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Full Circle Productions.

New Victory Theater New York, New York October 18-November 3, 2002

As spectators filed into the New Victory Theater, the neon energy of Times Square trailed behind them. The mostly pint-sized theatergoers were amped to see Full Circle Productions' Soular Power'd, which had boogied its way down from the Bronx and onto 42nd Street. The show began at 7:00 P.M. as an onstage DJ, lost in his own groove, spun beats and an older Hispanic man countered on conga drums. As if drawn by the music, dancers began to file onstage, warming up, freestyling, and egging each other on, like a flashback to a lunchroom scene from television's Fame.

Breaking, pop-locking, beatboxing, rapping, record scratching--Full Circle Productions cut and pasted elements of life in the 'hood; as a backdrop, slides flashed urban scenes, like the legend on the map for this journey (graffiti, kids playing on the street, sneakers hanging from telephone wires). In the "Afro Latin" section, cultures battled through dance, blacks against Hispanics, with street, salsa, and African dancers one-upping each other. MC Blowout rhymed about police discrimination as a cop taunted dancers "hanging on the corner." The dancers vented their frustration through explosive movement, wind-milling, spinning on backs and heads, ending in contorted poses. An ensemble piece, "Frontline," followed; clad in fatigues, male dancers feigned shooting guns until the females entered, actually toting them. Though the message wasn't always clear, the anger over gun violence was palpable. THERE IS AN UNTAMED ELEMENT TO HIP-HOP, AND THESE PERFORMERS WERE AT THEIR BEST WHEN THEY CAPTURED THE SPONTANEOUS ESSENCE OF THEIR GENRE. When they freestyled, they were energetic and even captivating. Individually, the men were exciting and dynamic. Their ensemble work was much stronger than that of their female counterparts, who seemed to be struggling to keep up with their choreography and working too hard for street credibility. These women reminded me of West Side Story's Anybodys, who desperately wanted to be down with the guys. To the company's credit, the women were not relegated to booty-shorts-wearing hoochies. The truth is, hip-hop is still a male-dominated dance form, and the women had a hard time matching the power, speed, and the "how-you-like-me-now?" attitude of the men. That's one for hip-hop to ponder.

MC Blowout, the beatboxers, spoken word artists Afra, Brisk, and Baba, and DJ DP-One kept us in a head-nodding flow, but the ensemble choreography, created primarily by Kwistep and Rokafella, was weak. The vignettes in Soular Power'd were fragmented and unpolished. It was like sitting on a stoop watching a neighborhood group go through their routines, which were amateurish and underrehearsed. Was that the point? Over the last ten years, MTV has helped hip-hop move from ghetto to glossy. Commercial choreographers Tina Landen, Fatima, and Darrin Henson have developed styles that combine edgy, innovative street moves with militaristic precision and sex appeal. On the concert scene, Rennie Harris manages to fuse spontaneity and structure. Artistically, the bar has been raised, but in this concert, music was the star.
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Author:Howard, Theresa
Publication:Dance Magazine
Article Type:Dance Review
Date:Feb 1, 2003
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