Underground: Spring

Underground: Spring

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We begin our conversation reminiscing. “I think I’ve been dancing before I could walk,” Mathur explains with a gentle coo in his voice. “I grew up around music. There was always music playing in the house because of my parents. Dad loved musicals, and so we’d listen to lots of Andrew Lloyd Webber. I just grew up naturally wanting to perform.” It wasn’t until high school, however, that Mathur found his calling as a dancer. “When I was in high school, probably year 10 or 11, the school offered break dance as a school sport. So when other students were off playing soccer or cricket, I was learning how to b-boy.” 

As a student at Melbourne High he was introduced to break dancing legend Arch Ilias. “Do you know Archie? He’s probably one of the biggest in the b-boy scene in Australia. He’s been around forever. He’s one of the founding members of Wickid Force. Those guys have been b-boying for years. So he was my first teacher. I had no idea how fortunate I was.” With the influx of b-boy crews in Melbourne that followed, it wasn’t long before Mathur belonged to one such crew himself. “I started getting more serious when I joined my friend’s crew. That’s when I was fully thrown into this world of street dance that I had no idea about. And from there I met everyone.”

Mathur’s big break into the industry, however, was fought with the determination to both capitalise on his natural talents professionally and to push his own personal boundaries as a dancer. “I’m not gonna say it’s easy,” he explains, “but I think it’s just about taking every opportunity that comes your way, you know? My big break was on So You Think You Can Dance. It was cool, I was just so fresh in to the street dancing and had only been in a crew for a couple of years. And then suddenly I was surrounded by dancers. That was the first time that I met heaps of people just as passionate about dance as I was from all over Australia with so many different dance styles. It was really eye opening.”

The connections that he made fresh into the industry pushed him to expand his repertoire as a dancer. “The biggest lesson I took away from that experience was how much collaboration goes on. When we were up in Sydney, just being in this space where you have jazz dancers teaching b-boys how to pirouette and b-boys teaching Latin dancers how to do a six-step in another corner. There was just so much that I found we could learn from each other. I’ve always been big on versatility and just pushing my own creativity. I tend to stay away from defining myself as a certain genre dancer now because it feels limiting.”

From this experience, Mathur found a common bond amongst street and studio trained dancers alike. It wasn’t until he was invited to attend the Underground: Winter event that he realised just how powerful this bond was. “That event, when I saw it, I just was so excited because it felt like exactly what Melbourne needed,” he says. “It was so sick. I heard about it through Paul Malek, who put this thing together and invited me to come dance in it. Just being in that space and seeing these dancers that aren’t necessarily all industry dancers. Still, the kind of power that they had and these pieces that they were putting together were just…it was just sick.”

Unlike most performances of its stature, Underground is not meant to be a sit down, shut up kind of show. Held at the Revolt Productions performance space in Kensington, the audience is encouraged to get as hyped as the performers themselves. Mathur elaborates: “The art space that this is held in is one that you can’t help but get involved in the act. It’s just so intimate and in your face. The audience is standing up against the stage. The buzz in the audience, having all these people dancing around you, it’s just like a cypher.”

While those unaware of street dance lingo may be pondering what precisely constitutes a cypher, more adventurous types are booking our tickets online via the Revolt website to find out for ourselves. “It’s a collaboration of some 18 acts that range from commercial dance to contemporary, to street jazz to freestyle hip hop. It’s all of that, in and around this cool venue. It’s like having a show in a club. There’s a DJ, a bar, you know. It’s such a unique experience that takes on a life of its own.”

BY CAYCE HILL