The Oakland Boogaloo & Walter “Sundance” Freeman

When I was in high school (it was probably 1982 or 83), I learned about a performance in Oakland featuring local tap dancers. I was eager to attend, and I thought I might even see some of my fellow tap students from class. It was a bit of an evening out, so I dressed up in my leopard print skirt with high heels (picture Madonna in the early 1980s). About half way through the show, another group was announced. They were The Gentlemen of Production, and they did something completely different. . . what is now referred to as the Oakland Boogaloo (view video clip). I was so excited to see them dance, and I recognized quite a bit from my research on isolations as I was developing my format. But, I wanted to learn more!

As soon as the show was over, I ran back stage and made a beeline for the group. I rushed over to them but then composed myself to politely say, “I loved watching you guys perform. Who is your director?” Well, they all turned around and stared down at me. . . for several seconds. . . several very long seconds. Imagine walking into someone’s private clubhouse uninvited, and the resident someones are not happy about the intrusion. I felt a bit like Little Red Riding Hood facing a whole bunch of big bad wolves. Right as I started to think, “Maybe I should run for it”, one young man stepped around from behind the others and said “Who the *bleep* wants to know?” Walter “Sundance” Freeman was the young man who stepped forward, and he took pity on me and listened to what I had to ask. He agreed to work with me, so I took lessons with him during my junior and senior years of high school. . . studying many of the funk styles: popping, locking, boogaloo, etc. (view Walter boogaloo video clip).

Walter and I became friends and have kept in contact throughout the years. He is a wonderful person and incredibly talented. You may be most familiar with his tap dancing career. He was a featured tap dancer in River Dance on Broadway (view video clip here).


Images: Walter “Sundance” Freeman