Storm on the dance floor

Storm on the dance floor


Storm on the dance floor

The highly talented international dancing legend Niels Robitzky ‘Storm’ crashed into the global stage in the early 80s.

 He represents the Hip-hop and Funk styles and is one of the leading artistes and pioneers in the field. The techniques of Popping, Locking and B-boying went on to make him a name to reckon with globally. In the 90s, he won almost every competition there was. He later formed the infrastructure for a lot of dance events happening today and teaches dance styles with a unique didactic concept all over the world.

Born in Germany in the late 60s, Niels Robitzky started dancing early in life. At the age of 14, he caught on to the styles of Bboying, Popping and Locking. The first tours he did for the Bravo Break Dance Sensation 84 was probably his first huge hit. In the late 80s, however, the big ticket ‘Breakdance’ died out but Storm continued studying various styles and hooked up with other B-boys and stayed creative and productive throughout the times when ‘Breaking’ was considered obsolete.

By 1991, his group, the Battle Squad, was one of the leading B-boy groups worldwide. In fact, it is primarily this group and a few others that helped in keeping the art of B-boying alive and strong. In 1991 and 1992, Storm and his Battle Squad won the International Battle of the Year.

Because of the struggle in times when B-boying was out of fashion, he decided to establish the Hip-hop culture in the theatre world. From 1992 onwards, he danced with a New York dance company called Ghettoriginal. He has performed at the Kennedy Centre in Washington and at the Lincoln Centre in New York. During the same period, he also hosted the Hip-Hop magazine’s ‘Freestyle’ on the German TV channel Viva.

In 1996, he decided to form a dance company in his hometown Berlin, which was called the Storm and Jazzy Project. He took the result of the project and performed in theatres around the world. Around the same time, he also wrote the book From Swipe to Storm, encapsulating the story of Breaking in Germany. In 2000, Storm decided to create a solo, called Solo for Two. It was shown all over the world in more than 50 different countries and 160 cities. In 2004, he starred in the German Hip-hop movie Status Yo, where he played the part of a gas station worker.

Storm has choreographed and directed for different theatres and institutions all over the world. He also choreographed for the opening ceremonies of the Expo 2000 in Hanover and the FIFA Soccer World Cup of 2006 in Germany. In 2004, he put together ‘The art of urban dance’, an informative didactic piece with 10 other dancers from Europe. This show has toured around the world, and with the support of the Goethe Institute has also extensively toured the Middle East and Asia. In 2010, he starred in the dance movie Berlin Dance Battle 3D, and played himself.

Storm currently teaches at different dance festivals across the world. Since 2001, he has been teaching annually at the Impulstanz Festival in Vienna. He has, over the years, developed his own methods of teaching which are based on the original concepts of Locking, Popping and B-boying styles. He is currently working on a book, whose working title is ‘The Manual’, that outlines his views on dance and its structures, including the philosophy behind it. 

Talking to Sunday Herald during his recent trip to India, Storm spoke about his struggle to keep his dance styles alive. “The hardest years were in the mid-80s, after the Breakdance wave faded out, and our style was considered obsolete. By the end of that decade, the dancers who still had their heart into it were connected, and the scene grew constantly. This time, it was rather culturally manifested and Hip-hop was backing up its elements. For me, personally, it was not a question of keeping it alive. I did what I loved to do. Keeping it alive sounds like a struggle. It was a side-effect that we couldn’t foresee. We expressed ourselves and inspired others.” 

Going on to talk about his best work, he quips, “Myself.... I shape myself every day! But seriously, I’d say, of the dance pieces I created, I find ‘Geometronomics’ the most satisfying.” Talking of destinations for dance performances, he says, “The country that appreciates dance the most is Brazil. The country that has the best infrastructure and the most artistes of our field is France.” 

Talking extensively of his Indian experience, Storm says, “I always like to get close to people when I travel. When I work, it has to be in an environment where life is shared. That is quite easy in India. I guess because it is so usual here anyway. Not in other countries! I like the approach most people have towards dance. It mainly contains the ‘play’ element still. Once someone gets really deep into dance, it becomes very serious, especially when done professionally. So many things are on the line!

 But one should never lose that ‘play’ element, since it keeps the vitality in culture. I worked at Dance India Dance with dancers from Attakkalari, with Black Ice and other B-boy crews, and with dancers from Bangalore. They all knew how to play, change the rules, how to cheat and still make sure the work was getting done. Working in India is beautiful because of its people. I wish there isn’t so much pollution and that I’m able to deal with Indian food better.”

Quiz him on his plans for the future and he says, “I am writing a book on Hip-hop philosophy. At the same time, I have a research group at the ARTez University of Arnhem in the Netherlands that is doing research work on urban dance and public space. My aim is to be able to do what I love for the rest of my life. The notion of working to make money destroys my spirit. If it feels like work, it stresses me. I have a son who is six years old now and I need to be there for him. So, pretty soon, I will drop some of my travel plans and look forward to projects that keep me around him.”