A Choreographed Conversation with Samara Cohen aka Princess Lockerooo!

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Since we have chosen Voguing as our featured Dance Genre this month, we decided to go a little further and sit down with one of the prominent figures of the modern day Ballroom scene in New York City.  She is also a huge cheerleader for us here over at Dance Parade and who participated in our 2013 parade and festival atop the Ovation TV ‘Stand For The Arts’ float and later wowed the audience with a stunning performance in Tompkins Square Park for DanceFest.  She is Princess Lockerooo!

Greetings Princess! Let’s start at the reason we are acquainted. How did you first hear about Dance Parade?

I danced in the very first dance parade. I went with a group of lockers. It was raining in Washington sq park but we kept on dancing. It was my first time seeing the house of ninja all together. This was before I knew Javier or any of them personally.

What made you want to get involved?

I knew that the only thing better than dancing outside would be dancing outside down the streets of ny on a float playing disco. I was right. I also wanted to take the opportunity to introduce Waacking to more people.

You specialize in a dance style called “Waacking” that isn’t quite yet a household name but is destined to be very soon. Can you tell us a bit about your style and how you discovered it and what it means to you?

Waacking originated in the 1970’s California in gay clubs. It was performed to classic imported disco music which was very dynamic, syncopated and highly emotional electronic music from artists like Le Voyage, Cerrone, Love & Kisses and Donna Summer. It is a freestyle club dance originally performed by gay Black men. Each dancer had their own way of doing the dance. The main elements of Waacking are posing, performance and musicality. Waacking is like emotional expression set to music, it is so freeing and that is why I love it. This dance has allowed me and many others around the world to fully be ourselves. It has greatly affected the Gay community and Female dance community worldwide as it has given us a place to be ourselves under the hip hop umbrella. We get to be glamorous, wear heals and a dress, and fully express our inner diva.

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click to follow Princess Lockerooo on Twitter

 

How did you come up with that very unique name?

The dance style that first caught my eye was locking.. and my very first locking teacher Spex.. named me Lockerooo

I discovered Waacking at Broadway Dance Center in 2004. Brian Green was the only person teaching it in New York City. If it weren’t for him none of this would have happened the way it did. Locking was my first love in dance but I always took classes in all styles. My life changed when I went to the House Dance Conference which was an underground dance party held by Brian Green himself. This party played everything from hip hop to funk to disco and house. All the best dancers of NY and Philadelphia would attend. I was completely in awe. I had never seen so many people freestyling and just improvising on the spot being able to hit all the sounds in the music. I met Tyrone Proctor when he came to Brian Green’s Waacking class at BDC. I am one of Tyrone’s first students and till this day I never miss a class unless I’m out of New York for some reason. Tyrone has spread Waacking around the world and is greatly responsible for its newfound popularity.

Before I began dancing I was an aspiring opera singer/musical theater actress but I dropped everything to become a locker/waacker. My family and friends thought I was crazy. My high school friends laughed at me the first time I showed them waacking, given I wasn’t very good back then. I dove in head first, full throttle into dance taking about four classes a day and clubbing all night. I never worked a regular job again. I became Samara The Subway Soprano and sang opera in the subway in order to support myself and pay for dance classes. I used to show up at Broadway Dance Center with $130.00 in singles and quarters to buy a ten class card. I stopped singing on the train two years ago when I worked with Madonna and became a teacher at Broadway Dance Center. I had no intention of becoming professional…I just wanted to be able to do it. I wanted to be as cool as all the people at the House Dance Conference were.

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When did you know that you were a dancer?

According to my mom I was always a dancer but I think I knew when I got into jazz as a kid. I forgot about it when studying opera but I realized again when I discovered locking and waacking just how important it was to me.

Who are your idols? Who do you look up to?

My teachers. Tyrone Proctor, Brian Green and all of the dancers from the House Dance Conference, Soulgasm, Escos, Funkbox etc.. They are my heroes and they have inspired me so much. Jody Watley who danced / waacked on soul train and also learned waacking from Tyrone himself. Artists like Grace Jones, Prince and Michael Jackson. I only tend to like performers who go ALL OUT.

Who is Princess Lockerooo?

Princess Lockerooo is my inner diva. Comparable to the Jim Carey’s character in ‘Mask’, Princess Lockerooo is a fierce diva that has no insecuriites and is afraid of nothing. She lives to entertain people and when the right music is playing she is unstoppable. She has many characters that live inside of her and she enjoys dressing up and playing different roles. This inspires her creativity in dance..and her signature is speed. She has a theory that if she can propel her arms fast enough she can fly… Still trying.

kp9r_josefpinlac_2You were featured on the Ovation sponsored float in the 2013 Parade enticing people to “Stand For The Arts”. How did that come about?

I wrote up a proposal of what I could bring to a float which was a combination of disco madness and costumes galore. I was the lucky one who got picked to ride on it with my WAACKTION HEROS. It was unforgettable. DJ UNDAKOVA, Waacktopia’s own, worked his magic and with Miss New York and Tyrone Proctor aboard we took it back to the 70’s.

 

You’ve danced with many different collectives, made various appearances and have been featured on television several times, famously on the show ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ and even danced for Madonna…which has been the most fulfilling to date?

I’ve gotten something from every experience. “So You Think You Can Dance” was one of my greatest moments…after I got my ticket to Vegas I went home and danced through the entire seventeen minutes of Donna Summer’s “Mac Arthur Park”. The exposure that it gave me and waacking was priceless. My first international tour was the most impactful on a personal level. Traveling to Malaysia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, London, Italy, Finland, Japan, Brazil, Thailand, Kazakhstan, Poland, Czech Republic as well as having so many wonderful and eager students overjoyed to meet me and learn waacking was incredible. For years, I was one of the only New Yorkers in my generation really trying to represent and push the dance. I was doing a dance that it seemed that no one had heard of or had been exposed to so to have so many young people as passionate about it as me was reassuring and it felt like instant family. Dancing with Jody Watley has been the most fulfilling performance experience dancing with an artist. Dancing the way I like to dance with one of my favorite artists and to my favorite style of music. I don’t know if anything can top it. One of my most recent performances at the Soul Train Reunion at Mavericks Flat in LA was one of the most important to me. In honor of Tyrone and his legacy, I performed a Waacking piece for all the Soul Train dancers from the 70s, 80s and 90s. Much to my joy, they approved…it was instant certification! I also got the opportunity to interview some of them and hang out with them. If it weren’t for them none of us dancers would be where we are today.

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We recently saw you working your magic in the new Icona Pop video for the song “All Night”, a showcase of the NYC gay ballroom scene where ‘Voguing” originated from. How did that collaboration come about and what compelled you to participate?

I auditioned and luckily got picked. I am ever thankful to Javier and Benny Ninja, two of the legendary dancers showcased in the video. They are my voguing teachers and dancing among the legends in that video was a great honor. I must say thank you to Icona Pop, the director and choreographer. Whoever had the idea to put our names across the screen I thank them. They chose to highlight us as artists, our culture, and captured it beautifully and authentically!

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We noticed that the video features a few scenes where Absolut Vodka product placement and an obvious sponsorship exists throughout. How does that make you feel?

At the moment I don’t drink and there certainly was a time that I wasn’t into promoting alcohol because I worked with kids but as a nightlife entrepreneur in New York I understand the importance of the business. We always need drinkers to support the bar so the dancers can have a place to twirl. I’m a fan of any company/business that sponsors and supports performing arts.

Do you feel that the mass commercial exposure of the ballroom scene will help or hurt the passion and integrity of the art form?

That depends on what we do with this newfound exposure. I think it can help a lot, as long as we stay true to the art and keep it professional.

 

Check out the video for Icona Pop’s “All Night” and check out Lockerooo in fine form!

 

What was your introduction to the gay ballroom scene and how did you get involved?

I learned about Clubhouse on 125th Street where they used to have balls. I eventually learned about Escos and The Latex Ball. I walked in The Latex Ball once and won three trophies from Escos over the years. I love the New Way style of voguing and Hands performance.

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You are quite a powerhouse and basically a one woman show…what are some of the projects you are a part of and creative outlets you explore?

I teach waacking at Broadway Dance Center every Tuesday through Friday and at Peridance on Mondays. I’m currently setting up my international bookings for this coming year. Spreading dance and disco music through my bi-weekly party Waacktopia at Sapphire Lounge is by far my favorite hobby. We now do dance classes in the club before the party starts. It is incredibly fun and fulfilling. The next Waacktopia Party is on Wednesday October 30th and I strongly suggest that anyone who is interested to come early for class. After years of not pursuing music it all comes back around. I will be performing my new dance single “All Falls Down” at Behind The Groove on October 29th at Le Poisson Rouge. Now that I understand music from a dancer’s perspective I want to create great music that will inspire great dance. The music/dance industry definitely needs some authentic s%&+!

We are looking forward to attending The All Night Ball on the 27th at Lucky Cheng’s! What can one expect when they attend?

“The All Night Ball” will be like a scene out of the new Icona Pop video but with a lot more dancers. It will be a celebration of dance, fashion and new music. The voguing and hustle competitions will be thrilling to watch and some of New York’s finest DJs like Vjuan Allure, Disciple and Chip Chop are going to be bringing the party so be ready to dance!

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click to learn more about “The All Night Ball”!