only a genre, but a culture with its own history. It’s a feeling that includes a peculiar style of clothing, music, and street dance. Our dance school focuses mainly on commercial style, which can be seen in video clips and includes choreographies to be taught. But in general, you have to try it to realise that it is not as easy as it seems from the outside. If someone wants to do it really well, they have to develop how to coordinate the movements of separate body parts, and it takes a lot of practice. Obviously, you have to be physically well-conditioned, and a sense of rhythm is also crucial.
What were the three most significant moments in your career so far?
In 2004, I started to work with a performers’ group in Germany with whom I could gain four years of theatrical experience. During this period, the huge breakthrough for me was when we won the first hip-hop world championship with the Black Time group in Germany. The last very important result I am proud of was when we managed to make our way to the finals with Quantum XXL in Hungary’s Got Talent.
Our aim was to make ourselves known, to popularize our dance school, and to show those who know little about this style that this bumpy-jumpy dance can be done in a different way as well. In the light of this, what we did was a ”diluted” version of hip-hop with more theatrical features. In other words, it contained hip-hop elements, but fundamentally it was not. With this angle, we intended to attract all those who generally do not find the often monotonous and profane style of hip-hop attractive. Every now and then we run into older people, even people in their seventies, who congratulate us. I couldn’t imagine more pleasant feedback than that.
Your performances contained plenty of creative solutions. How did you find inspiration for those choreographies?
I can’t really name anything concrete in connection with this; all I do is travel a lot, move around with an open mind. I try to keep what grabs my attention; I rethink it, put ideas in and out of it, collect from other places and add what’s in my mind. I watch videos on YouTube if I cannot gain inspiration from other places, but I never copy. You have to find the right balance between getting inspired and copying. We generally make choreographies in a way that I give the basic idea and all the others put theirs in it. It often occurs that someone suggests something just for fun’s sake, but the others come to like it, and we stick it into the performance. I am the one who assembles most of the choreographic elements, but it is these six people and their personalities without whom Quantum XXL wouldn’t be the same.
How would you compare European and American hip-hop?
The saddest fact is that European countries still try to copy American hip-hop. This is why many dance groups cannot achieve considerable results on international competitions. Germany, for example, can afford to invite American dancers who can develop their expertise very efficiently, but they still lack originality. Hungarian hip-hop is also mostly based on imitation. This is why we are always lagging behind with some years. I think coming up with original ideas is the key to win a competition. If in a world championship, all the 30 groups dance very well, but according to the same patterns, they become boring. I could also list several Hungarian dance groups who technically are on the same level as us. We are just different. We also develop ourselves with American dancers as much as we can, but we try to put our own personality in dance. We are not afraid to spice up our performances with daring and sometimes a little bizarre ideas. This is what I really miss from Europe in general.
You used to advertise online dancing classes on your blog called G-moves. How did it work?
The basic conception was that you would have to subscribe for a 30-day access to dance lessons, which include pieces of advice for warm up and stretching. In the beginning, it proved to be a good idea, as I had 5000 people registered. However, I couldn’t manage the online marketing part alone so that it would certainly reach the target audience. Editing the website took up so much of my energy that I finally gave up on it. I would need to partner up with somebody so that they can do the marketing, and I can do the creative part. I still haven’t given up finding someone.
Do you have any further plans with Quantum XXL?
We would like to take part in the World of Dance, which is an open competition in the USA. Currently, there are selections in several European countries such as Germany and the Netherlands, and for the winner, the cost of the journey will be financed. We would also like to compose a one and a half hour long evening show that would be presented in theatres or community centres. We will start to gather ideas around December, and hopefully, we will finish till early summer. We will also make an attempt to present it abroad.
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For the pictures all credit goes to http://www.blacktimehiphop.com/
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by Tótiván Anett