Sep. 26, 2012 - Issue #884: Strangelove
Though it's one of the more populist dance forms of the moment, street dance is rarely included in a soft-seat theatre season. Hence why the opener for the Brian Webb Dance Company, a co-presentation with the Arden Theatre in St Albert, is a ground-breaker for not only the dance community, but also for the ticket-buyers that tend to frequent more, say, traditional "high-art" fare.
"I wanted to step foot into the performing arts world, and there lied the challenge: to bring what we do to the stage and keep it authentic," says Bboyizm's artistic director and founder, Yvon Soglo—also known as Crazy Smooth—about creating IZM for mainstage theatre audiences. It was about keeping it real, all clichés aside. The impromptu vibe of street dance is important to maintain, he notes, but it's also important to allow the form to gain reputation as legitimate performance.
"[It's about] not compromising our esthetic, our movement, our energy when we're onstage, but at the same time realizing that we are on a stage and not at a club or a challenge," he says. "It's an art piece."
To trap all that improvised energy and spirit of breaking on a dancefloor or in a cypher circle or in a battle and put it into a 60-minute stage show was bound to be tough, but Soglo had ideas that were beyond the conventional showmanship as seen in recent McDonald's commercials and reality show competitions.
"The show is a very complete show, and it's very intellectual. I wanted it to be challenging for the audience. It's a challenging show, but it has that same energy that we have when we're getting down in a cypher," he explains. Soglo, who was the first recipient of a full Canada Council grant to study B-boying and hip hop in 2005, has spent the last decade honing his craft and watching its popularity soar.
"We're seeing basically another '80s," he says, citing his first real memory of wanting to pursue breakdance seriously after he saw the film Breakin' in high school. "The '80s was the first commercial boom of street dance; you would see it in commercials and movies like the more underground Breakin', Beat Street, but even in the big Hollywood movies like Flashdance you would see it. Basically in the 2000s, we're reliving that same kind of commercialization with a vengeance. Of course today there's a lot more money involved. Corporation companies have interest in that publicity, and arguably because it's the biggest voice the youth have for expression. The Royal Bank, McDonald's, it's in their interest to spend money on what the kids are into."
One might assume that street-dance culture might rage against anything resembling the corporate machine, but Solgo admits he takes a more diplomatic approach, illustrating his savvy as a career artist.
"As an artist whenever anybody gets work, it's work, you know. There's an artist side to me that wants to maintain integrity, and you don't want to sell out—and we also don't want to get into another '80s where the media sells street dance and commercializes it so much that it dies out because it becomes passé."
Ultimately, public fascination with street dance is at an all-time high, and it's doubtful that interest will wane—especially now that every dance company offers classes in popping, locking, B-boying—"you name it" says Soglo.
"When I started you couldn't just go out and say I'm going to take a street-dance class; today you can."
Fri, Sep 28 – Sat, Sep 29 (7:30 pm)
Presented by Brian Webb Dance Company and Arden Theatre
Arden Theatre, $20 – $35 vueweekly.com comments: powered by Disqus
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