Today we’re joined by Gabriel Lozano to talk about what many consider to be the purest forms of tricks: repeaters. You should know Gabe as the brains behind Sector-Y, one of the most legendary pioneering online yo-yo resources ever, and as if that’s not pedigree enough he’s also a member of Duncan Crew USA and Spindox. He’s put together too many classic yo-yo videos to name, and has created such timeless tricks as Candyrain and Shockwave. He knows the difference between a good trick and a bad one by now and is here to tell us all about it.
How would you define a “repeater”, and what makes a good one?
Gabe: Obviously, there’s the baseline definition where a repeater is defined as “something that repeats.” But it’s much more than that. For example, take a trick like Mach 5 or Boingy-Boing. Both of these are visually striking because of an element that repeats over and over (rotating hands or bouncing yoyos), but most people would not call them repeaters. The reason is that there’s only 1 element that repeats. Much like you wouldn’t call multiple summersaults or multiple pinwheels “Repeaters,” one-element repetition doesn’t have enough substance to be called a repeater.
I would say that a repeater has a mount (however complex), then two or three elements that repeat over and over in sequence. Something like Mount > Element 1 > Element 2 > Element 1 > Element 2 > … > Element 1 > Element 2 > Dismount. A good repeater will have interesting elements that flow together nicely. To me, the construction of linking Element 1 to Element 2 (and maybe to Element 3) is extremely important. If the transition between elements is abrupt, then the repeater will look ugly. If the transitions are smooth, then everything will flow together nicely and the repetitions will look that much better.
Penultimately, a good repeater has to be relatively short and refined. You would never have a repeater be Mount > Element 1 > Element 2 > Element 3 > Element 4 > Element 5 > Repeat > … > Dismount, because it will take too long to get back to Element 1. There’s too many pieces n the way and the repeater is diluted. At this point, the repetition is no longer the focus of the trick because there’s multiple-elements in the way of the trick repeating itself.
Lastly, repeaters should be simple enough to be visually recognizable. This is definitely more subjective, but it follows from the previous point. If a repeater has too many elements (and is thus complex and not simple), it will not be a good repeater. The complexity of linking several moves together kills any style and grace for that repeater, so complexity (for the most part) should be left out when considering repeater-construction.
So to recap, the best repeaters are smooth, refined, simple, and visually recognizable as a repeater.
I’d love to see a top five of your favorite repeaters and what you like about them – what makes them work?
Gabe: There are soooo many great repeaters out there! In the end, here are 5 repeaters that stand out and exemplify the definition and spirit of the repeater.
Shockwave is one of the most basic repeaters. The fact that it’s so simple (only 2 elements) and flows together so beautifully is what makes it one of the best. OK, maybe I’m biased since I created it, but it really does capture the essence of the repeater concept. When you look at it, it’s very clear that it’s repeating and it does so in an elegant and zen-like way.
Created by Hidemasa Senba, Nanda Kanda is another classic repeater that stands out because of it’s striking clarity and simplistic nature. I also love it because it’s a front-mount repeater that doesn’t involve any sort of somersaults, barrel rolls, or other “complex” components. Nanda Kanda really is as distilled as it gets; it’s composed only of mounts and dismounts.
Mark Montgomery’s Arm Repeater
This is a severely underrated repeater. The reason why I find it so intriguing is the motion in the arms and the motion of the yoyo work together to form an amazing rhythm. It somewhat reminds me of the coupling rods of train wheels, chugging along, repeating the same motion over and over. It’s hypnotic.
This is a trick created by both Kalani Bergdorf and Anthony Rojas. This repeater is different from the other repeaters in that the moves are very different in style. The arms crossing and uncrossing, along with the yoyo popping up and over the string, is a really simple idea. The smoothness really brings these unique holds together to form something that looks much more visually striking than you might expect.
This repeater is amazing because of the incredible motion of the yo-yo. One of the factors in having a successful repeater is usually that there are only one or two small components that are repeating. Typically when you start to add too many things, the repeater gets diluted and becomes uninteresting. Anchovies bucks that trend. There are so many cool things going on and, most importantly, they all work together and complement each other to form a very cohesive and distinct repeater.
In addition to creating some of the most timeless repeaters, you’ve helped document countless others in videos such as “Things That Repeat”. How do you make sure that a trick stays interesting in a video even when it’s essentially the same thing over & over?
Gabe: I’ve never really thought much about repeaters being different in a context of the video, but now that you mention it, it there is one big difference that I can think of: when you film a repeater, you get to control the angle and view. This is the same as any other trick, but this probably matters more with a repeater because if you’re going to do the same motion 3 times in a row, you better make it look good. A prime example is Anthony Rojas’ trick Infinity. The trick looks boring when collapsed and filmed from a straight-on angle. This is because you can’t see the incredible 3D-ness of the trick. But when filmed from above at a 3/4 view, it looks so incredibly awesome. Compare this clip to the one above and see for yourself:
But don’t get me wrong. Angle isn’t everything. No angle can make a bad repeater look good. The key to having a repeater stay interesting is to make interesting repeaters. There’s no way around it!
Do you have any advice for anyone that is looking to create a new repeater?
Gabe: When it comes down to it, repeaters are simple tricks. They are not complex, long-winded combos, but rather purified elements that link together. The key to making a successful repeater is to make sure every single element is interesting. Since repeaters are constructed using only a few moves, it becomes extra important to make sure that each of those moves is interesting and important. Don’t fill your repeater with extra underpasses, somersaults, or other movements that are combinations of other movements. If you do, you will likely dilute your repeater into something more complex, and lose the magic that a simple repeater has.