Liquid and digits
Liquid and digits is a type of gestural, interpretive, rave and urban street dance that sometimes involve aspects of pantomime. The term invokes the word liquid to describe the fluid-like motion of the dancer's body and appendages and digits to refer to illusions constructed with the dancer's fingers. Liquid dancing has many moves in common with popping and waving. The exact origins of the dances are uncertain, although they came out of either popping, raves, or both sometime from the 1970s to 1990s. The dance is typically done to a variety of electronic dance music genres from trance to drum and bass to glitch hop, depending on the dancer's musical taste.
Since the spontaneous rise and propagation of Liquid throughout the rave culture in the 1980s and early 1990s, the root origins of the dance have ultimately remained a source of contention between both those involved directly with the dance as well as those outside of the immediate culture. In fact, even the time frame is difficult to pinpoint. Sightings of the dance range all the way back to the early and mid 1970s. While some argue that the dance evolved spontaneously from combining elements in the rave culture, others still contend that the dance is merely an extension of existing ideas from other art forms. Scores of these artists (Funk Stylists, Glowstickers Contact Jugglers, Mimes, & The Unknown) attended raves regularly all throughout the 1980s and 1990s. In the wake of the decline of the original rave scene, liquid has become a standing part of a worldwide club culture and the underground street dancing movement.
B-boys and funk stylists generally contend that liquid dancing is a development of waving, a technique in popping. Liquid dancing covers many of the same fundamentals as popping and it is fully possible (and common) for dancers to combine the styles, further blurring the distinction between the two. The defining difference is liquid dancing concentrating on smooth movements while popping is characterized by jerky pops (hits) and contractions.
In 2000, a group of liquid dancers from throughout the northeastern United States formed the Liquid Pop Collective (LPC). The name later caused some confusion since some thought the LPC did a dance called "liquid popping" but the name was chosen because many members did both liquid and popping. In Philadelphia, they began performing at events run by Reflective Multimedia, a collective of DJs and visual artists. After performing for a bit, they noticed other people in the clubs who they did not know starting to do liquid and digits. Before this, those that were interested in liquid generally knew each other. The LPC was concerned that these newcomers to the dance did not have anyone teaching them. They thought about how funk styles flourished without any direct teachers and came to the conclusion that they needed to develop a standard vocabulary for the dance. Around this time, the LPC put a video (now available on YouTube) of one of the members, Eric, liquid dancing on Napster. The video spread and people wanted to learn the dance. So, the LPC decided to make an instructional video by the name of All Access Liquid and Digitz, Volume 01 (no other volumes were made) which defined the concepts that are the foundation of liquid and digits and had performances of four members. They sold about 2000 VHS tapes through their now-defunct website lpclabs.com and shipped to all over the world. LPC has since disbanded, though the instructional components are available at http://www.youtube.com/darkmattersquad
Techniques, concepts, and construction
Liquid dancers use a variety of techniques rhythmically strung together to create an illusion of continuous flow that corresponds to the music.
Hand flow is the most commonly used technique in Liquid dancing and simultaneously the easiest to grasp. It consists of curling the fingers of one hand and following them with the straight fingers of the opposite hand. The wrists, elbows, and shoulders may be involved to extend the motion. A Liquid dancer's personal style is defined by his or her individual approach to hand flow, and how it fits into their dance as a whole.
Rails, often a heavy focus in liquid, are characterized by the moving of the arms along a set path or "rail".
Waves maintain the illusion that a wave is passing through one's body by the isolation and alternating tensing and relaxing of one part of the body at a time at a steady speed in a constant direction.
Tracing is normally done in conjunction with waving. It is done by following the flow of the wave through one's body with their hand.
Contours are done by following the outline of an object, be it real or imaginary, with one's hand or hands.
This style maintains the illusion that one is pulling parts of their body through holes created by the positioning of other body parts, typically arms. An example of this would be holding one's shoulder to create a closed loop which the other arm goes through. These are performed at the same speed as the flow of the liquid and waves to maintain an illusion of continuity.
This technique is characterized by the hands moving independently of each other while maintaining the illusion of a fluid relationship between each other. This is typically accomplished by misaligning the hands but using the same finger motions as regular handflow.
Builds are identified by the manipulation of imaginary objects in a manner similar to pantomime. These moves can be combined with video editing to show the imaginary object being manipulated as the person dances.
Using one part of the body as a remote control for another is referred to as a remote. For example, lifting a hand and a leg in unison as if they are connected by a string is a remote.
Using one body part to create the illusion of applying a driving force to rotate another body part around a hinge. Typically done with a hand driving the opposite hand + forearm around the opposite elbow.
Some liquid practitioners commonly accentuate their dance with light emitting gear. Typically the gear will consist of either glowsticks, very bright LED keychain lights (such as the popular Photon brand), or white gloves under black light. When a dancer specializes in glowsticks, the dance often ceases to resemble liquid and is then referred to as glowsticking.
- Floasis: Liquid dance community with forums and tutorial videos
- The Liquid Digest: Liquid-related news, op-ed pieces, clips, and more.
- Liquid & Digitz Dance Repository: A collection of liquid and digitz tutorials.
- popular video of LPEric liquid dancing
- Dark Matter Squad: New organization supporting electronic music dance culture, specifically Liquid and Digitz dance styles. This site and DM comprises original members of the LiquidPop Collective