~ There is only one journey: going inside yourself. ~
- Rainer Maria Rilke


"Rize" and Krumping ~ Tuesday, March 21, 2006

We saw a fascinating film on Saturday night, entitled "Rize." A documentary about the rise of a new dance form which originated in some kind of clowing hip-hop dance style (Tommy the hip-hop clown in South Central LA). I really thought it might be a mocumentary at first, when some kid's mother was saying "Out here, the kids are either with one of the gangs, or with one of the clown groups." And I thought--have I misheard, here? A gang or a *clown* group?? Like the clowns are strong enough to keep the kids out of *gangs*?

But it was true. Apparently, there's a profusion of so-called "clown" groups in South Central. And they consist of young people who basically do this form of hip-hop dancing called the "stripper dance" with moves layered over it that make it (apparently) into a clown hybrid dance. But, even though Tommy and some of his guys really do go and clown at kids' birthday parties and things, it soon becomes pretty obvious that the meaning of the word "clown" has morphed significantly in the region.

And while Tommy still wears the rainbow wig and the white makeup, most of the other guys and gals use some sort of dramatic face art *sans* the usual clownish tropes of wigs and red grins.

And then, there's the form that emerged from this clowning dance, called "krumping". It's dark, it's urban, it's violent and intense and amazing to watch. And yet, it's also very visceral and tribal (Tom and I were commenting on that, and then, a few minutes later, the film made that inter-connection explicit). The youth who do it are working off their anger, and exploring their ancestral roots. At any rate, it's something I've never seen before--really original stuff (not that I know a *ton* about dance forms). There's a trance-like, sacred, but also martial quality. Like a dark, very disturbing and really fast tai chi.

And in this context, the clown face paint has morphed into more minimal facial markings that evoke some sort of urban, tribal patterning.

The film depicts a face off between the clowns and the krumpers and I kept thinking--wow, this really doesn't do anything to dispel the fears of those who find clowns scary and disturbing to begin with.

At any rate, it's powerful, fascinating stuff.

::Posted by Anduril Elessar @ 9:05 AM::::


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Anduril Elessar
Susan Deefholts

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