Hip Hop Theater Festival

Hip Hop Theater FestivalHonestly, I hadn't realized the degree to which I'd grown disinterested in hip hop until I attended the Jack Ya Body dance program - part of the Hip Hop Theater event going on at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco. It was there I realized there still was much more to hip hop than beats, rhymes and braggadocio. Of course there always has been - tagging, cypher, and, of course, dancing. The festival showed that were folks who are still dedicated to keeping the spirit alive.

First up were Traci Bartlow and Dancers and they tore up the place. A lovely commentary on black dance through the ages - at least that's what it seemed to me and I am no dance expert. Hell, I can barely shake a leg! What I found most impressive with that piece was the out of sync nature of their steps. None off the dancers copied each other, yet all their postures fit into a coherent whole. Rashad Prigden followed with an energetic sequence which had real power, particularly towards the end, when accompanied by a mix of "Strange Fruit". Next up were the Black Messengers, the originators of the Electric Boogaloo, and "Boogaloo Resurrection." They literally vibrated themselves out of coffins and across the stage, playing tag team and reminding us of the other side of the funk. Traci Bartlow then introduced us to a number of Bay Area freestyle dancers including The Funky Asiatic. Good as they were, the next dancer must have been built with steel springs. Just watching him was enough to induce hernia! The final piece of the evening was by the Rubberdance Group. Victor Quijada spoke movingly about growing up with hip hop, becoming disillusioned with it and moving to classical music, and then, finally realizing it was all good. In between, he and his partner, Anne Plamondon, went through a sequence of jawdropping pieces, moving from pure b-boy stuff to ballet and ending with a fusion of the two. A fitting way to end a memorable evening. Plus we had a slew of good music on the soundtrack, some of which I actually recognized. You know your getting old when you know the samples but not necessarily the songs themselves!

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- May 10, 2005 9:09 PM // Theater