"Hot like fire, people's desire, MC Hammer gonna make you retire".
Yes ladies and gentleman, my first big gig was MC Hammer at Mt Smart Supertop, circa 1991.
I can't remember much, but what I can remember, however, is nearly drowning in a sea of homemade balloon pants and being deafened by people yelling out "Hammer, Hammer, here comes the Hammer!"
In response, I looked in the direction of the stage but could only see the backs of some really great fades and mothers trying to corral their kids.
There were so many people and we were so far away from the stage that we couldn't really see the Hammer.
Undeterred by the poor sight lines and needing to clear some space around me, I busted out my secret weapon, the Running Man (a dance step where the dancer essentially runs on the spot, arms work in a unison pulling action towards the body). Now, over the years, many of my friends have claimed to have the most powerful Running Man style. Jess Smith (my former partner and Silo producer) is famous for doing it for nearly two hours straight at a high school social and another friend is notorious for doing it all the way up the Bullock Track.
But mine was different to most, it had been forged in the fires of our student flat, merged with some contemporary dance liberalism (I was a dance student at the time), and refried with some New Jack Swing (a fusion genre made famous by Teddy Riley in the late 80s and 90s). My style had been perfected through years of video research and market testing at house parties. I was ready to unleash the dragon so I did, Boom! ... nothing.
We left early and I realised how much I hate crowds. I retired the paisley balloon pants and hung up the leather bolero jacket. It took me years before I could run again in public.
I was 20 years old, and yes I should have known better, it was my first and last big gig. However, more than a decade later, I managed to summon enough courage to brave the crowds and attended a seated concert at the ASB Theatre where Alicia Keys spent the night dedicating song after song to me. Unfortunately the timing wasn't right and I had to let her down gently.
Today, if the conditions are right and knees are sufficiently lubricated I bust out the Running Man for old times sake to let all the challengers young and old know, that in the immortal words of the Hammer, "you can't touch this!"
* Neil is the founding artistic director of Black Grace, who perform their new work Xmas Verses from November 5 to 9 at the Herald Theatre in Auckland. See blackgrace.co.nz