Category Archive for: ‘Jo Tomalin’
(Above) Photo by Jo Tomalin
Clas/sick Hip Hop is HOT!
CLAS/SICK HIP HOP featuring legendary hip hop pioneer Rennie Harris and accomplished musician and composer Daniel Bernard Roumain (DBR) was an exciting hip hop mini-festival comprising six “post-hip hop” dancers. This new twist to hip hop was presented by the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA) in San Francisco, November 30, and December 1, 2012, curated by and with Concept Design by Marc Bamuthi Joseph, Director of YBCA Performing Arts.
Joining dancer, choreographer, artistic director, and professor of hip-hop Rennie Harris, were dancers Marquese “Nonstop” Scott and Arthur “Lil Crabe” Cadre of YouTube fame, trail-blazing b-girl Ana “Rokafella” Garcia, and California-based newcomers Ladia Yates and Levi Allen (AKA I Dummy).
The YBCA is a commendable presenter for this show because of their commitment to push boundaries by collaborating with and challenging such artists to take risks, performing within this institution. Without doubt, the versatility of the large open space of the Forum was an advantage – set up with an area of raised seating on each side of the room, and the dancers appeared from the audience or corners of the room into the huge dance space.
However, as the audience entered we were told not to sit down – but to join in the first half of the evening by dancing. The YBCA Forum immediately became an animated dance party in a dark club, with fabulous light shows and projections on the walls and ceiling (Production Design by David Szlasa) – as one by one, the hip hop dancers surprised the crowd and appeared in a spotlight doing an improvised solo and duos.
The brilliant improvisations varied in style – from slow Butoh-like movement with silent screams, to stop start controlled robotic movement, perfectly coordinated moon walks, sensitive moments of lyrical dance, and lightning fast contortions and acrobatic moves.
What is different about the concept of this show is that the hip hop dancers are accompanied by virtuoso violinist Daniel Bernard Roumain (DBR) and his string ensemble including violinist Matthew Szemela. Classically trained, Roumain mashes his own cultural references with classical music, playing on a small stage while collaborating with DJ/Producer Elan Vytal, at the centre of the dance floor for his solo, or moving among the dancers.
Award-winning theater artist Marc Bamuthi Joseph, states in the program notes that the goal of the mini-festival, collaborating with Harris and Roumain, is to “”normalize” the movement vocabulary of 21st century social dance within the framework of a high end contemporary arts center, bridging classical and jazz music forms to the continuum of urban dance…Clas/sick Hip Hop engages this institution and some of the artists we love in an activist curatorial philosophy, and stakes a unique claim in performance that will only happen on our stages. We articulate a sense of added pedagogical agency to the notion of the “jazz intellect”, the under reported cerebral intonations of improvisation, particularly as manifested in African American culture.”
While hip hop and “post-hip hop” are their own genres of dance, they are esoteric and may not have been thought of as a mainstream dance form by all. However, Clas/Sick Hip Hop hopes to show that not only is this is its own dance genre but it is also a form of modern dance with rich multifaceted roots, especially when accompanied by Roumain’s poignant and expressive eclectic live violin performance.
In the second part of this show dancers performed in duos – with choreographed and improvised sequences that worked very well together and brought out each dancer’s personality and own dance style. What was remarkable and unexpected were the emotional arcs and personal storytelling that came through the movement in each pair.
In one piece, two guys look at each other, then circle around as if in a street, giving attitude…they try to outdo each other with their moves. One incorporates mime to sound effects very cleverly…in the end they both win – wonderful!
In another piece, two dressed as cowboys with checkered shirts and black hats have a dance conversation reacting and communicating through wonderfully contorted movements and exquisite footwork – light on their feet, slick and graceful.
A male dancer dressed in blue denim jacket, beige chinos and red sneakers, and a female dancer in tight black cat suit, red cap and red sneakers dance to soulful piano and violin music, relating to each other emotionally, yet the unorthodox is still present as he slowly walks on his tippy toes in sneakers, he’s bendy and contorts his limbs, then they move in a slow motion visceral pull towards each other.
A dancer spins on her head, in a pool of light, accompanied by melodic violin music – and enthusiastic audience cheers – her partner contorts arms and legs impossibly and balances on one hand gymnastically. They slide and stretch across the floor together meeting upside down and contemplating each other, then bounce and spin in sync to the gentle music.
The show culminated with an absorbing piece incorporating spoken word, with each of the six dancers taking the focus performing their own freestyle movement thoughtfully expressing the poetry and music.
A wonderful addition to this hip hop weekend were low cost dance classes all day on Saturday December 1, when students of any age could take mixed-level dance classes of five different genres including Afro-Peruvian to Congolese to Samba – for a day pass costing 50 cents!
Marc Bamuthi Joseph’s quest – and risk – paid off. He succeeded in producing a memorable mini-festival of hip hop dance and more, created by Harris, Roumain, Vytal, Szlasa, and the amazing dancers whose virtuosity and range of inspired choreography were ecstatically appreciated by the audience.
The Yerba Buena Center for the Arts is to be much applauded for producing this mini-festival. Benefits of producing this in a main stream and respected cultural center are very meaningful and worthwhile because the audiences of this sold out weekend were diverse in every way and exposed to the art of the hip hop dance form and culture – many for the first time – and I bet they would go back for more, I would.
More information and tickets for the YBCA Art Gallery, Films and Performances:
- Yerba Buena Center for the Arts: http://www.ybca.org
- YBCA Upcoming Events: http://tickets.ybca.org/single/EventListing.asp
- Rennie Harris
- Daniel Bernard Roumain (DBR)
- Not to be missed at the YBCA Galleries! An amazing Sculptural installation of fantasy + grotesque birds and short Clay animation films: The Parade: Nathalie Djurberg with Music by Hans Berg
Oct 12, 2012 – Jan 27, 2013