Clyde Evans Jr., adjunct professor of hip-hop dance, performing arts
Triangle Talks: What’s your story? Where are you from and when did you first start dancing?
Clyde Evans Jr.: I am originally from Trinidad and Tobago. I began dancing after migrating here with my parents back in the ‘80s and attended parochial school. During recess time, instead of playing games, we were allowed to dance. At the time, the dance that was featured as the hip-hop phenomenon was breakdancing, so that’s what we did, and I was a decent breaker even for third grade. Years later, M.C. Hammer was responsible for starting a dance phenomenon of his own called the running man. … It was the move to get, so I got it and then there was no turning back. I learned more and more hip-hop dancing and appeared on a national dance TV show called “Dancin’ on Air.” I began to dance hip-hop professionally at the age of 19. I traveled all over the world from Australia to Africa, Finland to Brazil, met all sorts of famous people — M. Night Shyamalan, Mark Wahlberg, Halle Berry, Jo and Jermaine Jackson, Lenny Kravitz — and appeared in a nationally televised Super Bowl commercial, BET’s “106 & Park” dance contest, and [was an extra] in a couple of major motion pictures. As a hip-hop dancer, I have entered into the professional entertainment world, and many more opportunities outside of dance have manifested beyond the dance floor.
TT: Can you explain what you did about teaching the flash mob at Penn’s Landing for “Step Up 3D”? How did you first learn about it? How much preparation did it entail? What were the practices like?
CE: A Drexel student happened to be working with a marketing company in the area whose client was Summit Entertainment, one of the production companies of the film. He simply asked if I’d be interested in being part of their international flash mob contest and that I’d be required to get a group of dancers together, for which I ended up asking several dancers from “Dancin’ On Air,” as the spring term at Drexel had just wrapped. The location was to be at Penn’s Landing with the two stars from the movie, Kathryn McCormick and Ryan Guzman, along with renowned [Los Angeles] choreographer Jamal Simms.
We prepared for over two weeks with two-hour sessions just to get it in our bodies and then to make it tight for the performance, for which we would use hats and gloves as costume.
Our practices went well, as everyone was psyched to do it, and then the choreographer came a few days before the performance and changed some of the steps. We had to make the changes and work double hard to get it ready in time for the show. It paid off because we won the contest and earned a premiere screening of the film with our friends and family a few days before it opened nationally.
Teaching the flash mob choreography for [the] motion picture “Step Up Revolution” was challenging, as the video that was given to me that contained the choreography was shot in a way that we had to reverse all the choreography in order to be in step with the choreography. As I learned it and tried to rehearse it with the video, I had to keep in mind that everything on screen was happening on the opposite side — challenging, especially since it was a type of movement meant for screen and differs from the traditional hip-hop that I teach here at Drexel.
TT: What was your career in dancing like? What type of dance do you perform and teach?
CE: My career in dance has been like a dream. It was always work but felt like a vacation. Touring and performing has allowed me to experience my life as a special guest. Always considered, privileged in many ways. Since I began performing in my late teens, I became accustomed to this performer’s lifestyle and the many privileges that went along with it; only once I stopped, the privileges began to stop as well. This adjustment is and has been the toughest. It would seem that my worth is connected only to what I do, and if I’m not doing it, if I’m not performing, then I’m nothing to those who once treated me as royalty. So it’s safe to say my career has a certain ebb and flow to it that is hindered by the availability of performances, let alone if I perform well. This is why artists talk about not missing their opportunity to break out or have their big break. I perform and teach five major forms of hip-hop dancing: poppin’, lockin’, breakin’, hip-hop and house.
TT: What is your favorite or most memorable story from your dancing career?
CE: My most memorable story from my dancing career has little to do with dance. I was returning from my summer dance appointment in Maine during tourist season when I was faced with having to sit in the middle seat for my flight back to Philly. Upon surveying the Maine Jetport, I spotted Willem Dafoe, who was also waiting to board the flight to Philly. Unbeknown to me, I’d be sitting right next to Mr. Dafoe. I remember telling him how uncomfortable it was to sit next to him as I basically tried not to geek out about who he was as everyone around us stared at him indirectly. Getting to chat with him was a shot in the arm for an aspiring actor, and to think I almost gave up my seat.
TT: What do you like most about dancing?
CE: I enjoy how people appreciate what I do. I am fulfilling part of my purpose for living and dancing, and teaching hip-hop, in my opinion, is a pretty cool and exciting way to do that.
TT: What brought you to Drexel?
CE: My friend who taught this program wanted to further his education abroad and suggested that I take over the program. As it turned out, [Miriam] Giguere, who heads the dance program at Drexel, and I knew each other from performing years earlier.
TT: What is your favorite thing to do in the city?
CE: My favorite thing to do in the city used to be dancing, but now as I get older, teaching at Drexel and eating Trinidadian food in West Philly!
Triangle Talks is a weekly column that highlights members of the Drexel community.