The Evil Imp

What’s up with Hip Hop?


A few days back some members of TheLab™ went to a showcase dance performance. You know the sort of thing, several works, different dance makers, all a bit of a mixed bag between creative professionals and first timers.

In the mix was a hip hop company (or break-dance posse, krew (sic) or whatever) that appeared to make the teenage girls in the audience squeal an awful lot and garnered a rousing ovation when it was all over.

The name of the company escapes me but it matters not because I’m sure you have seen it all before a million times. Intense, beat laden music, video graphics, freezes, handstands, flips, macho posturing, etc, etc. It’s all very impressive, the flips and handstands and displays of strength especially. Those kind of physical theatrics are also impressive when 14 year old female gymnasts do them with a lot more style in the Olympics but I digress.

What struck a chord with me was that I had seen this particular show before. More than a dozen years ago. A mix of dance performances, contemporary, new dance makers, old dance makers, hip hop ‘krew’ and lots of screaming girls (for the hip hop ‘krew’).

The problem is that the contemporary stuff of today was very different, it had moved on, it had changed from twelve years ago, it had evolved. The hip hop stuff on the other hand was exactly the same. All of the moves were the same, the music was the same, the basic premise was the same. It was bombastic style over substance.

Following a recent performance by Verve (NSCD’s graduate company) the audience response was appreciative and possibly enthusiastic (and half the size). This is puzzling because the dancers in Verve are exceptionally skilled professional dancers performing, for the most part, skillfully crafted work without so much as foot out of place. Yet they are treated to a half full theatre and a tepid appreciation of their craft.

It’s not that the hip hop ‘krew’ are not without skill its just that those skills have been played to death for the last twenty five years at least. It doesn’t move on, it doesn’t go anywhere, it doesn’t change. Break dancing is the same. It’s fine for what is is but what exactly is it and why do teenage girls squeal when they see it?

I suspect the squealing is more to do with the fact that the dancers are boys with trousers on that don’t fit properly. At the risk of sounding like a complete curmudgeon I would helpfully suggest that the ‘boys’ grow a bit bigger and put on some chin whiskers because if they keep up all that macho posturing a 14 year female gymnast is going to slap them!

They may also wish to move their work out of the 1980’s, where it seems to be inextricably stuck.