One Cypher had the pleasure to interview a good friend of ours, Steven Stanton. Stanton grew up in Detroit Michigan, where he began dancing at a really young age. Stanton’s artistic talents range from dancing, singing, and playing a variety of musical instruments. He’s danced for artists such as J-Lo, Michael Jackson, Will Smith, Genuine and well-known dance group the Groovaloos. Stanton’s dancing career was rudely interrupted when randomly shot at a club, after teaching a workshop to his students in Canada. He acquired severe nerve damage, which caused him to need surgery in his lower spine. However, Stanton’s injury doesn’t hold him back, for his rising focus and determination has enabled him to make excellent progress toward his road to recovery. Stanton’s earned the well deserved respect of the entire Hip Hop community by sharing his many talents and demonstrating determination, motivation, and a positive attitude in his everyday life. He’s optimistic attitude and strength of mind is inspiring, and One Cypher is pleased to have the opportunity to share his story with you.
“Not walking again, was never an option for me.”
OC: Hey everyone this is Shelley Oto and I’m here with dancer/choreographer Steve Stanton. Thanks Steve for allowing One Cypher to interview you!
Steve: No problem.
OC: So when did you begin dancing?
Steve: Dancing professionally, or just dancing?
OC: Just dancing.
Steve: I started dancing when I was really young. Ever since I could walk, and as soon as I could put rhythms together–around one or two years old.
OC: So you began dancing around one or two years old? Did any other members of your family dance also?
Steve: No. There was no one else in my family who was an artist but me. I just grew up watching Soul Train and Michael Jackson on television and would try to imitate that.
OC: Did your family always encourage you?
“Dancers today are not treated the way they should be treated, but that’s the dancers fault as well.”
Steve: It was really just mom, my sister and me — But yes, my mother always encouraged me to do what I wanted to do
OC: Where did you grow up?
Steve: Detroit Michigan.
OC: What did you think of the Los Angeles experience as far as the dancing?
Steve: When I came out here I was just dancing at clubs and with friends, chilling and making up routines. I wasn’t professionally dancing or even thinking about it. I just moved to Los Angeles because my family moved and I had to come. The scene overall I wasn’t feeling, because it was so different than what I was used to in Detroit.
OC: Were you taking classes in Detroit also, or were you just freestyling?
Steve: I’ve never taken a class in order to learn how to dance. Once I started dancing professionally, I took a couple classes for fun but not to learn how to dance.
OC: When did you move to Los Angeles?
Steve: I moved L.A when I was about 19.
OC: Did you move out here by yourself?
Steve: No, my family moved out with me.
“…my largest motivation is music.”
OC: What was your first professional job?
Steve: Hmmm…man. I don’t remember. Haha. My first job was in the 80’s; I believe it was a video. I don’t remember whom it was for. It was in the breaking days when breaking first came out. It was for an 80’s artist and we did some cheesy video. My friend asked me to do this video, and it was before I knew dancers were supposed to get paid. I think I got paid around 100 bucks. It was great though… it was during a time when all I wanted to do was dance. In the beginning having cameras on you felt odd– because you just wanted to do your thang, but instead the director would instruct you to dance at a certain angle or a completely different way. I would say, “no” because I didn’t want to do it their way. So…it was a good and bad experience. It was a learning experience…I guess.
OC: Were there agencies at the time?
Steve: There were agencies, but I didn’t have an agent at the time. Instead my friends would call me up and let me know the information. I didn’t start dancing professionally, or get an agent until I started dating a girl who was a professional dancer. She helped me get into that scene. When I got an agent and starting attending auditions, I had to start learning how to pick up choreography fast. So my first job at that point was Tony Tony Tony.
Steve: Yeah, it was for a video.
OC: Tight. Who has been your largest motivation?
Steve: Uhmm…I would have to say my girlfriend at the time Tiny Landon. She pretty much helped me get into dancing professionally, and was my largest influence, supporter and motivator. That point on…several people motivated or continue to motivate me–my friends, the Groovaloos, Bradely, Super Dave and people like that. Also, watching the street dance scene out here, the Boogaloos, the original lockers, all of them motivate me to be as good as them, or better if I could. I would want people to look up to me as much as I looked up to them. They motivate me. Even younger kids coming up today, motivate me to still do it this day. I love music so much…period. I can’t hear music and not dance. I guess my largest motivation is music.
OC: What’s been your largest accomplishment?
Steve: Still dancing at age 40. On another tip my daughter Tanisha, she’s been my largest life accomplishment, she’s it…
you can’t get much better than her.
OC: What do you hope to accomplish within the next ten years?
Steve: It’s weird. I’m not like a lot of people who set a lot of goals. I’m a real day-to-day person and I try to stay positive. If ten years from now, I can motivate or inspire a person to do what they want to do, that would be my answer to that question. As far as what I want to accomplish on a success level, it’s whatever god intends for me to do
OC: If you never became a dancer, what would you be doing?
“I definitely would have been a full time musician if I hadn’t begun dancing.”
Steve: I would definitely be a musician.
Steve: Yeah that’s what I was doing before I started dancing.
OC: Were you playing a specific instrument?
Steve: I was playing the keyboard, programming, and helping produce.
OC: Really…side talents we didn’t even know about!
Steve: I’m still kind of doing that now with the Groovaloos, I help them with the music for the show. I definitely would
have been a full time musician if I hadn’t begun dancing
Steve: I was singing in a band for awhile. Whatever I would have done–would have been entertainment related.
OC: When did you decide dance is what you wanted to do.
Steve: To be honest, dance helped me pay the bills. At the same time, I had so much fun. The music industry is really
hard to be in–it’s a cutthroat industry. I’m a real positive person and it’s hard to stay positive in that industry. Dance was
the way to stay positive and support my daughter. That’s how I got into it.
OC: What kind of changes would you like to see in the dance scene?
Steve: I would like to see dancers have way more respect for them self as artists, so other people will respect them
as artists. That’s really the main thing. I feel that’s the reason dance is put on that level of every other art, because
dancers themselves don’t respect themselves, and take their craft seriously. So how can they expect to get treated
like an actor or model or a musician? Those people demand respect for their art and dancers should too. So sometimes
that disturbs me and it feels like it may never change. There’s always the younger people or a younger generation of
kids who come up and all they want to do is be in a video. I know this because I was there, I was that kid who wanted
to be in a video and just wanted to dance. I never really thought about the business side or the money aspect.
And there’s always going to be that younger generation who doesn’t care about the money, they just want to dance.
OC: Do you see this change happening in the near future?
Steve: Not in the near future, but in the future. It’s sad to say…but I don’t see it occurring in the near future.
OC: What has your training consist of?
Steve: Hanging out with my boys. Haha. Us just trying to make each other’s level go up a notch. That’s what my level
of training consists of. Putting on some music and just dancing. That’s how I train. I don’t really take class, I just want
to get better and better, and hopefully someone will respect that.
OC: Have you ever taught anywhere other than the United States?
Steve: Oh yeah…I’ve taught in Europe, Canada and Japan.
OC: How are their styles of dance? How would you compare us to other countries?
Steve: Other countries definitely appreciate the training a lot more. I guess it’s because the training is so assessable here. When you have a lot of something you tend to not appreciate it as much, and because it’s not as available in other countries people appreciate it more. They can’t have it all the time. They try and train harder, and want so bad to be in the United States to get trained. They jump at the opportunity when teachers from the United States come to teach. They want to soak up as much as they can, and are so focused. That’s
the largest difference.
OC: What has been your largest obstacle?
Steve: Myself and getting passed whatever fears I’ve had. However, nothing can stand in the way of me getting something.
To me if I want something I ‘m going to get it. Or I’m going to try 100 percent to get it. The only person who can stand in
my way is me. So my only obstacle is making sure that I’m on top of my game, and I stay focused while I’m doing what
I’m supposed to be doing.
OC: Who is your favorite dancer right now?
Steve: That’s hard…there are so many talented dancers right now. So many dancers specialize in different things. As far as freestyle…it’ll have to be Super Dave and Roro. As far as choreography goes…Sky Hoffmann and Cliff are two of my favorite male dancers. They perform their asses off. As far as girls, choreography wise…Rino is one of my favorites. She’s definitely up and coming. Freestyle wise it’ll have to be Maryss, as far as the girls go. But those are the just two
off top off the top of my head. There are so many people who I love to watch dance. I guess if I had to choose my current favorites those people would be my favorites right now. With dance… so many people come up, and your favorite can change just like that. There are so many good dancers out there, who are just waiting to be seen. So
many styles too, popping and locking, choreography, freestyle and everyone’s good at different things. It’s hard to have an absolute favorite. Everyone in the Groovaloos amazes me at some kind of level. At any given time, someone could do something that makes you go “damn…that’s tight!”
The minute he said “full recovery” that’s all I needed to hear.
OC: Being a dancer your entire life and then getting shot while teaching a workshop in Canada–What was the first thing that ran through your head?
Steve: Hmmm…the first thing that ran through my head was the realization that I couldn’t feel my legs as all. My first thought after that was “Am I ever going to walk again?” The second thing that ran through my head was “yes I am.” I just gave it up to god to take care of me. Not walking again, was never an option for me. For whatever reason this happened… I guess I’m just supposed to chill for a while. I’ll be back.
OC: What did your doctors tell you initially?
Steve: They told me what my injuries were, and informed me that I had nerve damage and needed surgery in my lower
spine. After surgery, I was told it would take about a year, at least, for full recovery. The minute he said “full recovery”
that’s all I needed to hear. I figured “a year for them is couple months for me.” At that point I knew I was going to get better.
Even if they told me I would never walk again, I wouldn’t have accepted that. Fortunately I was never told that, but if they
had, I would never of accepted that. I would still of walked again. The doctor said I should take it one day at a time and
that it was going to be a long process with therapy. They said recovery should be about one year. I was like “maybe for
some it would take a year…not me.” Everything is moving right along. I try to stay as positive as I can and not to look
back at what happened; instead I want to look at the future and what I can do to make myself better. And hopefully inspire
some people in the process.
OC: How long were you kept in Canada after you got shot?
Steve: I was kept there for a month while undergoing surgery. I had to then recover from surgery and fill out a bunch of paperwork with insurance to get me back to Los Angeles. I was in rehab for about a month, which was pretty fast considering most people are in rehab for months at a time. Luckily I was already on my feet within that month and wasable to come home and do therapy about three times a week. Everyday I just try to improve.
OC: How did it make you feel when you saw everyone come together because they wanted to help out?
Steve: I can’t describe that feeling. I’m a very spiritual person and I believe in god. I believe everything is in his hands, and it was like being able to see him work right before my very eyes. Watching all those people come together to support me, with the hopes of seeing me get better—made me feel overwhelmed with love. How do I repay that? It’s not that they wanted repayment other than seeing me getting better. It hasn’t stopped. I still get email and calls, and I have such a wonderful support group. With all this support there is really no way that I won’t dance again. All that love won’t allow me to wither my determination. I don’t know how to describe that feeling, it’s definitely helpedme get over some tough times…it’s helping me without a doubt. Every prayer that everyone prays I feel it. I feel those prayers without people even having to tell me they prayed for me. Their love and support helped me get me to where I am today.
“The mind is a powerful thing, and if you put your mind toward something, there is no way anyone can stop you.”
OC: I think everyone was shocked to hear the news.
Steve: I think I was shocked too. Haha.
OC: I know everyone was really concerned because people care about you so much. Not just as a teacher but because you’re a good friend. When people walk into you class I think most people look at you as a friend and not just your teacher. There were so many people there to support you, the weekend they raised money for your surgery.
There are so many who love and care about you.
Steve: I really didn’t know so many people knew who I was. I can’t and won’t let those people down. My getting better is
my way of repaying people for their support-teaching again. That’s my way of returning the favor.
OC: What does your schedule consist of?
Steve: Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday I have an hour of physical therapy, legs press, stair master, tread mill, walking up
and down steps, then walking with one and then two canes. I started with not being able to roll over in bed, to being able
to get out of bed into a wheelchair and from a wheelchair onto walker and a walker to crutches to canes. And now I’m o
n canes. I’ll eventually learn to walk with one can. I currently have braces on my legs but then the braces will come off
and I’ll have no more canes. I’ve accomplished a lot in a short amount of time as far as that goes. I have to be patient,
for it’s in god’s hand and I need to give my body time to heal. The bullet damaged the nerves that work the lower half of
my body, and I still have small spots that I don’t have feeling. Although a lot of feeling has already come back, all
feeling needs to come back. The muscle tone needs to come back. It’s just a slow process. Starting in the New Year–
I’ll be working out every day. I’ve gotten enough muscle strength to go the gym and lift weights, as well as go to my
physical therapy. That’s where I’m at right now. Besides all that…I do a lot of chilling at home watching soap operas.
OC: Have your doctors been impressed with how fast you’ve been recovering?
Steve: It’s weird…because they get so impressed and that’s encouraging to me, but to me I’m not surprised. My
therapist wrote a letter that can be seen on the Groovaloos website about how I inspired her and how impressed she
was by me. To me I was just doing what I was supposed to do. Taking it day by day. I was just doing what anyone
would do whose really determined to get back what somebody else had taken away from him/her. People who are
determined are going to work hard. The doctors were initially surprised with my determination, but after they’ve gotten
to know me…they’re not so surprised. They’re not surprised because they’ve gotten to know me as a person and my
personality and how positive I am.
OC: Do you want to give a shout out to all your fans?
Steve: YES! Shout out to everyone, everyone who supported me. Thank you for the prayers, love and support. Thank
you doesn’t sound like enough and I’ll try my best to repay the best I can through my talent. Your support is keeping
OC: Do you have any words of wisdom to other people who may be in your situation?
Steve: Whatever you do, just remember why you do what you do. If you love something then do it, and don’t let
anyone tell you that you can’t do something. Don’t even put your self in that mode of thinking “I can’t do it.” You can do anything you want to do. The mind is a powerful thing, and if you put your mind toward something, there is no way anyone can stop you.
OC: Thank you so much for allowing us to interview you Steve!
Steve: No… thank you!
OC: Once again, this is Shelley here with Steve Stanton. One Cypher! We’re out!