The Underground: Street Chronicles, produced by USC Visions & Voices: seen September 3, 2011
On Tuesday, September 3, I got reminded why I want to be an arts journalist.
You see, one of the benefits of being an arts journalist is that I get chances to see things that I may never have gone to see had I been just an average appreciator of the performing arts. Now, reviewing five of the Kansas City Fringe Festivals taught me that this is not always a good thing, but there are times – like this night – when it’s brilliant.
You see, to stereotype myself, I’m a white woman from the Midwest. Hip hop, rap, and the dance style seen in The Underground: Street Chronicles of krumping and popping are not in my normal wheel house of interests. It’s not that I have anything against them (and I’m in fact a recent convert to the Chilean hip hop artist Ana Tjoux): I just don’t seek it out like I do my other interests. In other words, had I been at USC for another reason, or had this show been in Kansas City, I would normally have not necessarily sought it out.
And as a result, I would have missed one of the most astonishing nights of dance I have seen in a long time.
After an introduction that explains that the dancers will expect feedback akin to a Sunday morning gospel revival, we were given a performance that was emotional, violent at times, political, beautiful, and fascinating to watch. The music is in charge here in this improvisational dance style, and the dancers are coordinated yet free at the same time. The amount of effort is palpable, and the dancers are showing their heart on their sleeve, and there were more than one time I sat back in amazement at the talent.
The best part was at the Q&A, when a woman introduced her young son, and the dance team was told he is into this very much. They asked him to come up and show what he had, and the look on his face was that of pure heaven: he was obviously excited, scared, and happy to have this opportunity. He danced, and the crowd went wild when it was obvious he was not bragging just to brag. The community came together to pass on the love of this dance to another generation.
Trying new things isn’t always a positive thing: Sturgeon’s Law shows that 90% of everything is crap, and it’s always a gamble to venture into something you’re not familiar with. But it’s that 10% that makes it worth dying for. And The Underground is definitely in that 10%.
For more information about The Underground Street Dance, including videos, visit undergroundstreetdance.com.