FARMINGTON — A former Farmington resident who has found success teaching and performing the urban dance style known as "pop and lock" will be returning to Farmington on Friday to offer a dance workshop at the Danz Force Gym Force studio.
Wes Austin, whose professional name is Poppin John, has been traveling the world teaching and performing professionally, and he hopes to share his dance expertise with the community.
Pop and lock, which is related to breakdancing, refers to a type of dancing involving the quick tensing and releasing of muscles. Some dances also produce the illusion of a robot, or of the body being underwater or "waving," by using pauses and rolling motions. Pop and lock is often danced to pop-funk, or electronic-sounding "techno" music.
Austin said he first became interested in this type of dance when he was a seventh grader at Tibbetts Middle School.
"I saw guys doing it at my first middle school dance, then a bunch of friends and I started picking it up," he says. "Groups of kids would meet at the skating rink and have dance battles with each other."
While most of his friends just danced for fun, Austin decided to make his hobby a career. After graduating from Farmington High School in 2003, he moved to Albuquerque, then to El Paso where he started working professionally as a pop and lock instructor and performer in 2007.
His jobs have included dancing and teaching on Carnival cruise ships, and he's also been hired to perform and teach dance classes in Europe.
"I just did what I could do to make money with the dancing," he said. "But the best thing I ever did for my career was to make YouTube videos. I uploaded my first video in 2004. Dancing is trendy, and you can get a lot of views. Once I did that, people really started to notice me."
Earlier this year, Austin was invited to go to Denmark to dance for 4 months on a theater show that was broadcast live on Danish television. While in Denmark, he met the Robotboys, a pop and lock duo who had won 2008's "Denmark's Got Talent" show. The three worked together to come up with a dance routine for a YouTube video that received two million views within two days.
Austin recently re-located to Los Angeles, Calif., where he has signed with Clear Talent Agency. In addition to being in commercials, auditioning for dance jobs and networking with other L.A. dancers, he operates a subscription-based website on which he offers online pop and lock classes.
Despite taking his talent out to the world, Austin, whose parents still live in Farmington, says he remains a New Mexican at heart, and enjoys coming back to his home state to share his talent.
"The Mayor of Carlsbad brought me there recently to talk to the kids and sign autographs," he said. "I'm definitely a New Mexican. I grew up here, and I really enjoy coming back home to share."
Austin says pop and lock can be difficult, but it is definitely learnable.
"You've really got to put a lot of time in to practicing to get your body to move that way, and there are no shortcuts to learning it," he said. "It's a really fun class and a fun dance to learn, and people will get to see the techniques demonstrated. You can really surprise yourself once you have the right tools."
During the workshop, in addition to providing tools to help students learn the difficult movements and to get their muscles in tune with the techniques, Austin will also perform a short pop and lock show.
Sheila Mobley, owner of Danz Force Gym Force, said she's amazed at how Austin is able to teach this very difficult dance style.
"I really like watching him teach," she said. "He can teach anyone, regardless of age or ability, and he has all the patience in the world. My jaw drops to the floor every time I watch him dance - he's just so fluid."
What: Poppin John’s Pop and Lock Workshop.
When: 5:30 to 7 p.m. Friday, young beginners; 7 to 8 p.m. teens and adults. Classes are open to the public, and no experience is needed.
Where: Danz Force Gym Force, 280 Browning Parkway, Farmington.
RSVP: Call 320-3310, or visit the Dance Force Gym Force Facebook site.
More info: To see Poppin John dance, search “Robotboys feat. Poppin John” on YouTube. To sign up for Poppin John’s online classes, visit . Visit the Poppin John SBK LXD Facebook site for more information.