(image: Minke Pettersson)
The Pigeons Crew is a name that certainly triggers curiosity. How did you come together, and how did you chose that particular name?
We’re often asked that question. The Pigeons Crew was formed during dance lessons at the HipHopHuis,
where the same group always took part in the same freestyle classes, which were given by Shay. In those lessons we quickly bonded; there was a click between the various members of the group. As a result, we also went dancing together outside the classes, elsewhere in the city – especially on the forecourt in front of Rotterdam Centraal station. That’s where the story starts – we danced a lot outside. One day, one of the crew came with a funny photo of a group of pigeons, and a link was made – in the sense that ‘we’re a bit like these pigeons, who claim their space in the city’. So the name started as a joke, but we’ve become known by it now – we’ve taken part in battles both at home and abroad, and now we’re one of the best-known crews in the country. So we’re sticking with The Pigeons Crew.
How would you describe your style? What or who inspires you?
Freestyling means that you don’t follow a fixed choreography; it’s more about improvisation. Many of the crew members have their own style – popping or B-boy for example. It’s important that you master the basics of your style, so that you can develop further from there. I first took lessons in popping, so that I could get to grips with the basics and the foundations. And that’s what we did in Shay’s classes. The great thing is that we’ve been together right from the start and have been able to see how everybody has developed, as artists and individuals.
You’re based in Rotterdam. What are the positives about the city as a street style dancer (and a resident)? What are the good places for you? And what could be improved?
I live in Rotterdam, and what I really like about the city is that it’s home to so many different cultures, and there’s increasing respect for one another. There’s a growing sense of mutual awareness, for example about discrimination and how to tackle it. You have to respect one another, no matter what you do, whether you’re a cleaner, or a dancer, or a lawyer – and there’s an increasing balance in Rotterdam.
The new sculpture of a young woman of colour (Moments Contained van Thomas J Price, red.) in front of Centraal Station – to me that’s also a positive thing, an artwork that makes me feel represented.
Something that could be better is the support offered to youths. Many young people don’t know what to do with their lives, and much more could be done in that area – more places, more counseling, more activities.
Conditions are generally good for dancers. There are certainly good venues around the city, also outdoors – that’s where we started to dance. But now we’re more adult and professional, so we want to train more seriously – in a hall – but we do run into problems. The fact is there are not that many halls, and those that are available are often expensive. We can use the HipHopHuis, sometimes the SKVR, or we train with the coaches of the crew – but not always; and that’s despite the fact that the city wants to stimulate various cultures. That’s a real pity if you want to grow, which is why we want to set up our own place – where we can train, and others too.
Spike Lee made Do the Right Thing in 1989, but the film touches on many issues that are still relevant – how richer people ‘push’ poorer people out of old districts, racism and police violence, how life in the city is getting warmer and warmer, and what that does to people. Are there things there that you recognize?
Yes, racism is certainly a theme that we recognize, and it’s good that the film is being screened – so that people can find out what we have to deal with. Racism is deeply engrained in society – though it is declining, and it’s increasingly discussed openly.
And indeed, finding a house in Rotterdam is difficult, certainly as a dancer. If you’re young you want to invest more in your career, and sometimes that doesn’t leave much time, money or space to be too preoccupied with housing.
And, last but not least, since we’re a film festival after all: music is very important in Do the Right Thing, and so too is dance. Is there a film that you’d like to recommend?
No film springs to mind immediately, but it would be great if there was a film that showed what women have to deal with and what they face when walking on the street late at night. They’re still not safe at night – I myself prefer not to train, or even get to the snack-bar around the corner, in the evenings. If such a film doesn’t exist, it should be made.