Color the dark
The blinking, flashy neon colors seem oddly hypnotizing in the dark. As his fingers start to move rapidly, the lights gradually progress into a blur of hues that swerve in a wave-like spectrum. This unique style of dance called gloving is as dazzling as it may sound — and sophomore Eric Rodriguez can prove it.
It started out as fascination. Rodriguez was first introduced to gloving in the sixth grade when he watched his cousin practice for gloving competitions. After the style piqued his interest, he started watching YouTube videos to learn its techniques and to receive inspiration to create his own moves.
“I thought [gloving] was cool, and ever since then, I’ve always wanted to get better at it. If I sometimes see myself getting choppy, I either want to practice that move or try to find a different transition to something else,” Rodriguez said. “Gloving, for me, is technical. I would want to do one move this way and do it another way to start off a new move for a new segment of the music I’m getting into. It’s an art of tugging and finger-rolling.”
For Rodriguez, gloving is not only a form of movement — it is an aesthetic. It requires the dancer to move only above the elbow and wear gloves with LED lights on the fingertips to accentuate hand movement, creating mesmerizing effects in the dark. Gloving performances are usually impromptus and can be accompanied with any type of music, but Rodriguez’s favorites include hip-hop, R&B and house.
“[Gloving is] mainly freestyle. You just have to clean yourself and make sure you’re flowing into the music,” Rodriguez said. “Sometimes, it just makes me think of something else and relieves stress. [I like this dance] because you can sit down, and you can do other things with your hands that other people can’t do. Once you put the gloves on and turn off the lights, it’ll look really cool.”
To test out his skills, Rodriguez attended the Friday Night Lights, which are weekly competitions held at EmazingLights, a gloving store in West Covina. Participants may compete individually or in teams and are evaluated by judges for their dexterity and improvisation skills. Rodriguez entered the individual division, receiving 4th place on his first time competing and 2nd place on his second time.
“It was fun hanging out with people my age doing the same thing that I do. Sometimes [it is intimidating], but normally you just look past it and focus on what you’re doing,” Rodriguez said. “I felt nervous, and I wasn’t used to people watching me while I was performing in front of [the judge]. The most challenging part was getting familiar with the music. After my performance, everyone was saying I did well, and there were some spots I messed up but fixed.”
Rodriguez also pursues his dancing interests on campus. After he joined the Walnut High All-Male (WHAM) team, Rodriguez shifted his gloving style into one that incorporates his full body. In addition, he now practices more hip-hop dancing to accommodate the dance style of the team.
“Right now in WHAM, the only thing that is close to gloving is when we do a hand roll or twirl our wrists. Everything else is mostly about moving your whole body, and it’s a new feel for me,” Rodriguez said. “[Hip-hop dancing is] different because from shoulders down to my hands, I’ll be fine, but otherwise, moving everything else has a new feel. When I first joined, I sucked a bit. I’m pretty decent now because I’ve been practicing.”
As he develops his own personal style, Rodriguez tries to explore possible dance types that he can look into beyond gloving. He often converses with his cousin about how to improve their dance skills. Although he now practices gloving only in his free time, he still uses the style as an inspiration for his next steps.
“Overall, gloving and hip-hop dancing are two different things that are only similar in aspects like tutting and finger rolls, which I do now and then in WHAM. My experience in gloving helps me grasp the timing in the music I hear for the [other] types of dances that I do. For me, dancing is a form of art in which you are allowed to explore anything.”
By Caroline Huang, Feature editor
Photo by Sajid Iqbal