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Worm's Krump-Fu: How Chris Lewis Emerged 'Mad Talented'

Samantha London |
September 7, 2012 | 12:01 a.m. PDT


It is tempting to call krumpmaster Worm a prodigy or a whiz kid of some sort. Doing so, however, would gloss over an achievement even greater. 

He is, yes, a dancer of major, premature talent. But, more significantly, he is a thinker. He is not one for much eye contact, as he seems to prefer to process internally. The answers that emerged from these processes betrayed the ongoing conversation within himself.

Christopher “Worm” Lewis (His mom calls him Chris; YouTube users who follow his krump videos know him as Worm.) is only 21 years old.  He was born in Compton, in South Los Angeles, where he still resides.  He is small, pure muscle, an athlete.  He does not use his physique for dance alone. Also a runner, he reports that he sprinted a 100-meter dash in 10.6 seconds. Usain Bolt’s record-setting time in that distance is 9.58 seconds. Though explosive in body, Worm is quiet in presence and speech.

The intersection of krump and life happened early for Worm.  The L.A.-born dance style celebrated its 10th anniversary this week with a performance, “The Underground: From the Streets to the Stage,” at the University of Southern California.  Krump is still considered a relatively new phenomenon, but for Worm, who began krumping at age 12, it is a style he has known since childhood.

The movement started around the corner from Worm’s house.  Asked if he had felt intimidated in the presence of Miss Prissy and Lil’ C, the founders who are almost a decade his senior, he replied no. 

“I was always hanging around adults and everything," he said. "It was actually more comfortable for me, because I knew that people were looking out for me.” 

With his thoughtful demeanor today, it is no surprise that the 12-year-old Worm was accepted by a group of 20 year olds.

He had already acquired three years of dance experience before meeting Miss Prissy and Lil’ C.  At age 8, Worm had expressed an interest in dancing, and so his mother enrolled him in classes.  He had, he recalled, been envisioning more of a “hip hop vibe,” so when he found himself in ballet and contemporary classes, his every move being scrutinized, he was not pleased. 

“I hated it," he said. "It’s so strict. And I, my personality, I’m just totally against authority, so it was hard for me to grasp at first.”

Worm “quit” the technical training after two years.  He did not, however, quit dancing.  Nor did the formal world of dance leave him behind.  The dance community has recognized his talents over the past decade.  He has received awards over the years and been brought out to performances in cities as far-flung as New York and London. 

Worm refuses to dwell on his accomplishments. 

“I’m like a koi fish; I like to keep moving forward,” he says.  “When I was a kid, I always wanted to get into that whole scene, like, ‘yo, I won an award! Yeah!’  But when I won an award, I just wanted to get on to the next.”  In this age (and in this town) of child stars-gone-crazy, it is extraordinary that Worm responded with such humility.

Worm’s humble, unassuming wisdom has done more than garner him prizes and fame; it has helped him define his values.  When he creeps too close to getting into things he “really probably shouldn’t be doing,” he reminds himself of his goals—of dance. 

“‘Alright, yeah,’” he tells himself, “I wouldn’t be able to dance if I’m in jail. That’s weak.”  He laughs briefly.  “I won’t be able to dance if I’m beat up or dead or something or in somebody’s hospital because of some altercation.” 

He was the sort of kid who was “into a lot of trouble.”  One can imagine how many times this thought process has saved him.

Though he loves dance, he also understands the value of moderation.  Although he has been living-and-breathing krump recently in preparation for “The Underground,” he says that, in the long term, “I’ve got to put dance on the back burner a lot.”  He has to regain his “hunger for dance, so I don’t just constantly spoil myself.” 

(Photos by Dan Carino)
(Photos by Dan Carino)
At 21, this self-awareness and self-control is remarkable.  Perhaps it helps that he has so many other talents.  He is a poet and a musician. He knows himself well enough to know that he is “mad talented.” 

In all things, he says, “you don’t want to overdo it, because everything’s better in moderation.” With dance, “it’s more an energy thing than a physical thing.  If that makes sense.”  He considers what he has just said and then reassures himself, “Yeah, yeah it makes sense.”

Another of Worm’s passions is martial arts.  This practice combines movement and philosophy; it is tailor-made for Worm’s gifts.  Perhaps inevitably, he married it to his love for krump.  “Krump fu” is the style that emerged.  It combines wildly athletic flips and kicks with the angular, emotive dance form. 

YouTube-ers know Worm best for krump fu, but they might be surprised to learn that, for Worm himself, krump fu does not stop with what they see onscreen.  “It’s more so a lifestyle” than a dance.  Worm is a dancer, so he is, by nature, physical.  He is also a thinker, so he dwells and analyzes.  If he has recently had a fight, this reflection will take the form of krump fu. 

“Like, yo, I just had a fight the other day," he said. "Yo, I gave him a hook this way, here! And I wanted to give him a kick, but I never really could get to it— So I reenact the fight and do the actual kick here.” 

Just as krump has guided his life, his life has “bred” krump fu.

Worm does not yet know what he wants his future to look like. But he is committed to moving forward, and with his deadly combination of talent and philosophizing, one can hardly wait to see where he goes.

Reach contributor Samantha London here.



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