Flawless swoosh in to make a career of street dancing

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IT’S a curious journey from dancing in the street to giving motivational talks to business people.

The rise of inspirational dance troupe Flawless is largely due to choreographer and leader Marlon ‘Swoosh’ Wallen.

A self-taught dancer, he formed Flawless in 2004 and has seen the 10-strong sensations become a household name thanks to their popularity on the way to the finals of the 2009 run of ITV show Britain’s Got Talent.

In between times their skills and dedication won them numerous awards, including Best Street Dance Group, Best Choreographed Group, UK Street Dance Champions, International Dance Champions and, in 2006, the World Dance Championships title after battling it out against more than 50 nations from around the world in Germany.

Their profile rose further when Flawless starred in the hit film StreetDance 3D as well as appearing in music videos for Leona Lewis and Westlife, Madonna, namely for the single Hung Up, and Ring The Alarm with Beyonce.

“We haven’t worked with anyone who was difficult,” says Marlon, who still has Usher and Justin Timberlake on his wishlist.

“We’ve worked with a lot of good people, obviously strict in what they want and particular but that’s to do with perfection at the end of the day so it’s right when the artist is incredible at what they do.”

Although Britain’s Got Talent – also the springboard for the success of fellow street dancers Diversity – got them into the nation’s homes Marlon believes they would have got to where they are now in the end.

“It would have definitely been a longer journey, though.

“It did give us a national profile and obviously the movie was the second thing - that went worldwide and the success obviously gave us exposure. That would have taken us on that journey.

“But Britain’s Got Talent plays a big part in why street dance is so popular now. Two big groups from BGT pulled a lot of interest. The awareness was there in general, but they weren’t aware of these street dance groups.”

Following a sold-out run of their show Chase The Dream at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2010, Flawless enjoyed a pre-Christmas run at London’s Royal Festival Hall.

Now they are on their biggest tour yet, taking the show to the Lyceum Theatre.

Diversity have twice visited Sheffield, but Marlon is keen to highlight the differences, in show only.

“They came to watch our show at Christmas and we went to watch their show as well.

“There’s no sense of rivalry.

“We’re happy for each other for where everyone is going and what has been done for street dance as a whole because, no matter what, you’ve all these different names but everyone’s under the umbrella of street dance.

“We are more like all round dancers as opposed to street dancers, though. We are not afraid to come out of our comfort zone. We’re always challenging ourselves. We are open minded, period.

“So the show has got a lot of new things. It’s got a variety of things for everyone. There’s nothing you can say caters for one audience in particular.”

One of the fastest growing contemporary dance forms, street dance is an umbrella term for several dance styles which usually evolve in open spaces such as parks, clubs and streets. That can be b-boying - also known as break dancing - which originated in New York in 1970s, Melbourne Shuffle which originated in Melbourne and Tecktonik, which originated in Paris.

As anyone who has witnessed the sometimes impromptu huddles on London’s South Bank will confirm, the routines encourage interaction with spectators and other dancers and demand skill, co-ordination, rhythm and personality. Many street styles such as popping, locking and krumping have since been developed and choreographed for commercial pop, hip-hop, electronic and R&B music videos.

Flawless now include contemporary jazz, modern ballet and jump jive in their show, exposing a diverse range of dance skills both collectively and as individual performers.

Chase the Dream explores life in the fast lane, ultimately encouraging everyone to chase their dreams.

“For young people it’s not just a case of learning moves it’s quite educational because they learn about following direction,” says Marlon.

“If you think about it from that standpoint, they’re learning to respect one another, key elements that happen in school but it takes a different route when you’re outside. You’re developing.”

That message and lifestyle standpoint has made Flawless popular beyond the stage with calls to talk to businesses as well as schools.

“It started off with that one message on BGT, the whole ‘chase the dream’ in the competition. After doing the tour and getting fanmail we realised how much that message affected people.

“A lot of people in businesses have asked us to come down to their meetings to have a chat about that and that’s what made me tick.

“We could actually spread this energy to everyone because it’s not only a personal motto for us it is relative to everyone because that’s something that’s lacking in society right now.

“At schools as well they always need that kind of thing. We’re quite young and relative to where they’re coming from.

“We’re living proof of a journey of someone striving for their goal.

“In terms of the way we talk and dress it’s relative to young people, it opens that door and makes them see the light.”

You can see Swoosh - “it’s meant to be because I’m quick and smooth... kind of sums me up as a character as well as the way I dance” - Nathan “Oddey” Kabongo, Paul “Breaker” Samuels, Allan “Boogie” Kabeja, Christian “Bounce” Alozie, Simon “Shock” Smith, Paul “Steady” Steadman and the rest of the gang on March 5.