Johnny”5″ Lopez is a dancer-turned-CEO who’s creating a space for the talented turfers of the Bay Area. His company, TURFinc, has been holding events and classes, creating content, and developing a community that helps young dancers in Oakland channel the trauma of their environment into creative self-expression. Locals can peep upcoming TURFinc 4-year anniversary dance battle in Oakland on September 10th.
It’s been four years and 20 events since you started the TURFinc organization. What has been your biggest high point so far, or your best memory?
Biggest high point is being well-respected by some of the most legendary dancers from around the world, but even more importantly being respected in my own community. Being on stage in front of thousands of people performing, and seeing my dancers working together at my events and smiling the whole time. Working with Kendrick Lamar, Kanye West, Schoolboy Q, E-40, Draymond Green, Beats by Dre, Erykah Badu, and Los Rakas…these are some of my best memories. Recently TURFinc created the first ever dance video for GoPro. It’s been amazing to see my company grow every month, and seeing families, kids, and people of all races supporting my brand.
Were you into music or dance as a child?
Yes. Growing up in a home of Latinos and going out to family parties was how I first got into music and dance. The music I grew up with was salsa, merengue, banda, corridos, and disco. My experience dancing salsa and merengue was really a great start. Those dance styles gave me so much strength and encouraged me not to be shy in front of people.
How did you get exposed to turf dancing?
When I was exposed to turf for the first time I fell in love with it, right there and then. I first seen it at an Oakland sideshow at 3:00 in the morning. Ever since that night, I go to sleep and wake up thinking of turf dancing. I’ve never stopped dreaming that one day I will be big in dance and inspire the whole world. The song that had me and everyone else in Oakland going crazy at that time was “Tell Me When to Go” BY E-40. I was there when they were shooting the video for it; if you watch the liquor store part, my house was around the corner.
Once I got exposed to turfin, I really wanted to dance for E-40. Everyone in the hoods of Oakland looks up to E-40 and loves his music. When I did finally end up dancing for E-40, it felt incredible. He is truly deserving of all the love he gets. His personality was so positive–never in my life have I met an artist who was as humble and laidback. He talks to you like you’re best friends with him. I’ve met many other big artists and they’re nothing like E-40…that’s why we all call him “uncle.” Right after dancing for him I knew I could accomplish any goal and dream as long as I hustled and stayed consistent.
What inspired you to make dance your primary focus, and to build TURFinc?
My inspiration was the streets of Oakland…growing up around shootings, seeing people die in front of me, just seeing violence all day. Oakland has inspired me to help others with my talent and change people’s lives. I’ve worked with the best dancers in the Bay Area and we have a strong relationship. We still are working on having the whole world know more about us in the bay. We have some reputation, but not everyone knows that young people in Oakland are channelling the violence around us into some of the most creative dance expression you’ll ever see.
What would you like to see more of in the Bay Area dance scene?
What I would love to see more of in the culture is more unity, uniting all the dance styles in the Bay Area. Also I think all the music artists here in the Bay Area should collaborate with us more because dancing is a big thing right now.
A lot has changed in the Bay Area the last few years…I want to see the corporations that have moved here supporting us and helping us build our platform bigger. Our platform helps our inner city people. Getting funds to support the street dancers so that they can have professional representation, trying to get a studio for dancers to have a safe place to practice…that all takes resources. People are drawn to the creativity and style of Oakland, and they can and should help support it.