Enlightened: a Conversation with Sinbad Phgura of The Twilight Players

And with these different flavors, how do you each approach the dancing?

SP: I’m more involved in Ska and loose jazz styles, Jimi is mainly doing the Locking side of things, while Ammo is the Open Hand stylist. That’s the new dance we’ve developed with our friend in LA Cool Pockets. As far as our personal discipline, I don’t like to multitask. If I am on a mission, got an idea, god help everyone around me. I’m usually the first one up and the last one going to bed at night. Ammo is the true disciplined artist. He stretches for two hours a day, he’s a complete athlete. Doesn’t smoke, doesn’t drink, meditates, he’s on a completely different level. While Jimi has his own thing, a lil’ bit of this, a lil’ bit of that. He’s more of a Snoop Dogg, he smokes, got a vibe all his own. I’m disciplined in rehearsals and when it comes to taking care of things, but don’t really stretch and all that. You know, my brothers got into the dance at a time when I wasn’t excited about the music out there. In the mid-90s, I was ready to pack it in, and they brought me back from the edge. The story continues…

What have been some of your influences?

SP: Of course, Jeffrey Daniel of Shalamar and the West Coast street dance. But I was raised in England and here we had The Specials, a lot of Ska and I loved that kind of music. There has always been that jazz funk element in what I was about. At the same time as Shalamar, Kid Creole and the Coconuts came out and I loved them. That mixture of Creole music, mambo and funk. And I loved Kid Creole’s 40s and 50s glamour. When I was sixteen, a friend of mine named Nino — who always dressed in 1940s clothing and loved to Lindy Hop — took me shopping with him at Camden Market. That’s where I bought my first baggies and original 1940s tie. I’ve still got that tie. For me, the style always went hand-in-hand with the dance. Ninety percent of the jobs that we do, we wear our own clothing, which is such an important part of who we are. At the end of the day, you have to feel a certain way to act a certain way. We were never happy when stylists would come in and try to change us. We would ask ‘Why did you hire us?’ We’ve never been the normal, run-of-the-mill guys, we’ve always come in from the sidelines. I think it’s those principles that have kept us going this long. Some of the kids that were dancing at the same time as I was, have since gone and gotten proper jobs. But we have continued to work, without compromising, only doing things we can be proud of. Even if I should never dance again, never take another job, I am proud of who I am.

What was it like working on the film Dev.D?

SP: When Anurag Kashyap played me the music, straight away I was taken aback, I couldn’t really understand it. On the first play it kinda went over my head a bit. After the second play, I began to think OK… and I knew at that moment that it would make us move differently as well. Just dancing to that music, mid-tempo… But now, in hindsight, it was truly a match made in heaven. It works so well on the screen. It holds its own and isn’t like anything else ever seen. The fact that someone could be watching a Indian film, shot in Delhi, and they are getting the true form of the ‘Locking’ style from the streets of Los Angeles, it’s so authentic and like nothing that has ever been done before. It’s executed exactly the way it should be and yet it’s an Indian song! My brothers and I first flew into Bombay, around March of 2007, and spent a week there sunbathing and rehearsing. We didn’t want to stand out but truly be part of the mix of the film. My dream has always been to be involved in an Indian film, filmed in India and not on a sound stage or a high tech place, but in real space, real India. Dev.D ticked off all those boxes for me. Shot in Delhi, in the underbelly of the city, it was great. And people who watched it knew nothing about us. That’s how it should have been. And even the jackets that we wear in our first scene are authentic, embroidered, proper old school West Coast 1970s gang style jackets. A friend of ours from LA went crazy when he saw that shot!

Can you talk about some upcoming projects for The Twilight Players?

SP: (Laughs) I can tell you later, off the record! But seriously, on the record I am not one to talk about things until they have already happened. There are loads of people out there who do interviews and talk about things simply for the sake of talking. Then those projects never happen. So, I’ll leave that kind of talk to them! (He chuckles)

Now, a quick “Rapid Fire Round”. Just answer what you feel. What is your most beloved city?

SP: Oh, my god, that’s hard! I can’t really be rapid about this one. It has to be more than one. Different cities have captivated me at different moments. In the late 80s I was based in Spain and lived in Palma de Majorca. That was the most amazing place and I thought I would have lived there forever. But obviously, I didn’t. Hum… At the current moment it’s got to be Bombay, which has definitely gotten under my skin. And London is my home. At the top of the list, I would say those two because of the amount of time spent in each and the things we are doing. But I couldn’t choose one over the other because I constantly need change.


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