For years, he has spent long weekend making lino look spring-loaded. Where some breakdancers carve out their space in a circle a like long-limbed figure skater, Hereford b-boy Dan Ovel has always exploded in to it, a snarling ball of energy at war with the floor.
Now ‘Didge’ Ovel, hugely-respected on the UK breakdance scene, is changing tracks.
Working with contemporary dance company Harnisch-Lacey he combines with free-runners and dancers for a high-octane piece that uses a gymnastic ‘airtrack’ – a blue strip that lies on the floor, propelling the performers skyward and giving their backflips a little extra pop.
Currently running a Four Elements of Hip Hop summer school in Hereford (that’s breakdance, graffiti, DJ’ing and MC’ing – if you didn’t know, now you know) we caught up with Dan for a quick Q&A about his new show, and the next generation of Hereford B-Boys.
For more information on Dan’s unique summer school, or any of his other breakdance classes, visit the Dirty Feet page here.
Tell us a bit about Bounce?
Bounce is a show about the effects of climate change, we use the blue airtrack (aka bouncy floor ting) as firstly something to do crazy shiz on, but it also represents the rising see levels (very artistic and all).
I got involved with the company, Harnisch Lacey Dance Theatre, around five or six years ago after auditioning and getting the job - and the artistic director Sandra has never looked back! I've even been promoted to rehearsal director for the last 3 years! I've worked with them on at least one project every year since, including Spin, Sublime (a dope 360 film), TAN and now Bounce.
What’s was it like working with the airtrack?
The airtrack is so much fun, I personally wanted to just practice flips and tricks on it all day long but of course we had to make a show so was given a set amount of time each day to experiment.
They are usually used for tumbling in gymnastics to gain height on quick jumps/flips, so when we came to creation and started lifting and throwing each other on it, we had a few difficulties, mainly balance and sturdiness, as you can imagine with a person standing upright on my shoulders whilst standing on what is effectively a big air bed. But like the pros we are, we found ways around it and it worked spot on in the end, well at least no major injuries.
What was the toughest move/sequence you had to do for it?
The toughest move I had to do is maybe the Double Didge, It's a move I made up, which I roll backwards on to my back then bounce and spin twice in the air before landing back onto my back.
Damn, any injuries?
We had a minor knee injury with one of the dancers but he survived and dosed up on ibuprofen for the show.
Where can people see it?
The show is an outdoor-style piece for festivals and any other cool events. Tour is currently being booked for next summer’s festival run so unfortunately you will have to wait until then to see it.
Last year we toured TAN - it's a theatre show that tells the story of some Welsh activists that blew up an old military base in Pwelli, in protest against the phasing out of the Welsh language. Ironically none of the three dancers in the piece are Welsh and Sandra is German. It was insanely physically and tough to get through without vomiting in the wing after, but it was great fun - I had a part in the piece in which I had to jump and dive into a ramp for about three minutes straight.
How does the crowd reactions doing a piece like Bounce compare to performing on stage?
We performed it for a crowd of primary school kids, they absolutely loved it, they especially loved the flips and when we turn the airtrack upright and one of the dancers (Tamsin) climbs up and a cross it, they said they found that exciting but was very scared for her.
Which Power Ranger did you want to be when you were younger?
I was a huge Tommy (Green) fan when I used to watch Power rangers, I actually cried when he died. But then he came back as the White ranger so all was dandy in the end!
You teach breaking and parkour to summer school classes – does every kid walk in a want to backflip?
I teach weekly classes around Herefordshire as well as run holiday schools, I'm currently running a week-long summer school in which the kids learn all four elements of hip hop, I also throw some parkour and beat boxing in the mix just to make it 110% cray (ed note: “crazy”)!
The kids usually want to front flip first as they think it's easier, little do they know it's about 10 times harder than a backflip. The kids absolutely buzz when they learn a new move or flip and so do I, it's great seeing them improve, they are like sponges so they learn super quick.
A lot of them were battling at a breakdance competition I ran on Saturday at the Venue – it was an under-16s 3 vs 3 battle and an adult 2 vs 2 in which the winners will be flown out to Nimes in France to compete against some of the best dancers in Europe.
For more on breaking in Hereford, contact Dan through his website here, or on Facebook here