The American Dance Show. Flexing or Connecting to Reality Through “Bone Breaking”
https://www.ziarulmetropolis.ro/the-american-dance-show-flexing-or-connecting-to-reality-through-bone-breaking/

One of the performances that opened the Sibiu International Theater Festival (at it’s 25th edition, one in which performing arts were substantially represented), was The American Dance Show, a flexing performance by The Flex Company. The show was directed by Reggie (Regg Roc) Gray, one of the pioneers of this rather new and increasingly popular dance style, alongside Peter Sellars, the famous, not-that-orthodox theater and opera director. The American Dance Show is part of the American Democracy Series, by ArtKtype.

Un articol de Cristina Enescu|19 Iulie 2018

A mixture of street dance, ballet moves, contortionism and Nike shoes, sports and casual street wear, theatrical body expression, mime effects, extraordinary physical performances, vulnerability and strength in body and mind – all these are ways to express social, cultural, personal, very concrete experiences of these dancers and their environment. This is Flexin (also called Bone Breaking). Originating in the Jamaican culture of the 1990s, but evolving in its present form since only about 15 years ago, this style has spread infectiously throughout the African American community in Brooklyn, New York.

The combination of live streaming from the stage, the invitation for the public to participate through voice and movement to what happens on the stage, creating a highly energetic and engaging connection between audience and stage – these are certainly not features unseen and unheard of in past years’ performing arts creations, but they did create during this show a quite vivid sense of energy, freshness and interactivity. Also, the performers challenged the audience to detach from the mental frame of dance as just an aesthetic art, a simulation of reality, thus making a point about dance being rather a story and a message born from the flesh and blood of reality. It is a dance show that speaks of the double standards of police versus black people, about schools where youngsters rebel against discrimination through nonconformism, about courts of law where injustice often dresses up as democracy and political correctness, about the diminished freedom of expression of the socially marginalized, about the feeling of lack of safety in “the most safe and democratic country in the world”, America. And about the freedom and the strength that even society’s outcasts can reach through that which defines us all as human beings: having a body.

Despite apparent similarities, flexing does not stem from hip-hop or funk culture. Beyond the visual appeal of extreme physical flexibility, this style has become increasingly popular also as an escape from the daily life, particularly through an exposure through dance of this same reality. Flexing is danced with an infectious energy and joy, whilst all body types and personal and social experiences are celebrated and valued.

American Dance Show

Flex is about creating contradictory illusions, the impossibly smooth gliding effects coupled with ‘bone-breaking’ shoulder pops and twisted limbs” (Brixx, flexer). Unlike other street dance styles, flexing dance and culture were born not out of the sheer desire to show off through intricate movements, but from the intrinsic urge, the vital need to communicate about highly personal but also socially relevant experiences, about freedom and racism, about the daily struggle to escape the dangers of street life, about the way social and political contexts and those related to the color of one’s skin can either destroy young people, or be an opportunity and a challenge to overcome their limitations – starting with their bodily ones.

The American Dance Show might not have impressed that kind of audience which, from the inquisitorial immobility of the theater hall, often expect that a dance show delivers perfectly coordintion, state of the art movement innovation and a choreographic genius.  But shows like this one can have a regenerating effect on contemporary audiences, which have become somehow desensitized by increasingly high impact entertainment and special visual effects. The challenge that this American dance company suggests is to keep an open mind, as much as possible free of expectations, and an open heart to feel, perceive and experience the world in a different way, not just according to one’s well established expectations but rather according to another one’s story and reality. The team’s encouragements for the audience to record and live broadcast pictures and videos from the show – in a society increasingly protective towards intellectual property, but also where social networks are a growing, all-welcoming place for all types of cultures and communities- all this created in this show a sense of free living, energy resonance and belonging to a vibe communityof individuals from different countries, cultures and life experiences.

Foto: Paul Baila, FITS 2018



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