Oakland’s Boogaloo Reunion BBQ : A History Lesson in West Coast Street Dance


Red gents raiseThe 5th annual Oakland Boogaloo Reunion BBQ  which took place in West Oakland’s Shoreline Park was an incredible and inspiring intergenerational gathering that provided much needed living history. There’s a popper’s picnic that takes place annually in Los Angeles at Griffith’s Park where they get lose and celebrate history.. This month the Bay Area let their story be told.

When most people talk about Hip Hop Dance, they think of what is known as B-Boying but commonly known as break dancing in the mainstream.  They think of people of doing elaborate spins on their backs or highly choreographed, robotic, strutting, clay-mation type movements that defy what many have imagined our bodies could do.

Most people think that  because the term Hip Hop is attached to these various dance styles that they’ve originated from New York City. In reality the dances known as Boogalooing, Roboting and Strutting  have their roots three thousand miles away in the Bay Area going back to the 1960s.  Their origins predate the birth of Hip Hop in New York in the 1970s.

Instead of bongo heavy break-beats that became a signature sound for early Hip Hop, the choice of music for many of the Bay Area’s pioneering street dancers was bass laden funk music.

If there was one thing that unbeknownst to folks from either coast that tied them together, it was James Brown. Early B-Boys in the Bronx were inspired by the moves he executed when performing songs like Get on the Good Foot. Songs like Give it Up or Turn It Lose and Get Up, Get Into It, Get Involved were staple songs heard at early park jams. In the Bay Area the song of choice for early Bay Area funk and street dancers was Superbad.

There were no massive block parties in Oakland, San Francisco and Richmond which were the three main cities that were central to these dances during that time period.  Instead many Bay Area youth who embraced these dances showcased their skills at talent shows which were just as numerous in the late 60s, early 70s as block parties were in New York during the summer.

Deejays were few in number while hundreds of 3-4 member funk bands made up the musical landscape of the Bay Area. As  Will Randolph of the pioneering dance group the Black Resurgents noted, you might find 3 or 4 bands on every block. Some dance crews including the Black Resurgents even had their own bands.


Over the years thanks to popular TV shows like Soul Train and the later the Gong Show or key individuals moving from one place to another, the dances of the West Coast eventually became known to pioneering dancers in New York who incorporated them in their routines and by default became umbrellaed as Hip Hop.


Here in Oakland the 5th annual Boogaloo Reunion BBQ was held as folks from all over come out, and literally strut their stuff.  They showcase and celebrate the evolution of some of those original dances that were prominent in the Bay and Northern Cali as many like to note; the Day before Hip Hop. Today at the Boogaloo Reunion BBQ you will see early Funk style dancers, traditional Bboys and Bgirls and now turf dancers..


This year I arrived at the Poppers Picnic and BBQ (September 6) at West Oakland’s Shoreline Park, just as things were winding down, but managed to catch up with lot of folks and shoot some cool pictures that caught the good vibe and overall spirit of the day..Enjoy

written by Davey D

The History of Bay Area Hip Hop Dance: Roboting, Strutting, Boogaloo & Funk

Medea Sirkas

Medea Sirkas

In recent weeks we’ve been doing a series of radio shows and articles that highlight certain aspects of Hip Hop History. In particular we been focusing on local (Bay Area) and West Coast History which sadly after 40 years is usually overlooked and marginalized by many writers and scholars.

Yes there are lots of stories about stellar artists like NWA, 2Pac and Ice T to name a few, but the West Coast narrative as told by many outside the West, leaves many with the false assumption that there was no dance, music or art culture that existed prior to the 1980s..

We sat down with Bay Area dance pioneers Fayzo and Boogaloo Dana of the legendary dance group Medea Sirkas and had them shed some light on some important overlooked history. They are staples in the Bay Area and have been around before the term Hip Hop was even coined. Nationally and internationally they have been featured in numerous videos for artist like Paul Wall and Usher. They have been on TV shows including Showtime at the Apollo.

In our interview they noted that they remain relevant after  40 years because they’ve learned to evolve and change with the times while still staying masters of the styles of dance they helped pioneer. They noted that popular dance styles like Roboting, Strutting and Boogalooing that are now associated with Hip Hop have been percolating in the Bay Area since the late 1960s.

Fayzo & Boogaloo Dana

Fayzo & Boogaloo Dana

The pair talked about pioneering dance figures and crew who proceeded them including the Black Messengers  and the Black Resurgence who are considered the fathers of all this.. The pair walked us through their long history which began with them being solo dancers from different cities in the early 70s. Fayzo  was part of a group called Demons of the Mind which was started in 78 by Larry McDonald.

Boogaloo Dana joined the group in 83/84..  Demons of the Mind which was a mainstay in the Bay Area for years.  Eventually Dana and Fayzo went on to form Medea Sirkas in 91 and have been going strong for over 20 years.

Fayzo who has been dancing since 1972 noted that each city within the Bay Area had their own style and approach to the various dance styles along with particular styles of dress.  San Francisco, Oakland and Richmond were the main hubs that interacted with each other in terms of dance competitions and showcases and hence became center attractions. Other cities like San Jose and East Palo Alto were also main players as well..

Boogaloo Dana noted that the early dance scene evolved to a point that one could tell what city or part of town someone was from based upon the types of hats and shoes they wore. The way people moved outside of actually dancing reflected the attitude and vibe of particular locales..

In our interview both men noted that terms like boogalooing and strutting had been around for a long time but became specifically defined for Bay Area folks to describe particular types of dance movements. Roboting dates back in the Bay Area to the mid 60s, that was made famous by Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5 via their song ‘Dancing Machine‘  in the mid 70s


It had a variety of styles that varied from city to city. In other words the way a someone did the robot in Oakland was different then the way cats in Richmond did it. Just about everyone you spoke to traced back a different influence. They ranged from seeing the robotic movements of mannequins in department store window displays to seeing the robot in popular TV shows like Lost in Space.  They also detailed how group routines evolved and all the different components like dominoes and fall aways came into being..


Boogaloo Dana talked extensively about the music scene noting that deejays weren’t the big thing , it was all about the hundreds of funk bands that made things pop. The dance crews eventually became main attractions over the bands the same way rappers eventually over took the popularity of deejays.  The music that dominated the scene was funk where the emphasis was on the bass line.. Eventually as deejays became popular folks gravitated to electronic sounds that were funky. The mainstays were groups like Kraftwerk and Yellow Magic Orchestra.




Fayzo who hails from the Fillmore district opened up and talked about the strange intersection that early dance scene had with the infamous People’s Temple that was ran by Jim Jones. He and Dana are doing post production on their documentary ‘Strutters for Life: The Untold Story of Medea Sirkas‘ and in it they go into painful detail about how key pioneering dance figures of groups like Black Velvet featuring the late Charles Marshall were members of the People’s Temple and were among the 900 people who perished in Guyana after drinking the poisoned Kool Aid.

Fayzo was a member of the People’s Temple and was scheduled to go on that ill-fated trip, but wound up not going. He lost a number of family members and for a very long time never spoke on the tragedy. Dancing offered an escape from the harsh reality he and others endured with respect to the People’s Temple massacre..


Boogaloo Dana

Boogaloo Dana

During our conversation Fayzo and Boogaloo Dana spoke about the ethnic make up of the dancers at that time. They both noted the scene was predominantly Black and eventually evolved to include other races.. The crossover so to speak happened during the late 70s early 80s as media attention was given to the Hip Hop scene emerging from New York City. Both Fayzo and Dana noted that throughout the 70s many were unaware of breakdancing/ bboying or what was going on in New York. Nor did they know how big that scene had become.  They talked about how New York’s Hip Hop scene integrated into what was going on in the Bay..

We conclude our interview by talking about pioneering women in the Bay Area’s early dance scene  and the accomplishments of other dance crews including Richmond’s Housing authority who would go on to be main choreographers for Michael Jackson.

Click the link below to download or Listen to the HKR Intv

Click the link below to download or Listen to the HKR Intv

Here’s pt1 of our Hard Knock Radio Interview


Here’s pt 2 of our Hard Knock Radio Interview