Punking, later on referred to as whacking, is a street dance from the underground gay community of Los Angeles that was developed in the early 1970s. The dance borrows inspiration from various sources such as silent films, movies, film stars and starlets (a la Greta Garbo, Fred Astaire, etc.) Musicals, Hollywood, Dramas, Cartoons, the photography book the Four Fabulous Faces, and their own personal life. The dance is characterized by acting/behavior, sharp striking movements and posing, extreme usage of space, athleticism, intricate musicality, and complete dominance of the music. The origin of the name Punking, derives from the urban slang term 'Punk' which was a derogatory term for gay men. The term Punking was coined by legendary DJ from Ginos II and Punking originator, Michael Angelo Harris, who used the word Punk as a form of empowerment to name what him and the collective group of men that were developing and creating in notable underground gay clubs such as Paradise Ballroom, Ginos, Ginos II. Once the dance started to further develop, the originators used the word 'Whack' which means to strike with force or a sharp blow, borrowed from the onamonapias of the 1960s TV series Batman, to describe how they were executing their movement. The terms 'punk' 'pose' and 'whack' became their way of loosely explaining the dance to outsiders who were interested in the dance they were developing.
Throughout the early development of the style, it is suspected to originate from posing, which was simply freezing in a pose to the music from the early 1970s. It was a group of men who took posing and began to develop the dance into what would be referred to as Punking and then Whacking. These men were Andrew Frank, Arthur Goff, Tinker Toy, Billy Starr Estrada, Lonny Carbajal. Manoel (Viktor Manoel), Tommy Mitchell, Faye Raye, Kenny "China Doll", with Michael Angelo Harris serving as the innovative DJ for the art form and movement. Through their exposure of the style in various clubs and contests throughout LA many already famous street dancers and choreographers would be introduced to the underground style, Original Locker and star of the TV series What's Happening Fred Berry Mr. Penguin or Rerun, Director/Choreographer/Singer Toni Basil, Original Locker and Star of NBC's The Big Show, Breakin', Adolfo "Shabba Doo" Quinones. Locking Pioneer, featured dancer of The Big Show, and Breakin' Movies, Ana "Lollipop" Sanchez, jazz dancer Dallace Ziegler, Choreographer Bill Goodson, and many others, exposing the dance throughout numerous high-profile TV, stage and screen productions and appearances. As the dance grew popular among those outside of the collective and gay clubs, the dance began to be referred to exclusively as Whacking to avoid the negative connotation associated with the word Punk. Adolfo "Shabba Doo" Quinones, was one of the notable "straight" dancers who learned from the creators of the style and created his own style based out of blending it with locking, soul dance, salsa, and martial arts adopting the character of the debonair male lead and machismo behavior often portrayed in films. His style in particular became very popular among straight men, exposing the dance to an even wider audience.
Many of the originators of Punking, went on the expose the dance through their work and TV appearances on programs such as the 1970s TV show Soul Train and The Big Show as well as with several artists such as Toni Basil, Grace Jones, Diana Ross David Bowie, to name a few. Today the original style of Punking has since faded from public view due to several of its originators dying and has now evolved into what is referred to mainly Whacking. As of today, the only known remaining originator of Punking, is dancer/choreographer Viktor Manoel.
This dance is very action orientated, constant momentum flowing throughout, highly charged energy, and is extremely emotionally driven with a wide range of emotions, both internal and external, subtle and overt, constantly flowing throughout the dance a la a silent film which differs from the fashion inspired dance Vogue from NYC. The style consists of three main elements loosely referred to punking, posing, and whacking. Punking is considered the essence and storytelling element of the dance. According to Michael Angelo, since society referred to them as "punks", the dance that was being developed should be referred to as Punk-ing. Posing was simply a frozen behavior similar to a screenshot from a scene from a movie. Lastly Whacking which simply means to strike with force, was the sharp striking actions that were made with their arms and various parts of the body. Collectively, these elements make up the dance Punking. The dance also borrows inspiration from many of its originators own personal influences such as The Fabulous Four Faces, Silent film, Musicals, Gymnastics, Ice skating, Bugs Bunny cartoons, Bruce Lee, Mexican Folkloric Ballet and many other sources. Other key components: Travel and constant movement, fluid, smooth, footwork, a la an ice skater, Extreme usage of space and movement, jumps, leaps, turns, runs, very little to no floor, dissecting musicality. According To Viktor Manoel
"The Word Punk is an Insult in Urban Dictionary ( it means Fag ) and because All of Us that Started the Style of Dance Were Punks ! The Description when they saw us was ! Oh ! Their just Punks and they are Punking! So there you Have it." "........that was the First Initial Word Used.. Then in the Straight Clubs it Started to be called Whacking, Females have never really had a Problem with Gay Men, it's the Threat of a Male From another Male that uses Descriptions such as " PUNK"
According to the book Writing Dance in The Age of Postmodernism, Basil cites that although the creators of Punking knew Locking, they were interested in creating their own style taking the embroidery of Locking and the freeze frame points and wrist rolls transforming them into a gesture that moved decoratively around the head and incorporated campy poses that reference movie stars and poses from Vogue magazine .
During the early development and evolution of the style. one of the important factors that gave the dance its aesthetic was its distinct music. Created by Michael Angelo Harris, Harris would often take music of the time ranging from soul, disco, acid jazz, and more and refashion them by speeding up the RPM of the instrumental breaks of the song to create the dance own soundtrack. This distinct way of DJing was a covert way, of ensuring that some of the famous choreographers at the time who came to the clubs to see what they were developing were not able to really see what the dancers were doing. This sped up music also gave the dance its distinct jump cut rhythm, but challenged the dancers to conquer or dominate the sound, instead of the sound dominating the dancer which gave the dance its distinctive edge. Harris was noted for using his platform to not only protect the collective group of men and what they were creating purely underground and primarily gay, but also becoming one of the most innovative DJs to emerge from Hollywood's community. After Gino's, and Gino's II, Harris would go on to host the midnight show at Peanuts which included many notable performers from Hollywood's gay scene including Viktor Manoel, who was known as the androgynous "Manoel", who would lip-sync and perform at the midnight show. Peanuts become one of the hottest clubs in LA throughout the 80's especially among famous performers and singers.
After the era of Gino's, Ginos II, and Peanuts, many of the notable architects of the artform passed away from various causes, during the height of the AIDS epidemic of the 80's and 90*s. It is noted that several of Michelangelo's records have been distributed and circulated among his friends in throughout San Francisco.
- Urban Dictionary
- Websters Dictionary
- Writing Dance in the Age of Postmodernism