The footwork community hosts many talents from all corners of the globe. It originated in Chicago and was created specifically for the dance. From there, it brings the life and energy it needs to keep the momentum going in order for the community to grow. The world-renowned dance crew, The Era, has risen from the Chicago streets to bring the world a new flavor in dance style.
Members Litebulb, SteeLo, Dempsey and Chief Manny (along with Dj Jody Digital) met as members of the Chicago battle crew Terra Squad. Litebulb and P-Top (Goon Squad) were fortunate enough to meet on the set of David Gordon Green's film Manglehorn starring Al Pacino. They have achieved a lot since their meeting and now they set out to educate those who share a common love for footwork, as well as those who are yet to find it.
Now, having footworked around the globe, the next move was to create a solid music release of their own. Collaborating with footwork producers and DJs to blend what can only be described as a hip hop inspired footwork album. Laced with interludes, The Era gives praise to their fellow footworkers both men and women. You can feel the love throughout.
With the likes of DJ Clent, DJ Spinn, DJ Earl, DJ Taye and DJ Manny, the list of genuine Chicago producers who contributed is about as good as it gets. The combination of hip hop vibes and footwork tempos provide a sleek set of sounds for the dance crew to let loose and express themselves across the footwork mixtape, or FM.
Drawing inspiration from Jay Z’s Reasonable Doubt, the crew was able to conceptualize their idea through a self made music video, showing how the relationship between the music and dance is what they live for. A way to share their talents in footwork, but also focus on making a sound less repetitive and more relatable for those who see this genre as an obscurity.
In the Wurkz FM, a heartfelt presentation of what it's like coming up in Chicago while attempting to fulfill the dream of conquering the world around you. Accomplishing just that, this release has helped bring them into a new light, celebrating the love of they share with their city and the footwork culture.
Since it’s release, In the Wurkz has received an outstanding response, not only within the community of the footwork culture , but with many others around the world still finding their way to the true footwork sound.
“Seeing them tell us they proud of what we are doin’, It's good to hear that people actually get it and when people are sharing on social media and showing us their support, it brings us joy and pushes us to keep going.”
“In Chicago Juke/Footwork music, people can't really ride to it or they ain't feelin’ it the way we do, but we’ve been given a "seal of approval" in the community, and that feels good.” -Lightbulb
Tracks such as Good Shit, Testament and Headlining were just a few of the favorites mentioned by the crew when asked what track got them dancing. Within the variety of tracks on the album, there are stories being told and a genuine sense of support for one another can be felt from the lyrics.
Explaining that their aim was to make people understand the merging of cultures, both hip hop and footwork, can cater to more than just one audience. With an interlude with Chicago’s own Crystal James, they shine a light on the people from their city, holding no bias toward gender or skill level.
“We thought it was very important to include her perspective. Came up lovin’ it the way we did and it shows that there is diversity in the culture and even though it's a male dominated scene, the female dancers have a solid place in that.” -The Era
Now searching back through 2016, many had made moves in footwork music but as far as dancing goes, this crew has broken through onto another level. Having performed on Chicago’s own Windy City Live in August, they were dubbed ‘no ordinary dance crew’ and showed the hosts and viewers a few footwork moves. Then later this year the crew got together with Wills Glasspiegel to help put together an exhibit showcasing the history and progression of footwork from past to present. Recognised for their contributions to the footwork community, the crew say that they would even consider themselves a piece of art, giving back to that community however possible.
“Footwork has been a real urban thing, street thing, and to see it now put on display it just shows a lot of talent and it’s been going on so long, it's historical.” -The Era
There has been talk of adding more to the exhibition and extending it to galleries in other countries including Japan, Europe and the UK. For now, it waits for more uninformed minds to stumble upon it to learn more about the city’s cultural history and be inspired by it. The members of the crew will tell you they find inspiration from each other and those who share the love of the dance, music and movement.
“For me it’s that people are looking at footwork more seriously, not just as a hobby, but a lifestyle and this is what keeps us going, what gets us up in the morning. We try to push and drive the culture to others and encourage them to do what they do, the way we do what we love doing.” -Ptop
If they have any advice for those on the other side, it’s to immerse yourself. Feel the music and just get into the circle. Find others who dance and share in the motivation.
“Embrace the culture as we have, it's gotta be more than once before you can just jump in and get it. DJs who dance understand it better than those who don't, whatever you wanna do, find a way in and know who’s who.” -SteeLo
Lightbulb, Dempsey, Chief Manny and the rest of the crew mentioned heading out on tour again with their sights set on spreading the word further around the US, with stops in Philadelphia and New York. They see themselves making it as far as their motherland, Africa - specifically Nigeria. Also on the table was Tokyo, Japan which Bulb called “a second Chicago,” showing the same commitment to the culture by holding footwork events almost everyday and supporting Chicago artists.
"Footwork is transferrable... It can incorporate anything and everything.” -The Era
A special thank you to The Era Dance Crew for taking the time to contribute their thoughts to this article.
Written/Transcribed/Edited by: Jamfransisco