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Krump it up

WL resident hopes to spread love of krump dancing


Years ago, West Linn resident Tyler Barker was watching the popular television show “So You Think You Can Dance” when one contestant showed off a street dance style called “popping.”

Barker was transfixed.

TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Tyler Barker's love for dancing began with an episode of 'So You Think You Can Dance,' and eventually led to his discovery of krumping.

“That,” he thought, “is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen.”

Dancing ran in the family — Barker’s sister was trained in classical dance — and he had always been blessed with a certain sense of rhythm. But that first exposure to popping marked the beginning of a journey Barker never could have seen coming.

Now 24, Barker is enjoying a burgeoning career in a different form of dance: “krump.”

Krump, which has Christian roots and stands for “Kingdom Rise Uplifting Mighty Praise,” was created in the early 2000s by two men in South Central Los Angeles. The dancers, who went by the stage names “Tight Eyez” and “Mijo,” were hoping to provide a new outlet for kids in troubled inner city neighborhoods.

“For them, it was either play sports or join a gang,” Barker said. “They didn’t want to do that, they wanted to dance. So they started creating this style ... going through so much turmoil and having that much pain in your life, you have to have a release, and that’s really where krump comes from.”

The style has evolved greatly over the last decade and a half, but it is still grounded in the idea of pure release, of channeling boundless energy into a controlled explosion of movement.

“The idea was that God is giving you this energy and you’re manipulating it, so you could grab energy, you could throw energy, you could pull energy,” Barker said. “You could make energy travel through your body.”

It’s a form that is frequently misunderstood, and even Barker himself scoffed when he was approached by a Portland krump dancer at an event shortly after graduating from West Linn High School. Buoyed by that episode of “So You Think You Can Dance,” Barker had spent much of his spare time in high school watching YouTube videos and teaching himself the art of popping in front of his mirror.

After his friends convinced him to show off his skills in public, Barker suddenly found himself face-to-face with one of the pioneers of Portland’s krump scene. Though Barker was skeptical, the man told him that krumping had changed over the years.

“Let me show you,” he said.

All of a sudden, popping was no longer the coolest thing Barker had ever seen. Krumping was.

“I’m doing that,” he thought to himself.

He spent the summer learning the art of krumping, but then it was off to college in California, where practicing and competing for the golf team took up most of his time. He danced at night whenever he could, but by his own recollection, “I didn’t take it seriously.”

That changed after Barker graduated, when he decided to pursue dancing as more than just a hobby.

“There’s what I call ‘practicing’ and ‘practicing with intent,’” Barker said. “Recently, just now, I’ve broken through a barrier where my level of talent has allowed me to really showcase at some awesome events.”

Those include music festivals like the popular “What The Festival” in Oregon, as well as exhibitions at private parties. On Saturdays, Barker teaches classes at Portland’s Center Space Studio.

“I never thought I would actually get here,” Barker said. “But you keep working at it, like I did it just purely out of loving to dance, and all of these opportunities just kept coming up.”

Though the circumstances are much different, Barker can relate to the sense of release Tight Eyez and Mijo were seeking when they invented krumping.

“In golf, I always had to be super calm and really calm myself down, otherwise I would play terribly,” Barker said. “Socially, you’ve always got to hold yourself within boundaries, because that’s how it is. There’s all these boundaries to life, and when I’m dancing — especially with krump, and I think that’s why I was attracted to it so much — (there’s) the ability to just completely release.

“For that two or three minutes, you can do anything. There’s no limit, no barrier.”

Moving forward, Barker’s dream is to help spread that joy to others.

“I’d really like to franchise dance studios across the country (where) the studio is based specifically for the styles in that area, but the studio also helps underprivileged children and brings them in to use dance to help express emotion,” Barker said. “I’d love to do a partnership with clinicians and psychologists for little kids, and use those dance studios as a home to learn to understand your emotions.

“What dance has given to me, I’d love to give to way more people.”

Patrick Malee can be reached at 503-636-1281 Ext. 106 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

KRUMP LINGO

Call-out: One dancer challenging another

Battle: A face-off between dancers

Biter: A dancer who watches battles to steal ideas for moves

Kill-off: A set of moves so exciting that the crowd ends the session

SOURCE: Wikipedia