For the last few years, Jeriel Bey has been teaching young people to use their mind and bodies to express themselves through turf dancing, a street dance that rose to prominence in Oakland in the early 1990s and has roots in break dancing from the 1980s.
At a glance, turf dancing looks like a mix of several hip-hop dances along with the performer featuring his own movements and style.
“It’s about promoting our community and local businesses in a positive way,” said Bey. “Turf dancing promotes nonviolence and keeps kids engaged and off the streets. We don’t want people to associate turf dancing with the negative aspects of hip hop culture.”
The term turf dancing means “taking up room on the floor,” which was later shortened to turf. Dancer Bey came up with the term when the style was still known as “hittin’ it” because of the popping dance style it uses.
Bey, leader and co-founder of the Architeckz, an Oakland-based dance team and his company Turfin Advertising Group, seeks to promote the group’s skills by to brand products in their videos as well as train Bay Area youth in the dance style.
Turf dancing relies on improvisation from dance styles such as storytelling, gliding, animation, tutting and popping. Rene Neal-De-Stanton, who’s known to turfers by his dance name, Rawnay, said much of his experience and confidence came from constantly battling other dancers and forming new moves after practicing daily.
“My friends and I used to sneak into clubs just to dance,” said Stanton. “Turfing was really about respect and representing where you came from. I learned how to form my style based off many of these battles.”
Storytelling focuses on creating optical illusions while pantomiming everyday activities such as yawning or stretching.
Tutting requires the dancers to form geometric angles with their arms in various combinations. The dancing also requires the performer to be flexible and acrobatic while making the movements appear to look easy.
The Architeckz, have danced in videos featured on MTV, including Bay Area rappers E-40, Keak Da Sneak and The Pack. E-40’s single “Tell Me When to Go” brought national attention to turf dancing and the hyphy movement in 2006.
They have performed at the Billboard Music Awards show as well as competitions all across the Bay Area. Bey says when turf dancing gained national attention, the Architeckz were even able to compete in dance battles against krump dancers from Los Angeles in city level events.
Dance battles take place with team members either performing together or individually. In many cases, they don’t know ahead of time what music will be played and must rely on their improvisational skills.
“The Oakland community has always supported me at events, and I’ve never had problems with people fighting or anything,” said Bey. “We’ve hosted an event at Oakland’s Oracle Coliseum before, and it went off without a problem.”
With a fundraising event planned Nov. 1st at the Parkway Theater, Bey hopes to attract community leaders and investors who are interested in using the Turfing Advertising Group to promote their products.
For more information about the event on November 1st, visit: