OAKLAND (KPIX) – The Oakland man who created a popular dance move in 2009 says the past two years have been life-changing to see the world learn the “Smeeze” and acknowledge its roots in his hometown.

“The Smeeze is like a workout plan, it’s a workout,” said Denzel “Chonkster” Davis. “It’s a movement that creates nothing but happiness, literally, it’s a party starter.”

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Davis came up with the concept while watching a movie. He explained that it starts with a simple bending of your knee and then gets more complex as you move side-to-side, eventually hopping and bouncing more to the beat of a song.

“It’s a blessing, I’m thankful for having the platforms that we have today to make the dance go viral,” Davis told KPIX 5 on Monday. “It’s amazing, it blows my mind.”

Eight years after he first started showing his friends and dance teammates the steps, he noticed it getting recognition at some of the highest levels. One of the most recognized dance crews in the world, Jabbawockeez, performed the “Smeeze” at the 2018 NBA Finals when the Golden State Warriers were in the series.

“Dancing really saved my life from the streets of Oakland,” he said. “Dancing really kept my head straight, this building kept me off the streets.”

As he watches clips of athletes, singers like Ciara and Janet Jackson, as well as actress Gabrielle Union perform his dance, he is grateful for his journey starting at a youth center in Oakland. Youth UpRising gave him the space and time to stay out of trouble and work on his craft.

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“This building saved a lot of lives, this building saved lives, it gave people a career it gave kids something to do,” Davis said. “On the streets of Oakland, you have to protect yourself, watch your back, here you can be a kid.”

His teammates who also spend time at Youth UpRising say it has been incredible to watch this video they knew well before it was popular catch on across the country. They appreciate the chance for creativity from Oakland to get more respect.

“Now I see everyone in New York doing it, Miami, Texas, Atlanta, it’s like a really huge impact,” said Yaameen Muhammad, another member of Davis’ dance team. “It means a lot, ’cause it shows we got more identities besides than just the rapping scene, the acting scene, and the sports scene, we also got the dancing scene too.”

Youth UpRising started in 2007 giving teens a place to go that focuses on the arts, multimedia, and other ways to express themselves. It also provides health and wellness for the community, helping students in school and assisting with finding a job and housing.

“You come here with an idea and we help you bring it to fruition. It’s all about the youth here,” said Terrance Tallie, the multimedia production manager for the organization. He benefitted from the services at the center when he was younger and now works there. “Oakland is a very dangerous city but the love is overshadowed by the negativity. We have so many different youth that are very talented in many different aspects.”

Davis hopes more teens will find a positive outlet like he did to pave a path forward for them. He wants more of the artists in his city to gain a platform to share their work.

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“A boy from Oakland, California created it in his bedroom and has the whole world doing it,” he said.
“There’s really a lot of positivity in Oakland. It’s created like a lot. Myself, I just push the good.”