Kenneth “Ken Fury” Marez Jr. (dancer) is an artist who expresses his vision in multiple disciplines, including music, poetry, photography, painting, jewelry design and hip-hop dance. As a b-boy, he has studied with and been influenced by many, including the legendary Wayne Blizz and D – Flex (The Executioners, The NYC Float Committee) Kwikstep (“Full Circle”) and Bryant Davila (Incredible Breakers). He has competed in and judged some of the top competitions around the world, and taught at New York University and the Seoul Institute for the Arts among many other institutions in the U.S. and abroad.
Why don’t we start by talking a little bit about your background…
I’m originally from Pueblo, Colorado. I started dancing at the age of eleven, and started traveling to different events when I was fourteen. I have a martial arts background, so that’s how I was attracted to it. Also, my parents are painters – artists – and I was doing the same thing. So b-boying gave me a chance to combine the painting and the artistic stuff with martial arts.
How did painting influence your approach to breaking? I think a lot of people wouldn’t necessarily make that connection…
Well, it’s just the idea of creating your own material. Because when you come from a more disciplined background whether it stems from another dance form, sports, etc- you’re already conditioned to create things how you think they should be done. Right? It’s even the same in a lot of martial arts, but the martial artists I was inspired by – Bruce Lee and Ninjitsu – the philosophy is quite different. It’s about taking everything that works and creating your own style out of it. So that’s pretty much the same with painting; you learn the basics, and then it’s up to you to manifest your inner reality. The people I’ve learned from out here in New York – including some of the originators (Wayne Blizz, D- Flex, Kwikstep and Bryant Davila) – taught me that the goal of hip-hop is creating your own image, style and expression, and then progressing. Not just doing what’s already been done. Because if that were the case, it would have never started. But you have to keep that alive, in how you do it. Learning different foundations is crucial but there is a reason why it’s called foundation- the core layer. Meaning there is much more to be built on top of that. And if your core is weak your style will dissolve quickly because it lacks the original substance and energy that gave birth to breaking. I believe by learning directly from the source you’re not just learning moves and styles but there is a direct energy exchange that is going on. That is the magic! And you can’t learn that from watching a video and imitating. So when you see me dance I am not only expressing my individual style but the legacy of teachers who have entrusted their teachings to me. That’s how I look at it…
I started dancing with friends from middle school and when they all stopped I pretty much practiced by myself every day for years, until I met other crews outside of my town, in places like Colorado Springs (Damaged Goods Crew) and Denver (Lordz of Finesse Crew). And they mentored me, and they’d pick me up on the weekends and take me to events, which was really cool. So it had a huge impact on me.
I never thought about it until you just said it, but traveling is such a big part of b-boying, because you have to travel to go to jams and battles. Is that something that you would connect to Next Level? In other words, the idea that going to new places, learning things from different people, being in different environments, is part of the inspiration?
Yeah, it’s kind of like the goal. To connect with different people from across the world. Or even just next door – just the next town over. And see what they’re about. And hopefully you could build a relationship. Even though like you might want to battle them or something, depending on the environment you meet them in.
But overall I think you build connections and that’s how a community grows. And then, by building those connections, you share mindsets and philosophies. So politically and culturally, that’s why I think hip-hop is powerful, if it focuses on things like that. That’s why I’m involved, still. Because I see how it influences people of all ages.
So you’re saying that you’re actually building the relationship through competing with them.
Yeah, It’s kind of like a game. When you have a friend and you want to play checkers. As long as afterwards, you guys are cool, it progresses. But if it doesn’t, then it’s kind of like you’re wasting your time and energy. And you might have to get some counseling outside of dancing. Seriously! Because that’s how breaking started in the Bronx. You know the whole history: It was an escape. They created this dance from the environment, and it was a way to channel the aggression. And that still happens – and it will continue to happen – depending on people’s environment.
That’s how I grew up too, in my neighborhood as well, back home. So I know how it starts. But also, now where I’m at in my life, I’m 28 years old, and my mindset has changed completely. It’s not about that aggression anymore. It’s about building and progressing and evolving together. So I would hope that hip-hop continues to be a tool for grounding people mentally and spiritually.
Could you be a little bit more specific about how hip-hop grounds people in that way?
Well, for example, if I’m teaching a student and they’re in middle school and all their friends are into the stuff that’s on television and getting high and drinking and getting in a lot of trouble, then introducing them to breaking is grounding. If they have an outlet, they could find their own identity through that, you know? And then they could see things in a different light. And hopefully influence their friends at school. And that’s huge, because just one person in one school is like a drop of red dye in water. You know what I mean? That red dye could change the whole thing.
So how does Next Level allow you to do that?
It’s basically offering me the opportunity to reach people that I wouldn’t have reached normally. Like audiences who might not have any clue what hip-hop is. And to work with them and talk to them and also learn from them. Not just teach them. They come from a whole different place, so their perception of reality is different from mine. Which is cool. It’s a whole different experience from getting flown out to a b-boy jam and doing a workshop with a bunch of dancers. Which is fine, but they’ve already been introduced to hip-hop. But when you go to a country or a town that doesn’t know anything about hip-hop – or maybe only knows a little bit – it’s really powerful. You get to introduce it in a way that encourages them to be themselves. To give them a platform to say “this is who I’m am”, “this is how I feel.” That’s why I really like it. No boundaries, man. Once there are boundaries, it’s not really interesting to me anymore.