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Rik-o-shea - The Rave dancing robot
It all began way back in 1983, the pre-breakdance era when the sounds of Hip-Hop and Electro began to evolve, accompanied by the dance moves of body-popping, locking and robot. A young guy by the name of Robert O’Shea would spend hours practising his moves in the backstreets of Birmingham with his friends until he perfected the art of locking.
This involved sharp jerking movements of the arms and legs and was a unique way of dancing to street music. When Rob was old enough, he started attending all day Hip-Hop/Electro events which were being held at The Powerhouse in Birmingham city centre, and it was from there Rob got the taste of the buzz from a real live event.
When 1988/89 arrived along with Acid House, Rob (like a lot of people following the Hip-Hop/Electro scene) progressed into the new fresh buzz which was surrounding the Acid House events. The places to be were The Humming Bird and The Porsche Club, both in Birmingham where events were rammed every week. A new dance craze had arrived and Rob spent months attending the Acid House parties, until one day he felt he wasn’t achieving complete fulfilment from his dancing.
So one night at an event called ‘Time’, held at The Porsche Club, Rob was dancing away to a Micky Finn set when the track ‘Pure Pleasure’ by GTO boomed out of the system. Rob felt a wicked rush run through him, and closed his eyes tranced to the music. Whilst keeping his eyes closed, Rob introduced the locking movements to his dancing (which he had perfected years before) and continued to dance in his style for 5 minutes. The, he opened his eyes and was amazed to see an admiring crowd of about sixty people gathered around him cheering. Rob was completely buzzed by all the attention, and from that moment the concept of Rik-O-Shea was born.
As the scene erupted and continued to grow, Rob began to travel around the country to the large all nighters which were being held, such as Perception, Elevation and Spectrum. He decided to become a proper stage dancer after attending a Perception event at Long Marston airfield, Stratford. All night Rob danced around the stage area which was protected by a four foot high fence and patrolled by three security guards. When they weren’t looking, Rob would scale the fence and dance on the stage area for up to half an hour before being spotted and ejected from the stage. This was repeated many times during the night as the buzz of stage dancing firmly took its grip on Rob. His first break was working for a local event called Spectrum, held at The Institute in Birmingham.
While backstage, Rob bumped into a guy he knew who was involved in the laser industry. With him he had brought a portable 3 watt laser, which Rob persuaded him to connect to his body using fibre optics to enhance his dancing on stage. His friend promptly obliged and Rob re-entered the stage area using his locking robot moves and the laser arcing across the arena from his body. Everybody in the place briefly paused and watched in awe at the spectacle they were seeing, until the breaks from the music dropped in and Rob began locking to the rhythm and the whole place erupted and went totally crazy.
After this experience, Rob had a concept in his head which consisted of a sci-fi style robot, complete with lasers firing from it, plus his rhythmic locking robot movements to enhance the raves which he was working at. Fortunately Rob had a close friend called Robert Frazer who was an architectural designer by trade. He was enlisted by Rob to draw conceptual designs based upon his ideas, so that he could approach somebody about taking this further and actually turning his idea into reality.
Rob’s friend immediately set about the task and soon presented a set of drawing showing a suit and laser system which could be worn and flexible enough to dance in. Armed with his life savings of £3,500 Rob decided to invest his money and have the robot suit built so that he could do the thing he enjoyed most, and earn a living at the same time.
Now came the difficult part, finding a manufacturer who could fulfil his ambition. Initially he contacted a number of theatrical costume designers in Birmingham who were unable to help, but one of them suggested that he contacted Central Television. Rob struck gold as he was put in touch with a local company who specialised in fabric costumes for television programmes and films.
It took over three months of trial and error to construct the robot with suit design. First, Rob’s whole body was put into a plastercast to create a moulded statue of his exact body shape. Then clay was carefully added to the statue to create the design from the drawings by Rob’s friend. Further moulds were constructed before the exact design Rob wanted was achieved.
The final mould was then used to create a fibre-glass suit of all Rob’s body parts including the headset, which had provision for adding in a small laser system. Next the suit had to be painted using a specialist paint which would exaggerate the 3-dimensional properties of the fibreglass creating the desired sci-fi effect. Finally, a laser was imported all the way from America and fitted into the headset completing the robot suit. The finished product was mind-blowing and left Rob with little change from his £3,500 savings. Now was the time to put the robot suit into action and try and recoup some of his outlay.
For his first appearance, Rob agreed to work for free to prove what an excellent addition to any dance event he could be. The event was Starlight at Aston Villa Leisure Centre, a big all night event which sold out weeks in advance. On the night Rob donned his suit, complete with laser, and made for the main arena where it was already rammed and rocking. People stared in disbelief at the futuristic figure that was dancing and locking his way through the masses.
Never before had an attraction of such articulate detail and design been seen at a rave before, this was ‘The Ultimate Dance Weapon’. The icing on the cake was firing the laser across the crowd which sent them into a frenzy. So, Rik-O-Shea was born and immediately became an instant success as ravers continued to talk about him for months after his debut at Starlight.
As the word spread, Rik-O-Shea became in demand as bookings were received from Fantazia, Vision, Dreamscape, Pandemonium, Dance Planet, Elevation and every other promoter in the land wanting his dance-prodigy to grace their events. Rob worked solidly on the scene for three years as it grew and grew. He worked almost every club and one-off event in the country.
In 1993 he even appeared in the Daily Mirror newspaper with a big photograph of him at Fantazia, Castle Donnington, giving him widespread national coverage. Everything went well up until 1994 when the demise of the big outdoor events arrived and the scene went back underground into the clubs. Rob became disillusioned with the scene at this time as rip-off promoters and moody people forced him to pull away from the music which he loved.
Instead he ventured into Europe to explore the scene further afield. Rik-O-Shea has been booked twice for the Euphoria events which take place at the Dorian Gray in Frankfurt, Germany. He has also played in Ireland at events in Dublin and Belfast, but his favourite adventure overseas was to war-torn Zagreb in Yugoslavia where he described the people as the most friendly and respectful people you could ever meet, despite their troubles!
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