Big Brain 2012 Finalist: Cyphers

You submitted nominations for awards given to the Valley's emerging creatives, and the results are in.

Leading up to the Big Brain Award awards announcement and celebration on April 7, Chow Bella and Jackalope Ranch will introduce the Big Brain 2012 Finalists.

Up today: Cyphers

cyphers_bigbrain.jpg
Photos by Claire Lawton
Years before Danny "Scooby" Morales found himself installing 4,000 square feet of hardwood flooring, the local, self-described hip hop head would bring his family out to 9201 N. 29th Ave. on weekends to sit on the curb and dream.

The building has a long history in the hip hop community -- years ago, it used to be the spot for late-night parties and dance-crew battles. It was here, and through his involvement as a founding member of Furious Styles Crew dance collective, that Morales met Jorge "House" Magana.

The building's sign has changed regularly; it was a record shop, a Jiu Jitsu studio, and a vacant space with a "for lease" sign. A few months ago, during one of his family trips to the spot, Morales says he finally took a deep breath and made two phone calls -- one to the building's leasing agent and the other to Magana.

Morales, 36, and Magana, 39, grew up in the neighborhood that surrounds Metrocenter Mall and Castles and Coasters. They both remember cruising around the amusement park and hanging out at the mall with friends during the summer.

"It used to be the place for young people to be and hang out before it got a bad rap," Morales says. "Now all the kids go to Arrowhead, and the hip-hop community goes elsewhere."

Two months ago, Morales and Magana opened Cyphers: The Center for Urban Arts with a big mission -- to bring the community back together.

The name, Magana says, is the term in hip-hop culture for the circle b-boy dancers, emcees, slam poets, and musicians often naturally form. "The cypher is where the energy is -- it's as much the feeling as it is the formation ... Dancers and performers spend a lot of time competing and performing on stages and for crowds, but it's in the cypher that they truly earn the respect of each other."

Respect plays a big part in the Cyphers operation. Magana says the curricula for each of the classes offered in the space -- from b-boy, break, and funk dancing to soon-to-come classes in DJing and aerosol art -- are rooted in learning the history of each art form. Before developing and fine-tuning the techniques, members build respect for the art and for each other.

First and foremost, Magana (who teaches a majority of the classes) is a dancer. He started dancing as a teenager in Chicago, and through various crews, he's performed and competed all over the world. When he moved to Phoenix in the early '90s, he and a few friends formed "Styles Crew" (now known as Furious Styles Crew), and while he continues to dance at local clubs, he also teaches urban dance in studios around town and at Arizona State University.

Location Info

Map

Cyphers: The Center of Urban Arts - CLOSED

9201 N. 29th Ave., Phoenix, AZ

Category: General

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3 comments
guest
guest

why do you guys call them the "big brain" awards and then show people posing like gangsters, hopping around upside-down and spray painting walls? there's nothing brainy about any of this, these are activities I associate with our less mentally capable members of society. you should change the name of these silly awards to accurately reflect the participants' endeavors.

Brandi Romero
Brandi Romero

Let me guess, your children are sitting on a sofa watching tv wasting brain cells. Put the game boy down and open your mind!! This center is doing fabulous things in our community. And it takes not only Big Brains but Big Hearts to do what is being done here!!  

Carolina Herrera
Carolina Herrera

it's a big brain award nominee because these are the types of establishments and ideas that work towards changing your (the miseducated) population of a major city that has a strong and defining hip-hop community. The ideas and miseducation you are portraying is the only reason hip-hop is still reflected negatively. Instead of wasting air complaining about a strong footed culture, you should be supporting the culture and learning all you can; maybe someday you'll have the opportunity to be a part of something so life-changing

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