Raissa Simpson’s PUSH Dance Company Builds Vibrant Contemporary Dances To Gain A Deeper Understanding Of The Challenges Attributed To Mixed Heritage.


In Conversation with Agatha “Agatron” Rupniewski

PUSH Dance Company is proud to present choreography by Agatha “Agatron” Rupniewski on September 29-30, 2018 for PUSHfest Program B at ODC Theater in San Francisco. 


Tell us a little bit about your dance background.

I got into Popping & Mime at 17 in Portland, OR, 2002. In 2006, I moved to California and met the Popping community at jams, the Original Dancer’s of Boogaloo, Robotting, & Strutting (such as the Gold & Silver men on Fisherman’s Wharf), as well as the younger generation of Turfers performing on Powell Street. Street dance is a language that we can all connect to & understand without speaking. I was also introduced to other unique street dance communities through Waacking, Vogue, Locking, Top Rock, and House.

What can audiences look forward to seeing in your work at PUSHfest?

The piece I will be presenting, “It’s a Man’s World”, opens up with the Jame’s Brown song by the same title. It celebrates masculine as well as feminine movement, playing both in contrast and as they co-exist in the body of one dancer, as if to ask: “is it really a man’s world?” and “how much is gender a social construct?”. The piece is also a personal expression of bi-cultural identity as a Polish-American who studies African-American street dance. The piece starts with a masculine mascot character with movement inspired by the African-American Boogaloo & Strutting culture, and ends in a traditional folk dress from Krakow, Poland, street dancing to East European folk music. Audiences will witness cultures and gender expressed in the harmony of one dancer, one life’s journey.

What are the major sources of inspiration for your choreography?

Our Bay Area street dance community is very heterosexual male dominated & I can count the number of women Poppers on less than one hand. In 2015, I started experimenting with performing in costumes that disguise me as a man, alongside the masculine movement of Popping. When I reveal myself to the audience to be a woman, I deeply enjoy the meaning and significance of surprising the audience, as it challenges preconceived notions and stereotypes of gender. Moments of my choreography are set, while most of it is freestyle, giving it spontaneity and energy common to street dance. I am inspired by legendary Bay Area dancers like: Demons of The Mind/PT3000 (Pop Tart, A1, Harry Berry), Media Sirkas, The Black Messengers, Granny & Robotroid Inc, The Black Resurgents, Shabba, Reo The Robot, Floyd Flo Owen, Tommy Boy, Spacewalker, Pennywise, Ladybug, etc.

If you hadn’t chosen this career, what might you have been doing in your life?

I loved drawing and children’s books as a kid. I always thought I would be a fine artist, illustrator, or children’s storyteller. Maybe one day I can work hard to be a children’s librarian or comic book artist? You can see my drawings & illustrations at www.agatron.carbonmade.com.

What advice would you pass on to an aspiring choreographer?

I do recommend having a 20-40 hour job that can support you while you pursue the arts. Then, Apply Yourself: study from dancers you respect, learn foundation, come up with new ideas, make mistakes, volunteer lots, bring people together, put yourself out there, break your own ice, get your heart broken, get refreshed, fail, succeed, try again, repeat.

Learn more: www.agatron.dance for my resume, solos, & duets | Instagram @agatronica www.ironlotus.dance for IRON LOTUS Street Dance Co. | Facebook @ironlotusstreetdance