/Don Campbell, Hip-Hop Dance Innovator, Is Dead at 69

Don Campbell, Hip-Hop Dance Innovator, Is Dead at 69

Don Campbell invented locking, a method that finally permeated hip-hop dance, as a result of he had a tough time doing the robotic.

He was working towards it with mates in his faculty cafeteria in 1970 when he forgot the subsequent step. He locked his joints and froze for an instantaneous, dramatically accentuating the dance and fascinating his spectators.

That transfer grew to become the cornerstone of Campbellocking, later shortened to locking, a type of dance that presaged popping, b-boying and different kinds usually collected beneath the label hip-hop.

Mr. Campbell did not go straight from the cafeteria to center stage; he spent 1970 and much of 1971 honing his technique in discos and nightclubs in Southern California, clad in colorful attire that helped him stand out in the crowd. Night after night, he developed a flair that wowed spectators, dominated dance contests and in time attracted a group of talented dancers who adopted his style.

Locking, based on several central movements including Mr. Campbell’s signature locking of his joints, is a personal expression with moves that can vary from dancer to dancer. Mr. Campbell’s style involved interacting with the audience through stylized hand slaps, pointing and tricks with his hat; intricate footwork and rapid, sinuous upper body motions; and acrobatics, like knee drops and perilous swan dives, performed seemingly without effort.

“Don taught me how to use the light, to dance in front of the judges, to slap the floor like you’re trying to break the wood, the showmanship,” Mr. Berry said. “Once you did that, you couldn’t help but win.”

In 1971 Mr. Campbell appeared for the first time on “Soul Train,” shortly after the show moved to Los Angeles from Chicago. He danced with Damita Jo Freeman, and they stole the show.

Dancing became Mr. Campbell’s full-time pursuit, and his parents asked him to leave their home because he did not have a paying job. He was homeless for a time, and often sneaked into a movie theater to sleep.

Mr. Campbell hoped to make a living from locking, but that desire cost him “Soul Train.” Mr. Berry said that lockers were effectively banned from the show after they asked to be paid.

Mr. Campbell did not have a next step in mind, but Toni Basil, a choreographer and dancer he knew from the club scene, suggested that he form a dance troupe.

In 1973 Mr. Campbell, Mr. Berry and Ms. Basil formed the Campbellockers with Adolfo Quinones, Bill Williams, Leo Williamson and Greg Pope. Their first television appearance was that year on “Roberta Flack: The First Time Ever,” an ABC special.

The original Lockers broke up in 1977 when the other members left to pursue other opportunities. (Mr. Berry played Rerun on the sitcom “What’s Happening!!”; Ms. Basil, who was also a singer, recorded a version of the song “Mickey” that became a No. 1 hit on the Billboard pop singles chart in 1982.)

Donald Odell Campbell was born in St. Louis on Jan. 8, 1951, to James and Amanda (Reed) Campbell. His father was a mechanic, his mother was a homemaker, and as a young man he was an avid painter and portraitist.

The family moved to California in the early 1960s, and Mr. Campbell went to Manual Arts High School in South Central Los Angeles.

He discovered dance as a student at Los Angeles Trade Technical College, first approaching dancers as subjects for sketches and then joining their ranks himself.

“He was so terrible at all the dances he tried to learn that he created his own,” his son said.

In addition to his son Dennis, he is survived by his wife, MaryAnne Danehy; another son, Donny Jr.; a daughter, Delorianne Campbell; three brothers, James Jr., Reggie and Virgil; a sister, Shelia Campbell; and five grandchildren.

Even as Mr. Campbell sought to teach his dance to the world, he emphasized that it should be a form of personal expression rather than the rote copying of specific steps.

Source link Nytimes.com

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