Leida Villegas, also known as Lady Sol, has been describing how she first met “King” Charles, which led to the start of the FootworKINGz.
At the time, Charles was working at Popeye’s on the South Side and his dream was to make a living as a performer, as a dancer. He’s also an MC, so he was gung-ho about, I wanna be an entertainer. He knew I had previous history in that, but when we met I had no interest in returning to the music industry or the whole entertainment industry. My experiences in that world just kind of left me with a bad taste in my mouth.
I’d gone through the whole thing of auditioning for videos, auditioning for artists, working with this person or working with that person, and through the years I found that that’s not where I was happy. I was not being spiritually fulfilled. I didn’t feel like I was growing mentally in that world, so I removed myself and started really owning my teaching skills as a dance artist. Soon enough, in LA, everything kind of shifted from music industry to arts in education and I was doing well. I was working with a lot of different organizations in LA. I was getting grants from the city to implement and develop programs. I was happy [laughs].
The main reason I came back was because I got pregnant, and my son’s father is in Chicago. I’ve known him since we were teenagers. Then of course, Kuumba Lynx was still in full effect and I started teaching again, so my relationship with King Charles turned into a teacher-mentor relationship. He was the founder of Creation, known in the city as the undisputed king of footwork, and thus “King” Charles. That’s how our relationship started.
Then it grew into, Lady Sol, will you be my manager? No, I don’t want to manage a bunch of kids. I was like, I have enough kids in class. Manage you? That’s like you’re gonna become my child. [Laughs.] That was after his disagreements with his former management. He would call me for advice and I’d be like, You know your paperwork, get it to a lawyer. There was a bunch of legal paperwork that he didn’t understand that he had no copies of, so there was just a lot of things, and I was like, Oh no, I do not want to be a part of that, so figure that piece out and then holler back.
I was very resistant to the idea of managing him and his group at the time. Then I was asked to organize the biggest city wide dance-down dance competition, that was attached to a Chris Brown concert at the UIC pavilion. They went all the way and they won this competition and this footwork battle clique competition and then there was a solo King of Footwork competition, which one of his other members won, so you know they were known as the undisputed champions of footwork, hands down.
So then, fast forward, I hired Charles to be one of my assistant teachers, so I started training him and showing him the structure of teaching. How to actually break down what it is that you do. He spent a good maybe year with me in that kind of mentor-teacher relationship, and then he was still developing his crew Creation and continued working with Creation.
Then in 2007 I came up with the idea of forming an all-star group of footworkers that would represent the city before the world. I already knew then that with my resources and my know-how and my work ethic that they would become an internationally recognized dance group. So I started assembling different members from different battle cliques: four from the West Side, four from the South Side, total of eight members from different battle cliques—Creation, Havoc, Heat Squad, and 187, the last two representing the West Side.
I wanted South Side representation, I wanted West Side representation. That was a grand idea, but then when we actually started rehearsing things started falling apart where egos were concerned. Here I have a group of eight young black men who all are leaders in their own rights in their own groups, in separate communities. So there was always this, you know, South Side is better than the West Side. No, the West Side is better than the South Side. They were all good, but there was that divide there. So things didn’t work. As a manager, you gotta figure out what works and what doesn’t work, so I figured out what was not working and I had to cut the fat. I had to let got of a couple of the members and figured out that since Charles already had trained so many members and that he’d been working with them for years that only made sense to bring more of his squad into the FootworkKINGz.
So Creation became the FootworKINGz, with the exception of Tee-Jay from Heat Squad. He decided to stay. Well, smart for him, ‘cause he booked a commercial that same year [laughs]. He was like, Um, OK, yeah I’mma stick it out. [Laughs.] Tee-Jay stuck around from the West Side, and since then that first year, 2007, we booked the Verizon Wireless commercial for the juke phone. I guess some marketing people were like, Juke, juke, oh OK, yeah let’s put it together.