“The one thing I learned in terms of almost having my life taken away from me is that nothing is promised. But, also just to cherish things as much as you can…it sounds cliché, but tomorrow isn’t promised. I mean, the next 20 seconds aren’t even promised – everything happened so fast that I was just taken aback at how much things can change so quickly. There’s always going to be a point when things are crappy but there’s always something that you can admire and appreciate.”
“LIT”…”Turn Up”…”Amped”! In today’s urban vernacular these terms can have several meanings, depending on the context. With multiple definitions for a word and/or expression usually comes positive… and not so positive connotations. Let’s focus on a context that elicits a positive connotation: dancing. Regardless of the form, when the art of dancing is described as LIT you know you’re in for a spectacle… for better or worse 😉. she.lace often comes across dancers that are phenomenal. More often, we come across dance moves or sessions that are mind blowing. BUT how many forms of dance can you say, at its core, embody being LIT/turnt/amped? Well, if you’re thinking there aren’t any we’re about to “krumble” your doubts.
Now, despite us striving to always be the “sharpest knives in the drawer”… we must admit that she.lace can be hardheaded. How? Sometimes, even we need reminders of how women continuously defy assumed gender roles. What are we babbling about? We know women can dance, no debate. We didn’t know women…Krump! The aggression, visceral energy, power, level of strength, masculinity… the assumptions?! Well, if she.lace does nothing… the two things we do is clarify assumptions and shatter preconceived notions, that’s our “Gold Standard”. Actually, our models do that for us…we just convey the message. Introducing Monica!
“Girl Knucklehead, Knives, lil 40 they’re all versions of me, that I can’t always bring out in my everyday life, that come out when I’m most comfortable in a session or a battle. Yeah, they’re never separate they’re all me…they’re all coming from the same place. It’s just when different emotions come up, one is at the forefront.”
That’s what she.lace refers to as the “Gold Standard”. It’s that intangible force within all of us that can propel us forward, IF we choose to channel it. Monica has certainly channeled it, and you see it every time she gets ready to transform into Knives aka Girl Knucklehead. But, as Monica says “I have a lot of personas…” so she.lace is going to get you fully acquainted with @fernguully.
What’s the most common reaction you get when you tell people you Krump?
Monica: REALLY?! [laughs] It’s a lot of mixed responses, but definitely the one I get the most is “I can’t see you being actually physically prepared for that type of stuff.” But. it’s always good to show people up. I love it, I love the reaction when people don’t expect it from me. It’s almost priceless [laughs].
We would venture to say that part of them underestimating you, in terms of your physical prowess, is because you’re a woman.
Monica: Yes, for sure!
So, what is the biggest obstacle that you’ve had to, or continue to, overcome as a female Krump dancer?
Monica: Believe it or not, actually just having a voice. In terms of the dance, I feel like I’ve solidified myself in that way…people don’t really question it or anything like that. But just being taken seriously as a pioneer, or not even a pioneer but just as a leader in the Krump movement now in Toronto. There’s not a lot of us and I feel like I’ve travelled, I’ve learned from the greats and…just to have that voice and being heard as a leader has kind of been a struggle. But, it’s definitely paving the way for a lot of other woman I think…so, that’s actually, surprisingly, the one I encounter the most.
You being a pioneer, trailblazer and someone who’s definitely at the forefront of the movement here. And learning from the OGs who are very influential in the Toronto scene…how do you plan to enhance, impact and grow it?
Monica: Just keep doing what I’m doing. I’ve learned a lot [in the past] year just in terms of focusing on yourself, and the more you do for yourself the more you’re going to better the community that you’re a part of. So, I’ve kind of loosened up my grip in terms of worrying about other people and what they’re doing, and if they’re showing up. And it’s more now making sure I show up and making sure I rep, and making sure I’m there and accessible for people. Whether it be women or men, boys or girls I know I need to be there.
You’ve travelled internationally to compete, you’re well accomplished and respected within the Krump scene. What’s your greatest accomplishment thus far, and what’s next?
Monica: Greatest accomplishment thus far, that’s a tough one. I feel like everything I do is an accomplishment just because I need to be my biggest hype man. I’m proud of everything I’ve done. I think my biggest accomplishment today is taking a step into creating a fam, a Krump fam. So, just allowing myself to know that I’m worthy of mentoring other people around me. I have one little homie and that’s good enough for now, but just to take someone under my wing I feel like that’s better than winning any battle or competition just because I’m responsible for someone else’s dance journey.
Speaking of dance journeys, it only made sense we went to the place that offered the opportunity for such a talented person to excel.
Simply Swagg Dance Studio aka The FreshFactory. Or as Monica describes it, “It’s basically home for me…It’s also home to a lot other hip hop and Krump dancers, so this place will forever just feed the community.” As far as she.lace is concerned, that description of feeding the community is no hyperbole. Hip-Hop, Break Dance, House, Popping, Dancehall, Zumba and (of course) Krump are the dance forms taught in this facility. With that being stated, Simply Swagg is so much more than the disciplines taught in the professional grade dance studio. According to their Mission Statement:
“Instructors provide classes focused on the development of basic to advanced techniques, musicality, concepts, and grooves, which ensure that students not only understand the history, music, and movements that spawned different street styles, but provide a safe, welcoming space to develop students’ self-confidence, self-awareness, and self-worth…”
By all accounts, this is exactly what this community hub does. It’s a safe haven for youth from all walks of life to find a positive outlet to express themselves through dance. Owner/founder Paul Thurton and the entire #FreshFactory crew have taken their love for choreography and street dancing, and turned it into an urban dance studio. More importantly, a community staple that nurtures, educates and develops. What does she.lace suggest? Take a trip to Scarborough (just a little east of Scarborough Town Centre mall) and find yourself at 705 Progress Avenue, near McCowan Road. Once there, you’ll be greeted by the most hospitable and personable staff…you’ll love the graffiti style artwork in the dance studio that screams “Toronto”…then, you’ll receive top-notch instructions/lessons in both dance and life. And if you need any more convincing about the type of talent Simply Swagg cultivates, look no further than their YouTube channel. Or, watch the video above again haha!
“I teach anywhere, I’m so passionate about it that just give me a time and place and I’m there. I just want to spread the movement as much as I can, and do my part.”
Fun Fact: Monica is probably around 5 feet 3 inches tall, and wears size 4.5Y in sneakers. NEVERMIND stature, she’s a GIANT! Those power moves you saw her making are a direct reflection of the moves she makes in life. Art imitates life: Monica’s passion for Krump is gleaned from her passion for living. The result? A well-respected Krump dancer with international accolades who plays a vital role in the development of the Krump scene in Toronto. Perhaps even more importantly, she’s pushing Krump forward for women around the world. It’s Monica’s way of paying it forward. Her dance journey has been supported by some of the legends of Krump…now she’s taken it as her mission to mentor others, the real gold standard. From a near fatal car accident that required her to relearn the simplest of bodily functions, to coping with the loss of her father, to OWNING a stage with one of the co-creators of Krump. I guess we understand how she earned the monikers Knives and Girl Knucklehead. she.laces’s advice, by way of Monica: no matter what you do to get “LIT”, “turnt up” or “amped”… make sure you stay gold while doing it.