Student by day and popper by night, Sucre is at the cusp of a growing community of street dancers in Ottawa. He performs as Funkie Monkie with the crew Cartoon, who can usually be found practicing in the University Centre at the University of Ottawa or performing at events around the city.
I was born in Montreal, and my parents are North African so English isn’t really my first language. We moved to Ottawa and I ended up taking ESL, went through school and whatnot. I was apparently enrolled in the worst high school in the city, Laurentian High School. It was closed down before I graduated, so I switched to a – pardon the racial stuff – white school. I went in with long tees, do-rags and everything and when I graduated I walked out wearing polos! I’m at Algonquin College right now taking marketing. Hopefully I’ll pursue fashion design. My older brother was always designing clothes and we both drew a lot, so that was my first introduction to fashion, but I’m not that great at designing. I do know a lot about the fashion industry, though, so I thought maybe with a marketing degree I can get into it that way. Become a marketing director for a big fashion firm or something.
Related to dancing – I’ve been dancing for about four years. I started doing the arm wave and the arm wave only. In twelfth grade, a coordinator for the Carleton Afro-Caribbean Club saw me doing it and asked if I’d like to perform at a Black History Month show. That ended up being theworst show. I didn’t know any real dance moves, and I learned what I could in like a month but I was still learning and the show flopped. But there’s a learning curve. I watched a lot of YouTube videos and started to really learn that way. That’s how I’ve gotten to where I am today. My best show was a few years ago at Bluesfest, when I performed on the same stage as Snoop Dogg, but the day before him. I still got VIP backstage!
What do you think of the dance scene in Ottawa?
It’s growing, I can see it. When I started dancing there was nobody I knew. There were moments where a lot of things happened all at once, and then it would just die down again. But there’s not that much support for it here. Apparently even Stephen Harper doesn’t support the arts. We don’t have much to encourage us in Ottawa. So You Think You Can Dance, for instance, goes to Toronto, passes around Ottawa, and goes to Montreal. It just skips Ottawa. We just don’t have that name, that artistic value that people see.
Can you tell me about your crew, Cartoon?
We held auditions about two months ago for our crew, so now we have quite a few members in our group. Only about eight or so make it out regularly, though. We have b-boys, poppers like me, hip hop, krumping, and other dancing that we incorporate with everyone’s style. We have amazing dancers who just started with us, as young as 15 years old. There’s a lot of inspiration there. We’re at the university centre at the University of Ottawa twice a week, dancing, growing, creating, inspiring, and motivating.
I’ve danced in the streets, in the malls, and people have said I should to try out for So You Think You Can Dance. Nobody really knows that there’s this kind of dancing in Ottawa, and we need the opportunity to share. It would be nice if the city would support local dancers through a grant or something. You know, it would be nice to open a studio. I worked at a community centre in the West end, and there were kids who were into really rough stuff and once they get involved in dance they totally change their perspective. It becomes a new focus. I was kind of a bad kid in school, and once I got involved in dancing it kept me busy.
We did your photos at the Museum of Civilization. Why did you choose that place as one representative of you?
Well, I love how you can just see the Parliament in the distance, but it’s not right there. You know, that’s such a stereotype for Ottawa, people think of the Parliament right away. But at the same time Ottawa is a big part of where I am, what I do and how I do it. I feel like having that symbol in the pictures represents how we’re serious about dance in Ottawa. We’re here in this city, not somewhere else.
You can follow Sucre on Twitter at @ItsFunkieMonkie and at his Facebook fan page, where you can get updates on shows put on by his crew, Cartoon. Sucre also keeps a popular YouTube channel where he posts dance videos.