Quinn Wharton

This Dancer Uses Waacking to Teach Self-Empowerment

When Samara Cohen signed up for her first waacking class at Broadway Dance Center in 2004, she had no idea that it would change her life—and help create her persona, Princess Lockerooo.

"My first waacking teacher, Brian 'Footwork' Green, was the only person teaching it in New York and is responsible for initiating the resurgence," she says of the style, which originated in gay clubs in California during the 1970s. "He introduced me to my mentor, 'Soul Train' legend Tyrone Proctor, and I fell in love with the dance."

Since then, Cohen has traveled to more than 27 countries to teach, judge battles and, of course, perform. She recently spoke to Dance Magazine about her waacking journey.

Becoming Princess Lockerooo: "My character is the duality that lives inside me—half superhero, half Hollywood starlet, with a dash of badass New Yorker."

Watching waacking's resurgence: "When I started, there was not one waacking video on YouTube, and New York didn't have waacking events or competitions. I arrived on the scene at the forefront of the resurgence and watched it go global."

Prepping for battle: "To get ready I review my power moves, practice in the clothes I will wear, and research my competitors and the judges if I can. Once I'm at the venue, I always try my shoes out on the floor. In my early battling days, I would run laps in my heels just to be sure."

Honoring the originators: "Waack To The Future is my international dance battle event. It raises money for Dancers Responding to AIDS. I chose this in honor of the originators of waacking who have passed due to AIDS."

When she's not waacking: "I'm in an off-Broadway musical, Oscar at The Crown. I'm also the lead correspondent and co-founder of 'Let's Shake It Up TV,' a social justice news show."

Finding the right costume: "My mom is what you call a real New York artist, so I grew up in a very free environment with no shortage of crafty projects. I make and design about 80 percent of my costumes. Sometimes I hear a song and instantly visualize the look. Other times, I'll see a must-have item that inspires me. I'll either purchase it or find a way to make it, then build a dance act around it."

Why the look matters: "Makeup, hair and clothing are everything! Waacking was inspired by classic movie stars like Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich and Marilyn Monroe."

It's more than movement: "I use waacking to teach self-empowerment. The history is a part of that. The originators endured pain and suffering, and created their own expression which allowed them to be themselves."

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Clockwise from top left: Photo by Loreto Jamlig, Courtesy Ladies of Hip-Hop; Wikimedia Commons; Photo by Alexander Iziliaev, Courtesy Pennsylvania Ballet; Natasha Razina, Courtesy State Academic Mariinsky Theatre; Photo by Will Mayer for Better Half Productions, Courtesy ABT

The 10 Biggest Dance Stories of 2019

What were the dance moments that defined 2019? The stories that kept us talking, week after week? According to our top-clicked articles of the year, they ranged from explorations of dance medicine and dance history, takedowns of Lara Spencer and companies who still charge dancers to audition, and, of course, our list of expert tips on how to succeed in dance today.

We compiled our 10 biggest hits of the year, and broke down why we think they struck a chord:

Christopher Duggan, Courtesy Nichols

I Am a Black Dancer Who Was Dressed Up in Blackface to Perform in La Bayadère

On Instagram this week, Misty Copeland reposted a picture of two Russian ballerinas covered head to toe in black, exposing the Bolshoi's practice of using blackface in the classical ballet La Bayadère. The post has already received over 60,000 likes and 2,000 comments, starting a long overdue conversation.

Comments have been pouring in from every angle imaginable: from history lessons on black face, to people outside of the ballet world expressing disbelief that this happens in 2019, to castigations of Copeland for exposing these young girls to the line of fire for what is ultimately the Bolshoi's costuming choice, to the accusations that the girls—no matter their cultural competence—should have known better.

I am a black dancer, and in 2003, when I was 11 years old, I was dressed up in blackface to perform in the Mariinsky Ballet's production of La Bayadère.


Here's the First Trailer for the "In the Heights" Movie

Lights up on Washington Heights—because the trailer for the movie adaptation of the hit Broadway musical In the Heights has arrived. It's our first look into Lin-Manuel Miranda's latest venture into film—because LMM isn't stopping at three Tony awards, a Grammy award, and an Emmy.

Enter Our Video Contest