Hip-hop dance per­for­mance

Wisconsin Gazette - - Front Page - By Michael Muck­ian Con­tribut­ing writer

‘Win­ter­dances’ at UWM fea­tures hip-hop chore­og­ra­phy by D. Sa­bela Grimes in­spired by the 2016 up­ris­ing in Milwaukee’s Sher­man Park neigh­bor­hood.

He’s been called “the Los An­ge­les dance world’s best-kept se­cret” — and he’s bring­ing his style of hip-hop chore­og­ra­phy to Milwaukee in a com­po­si­tion in­spired by the 2016 Sher­man Park up­ris­ing.

D. Sa­bela Grimes — an as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor of prac­tice at the Univer­sity of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia’s Glo­rya Kauf­man School of Dance and a 2014 Rock­e­feller Fel­low — will be the guest artist for 2018 Win­ter­dances: Tran­sit at UWM’s Peck School of the Arts.

Per­for­mances of Grimes’ Bub­bling Ut­ter­ance will join the works of three lo­cal chore­og­ra­phers Feb. 1–4 at Ke­nil­worth Square East in Milwaukee. Other com­po­si­tions in­clude works by UWM dance fac­ulty mem­bers Daniel Burkholder, Maria Gillespie and depart­ment chair Si­mone Ferro, whose own per­for­mance work is based on what hap­pened at Sher­man Park.

Grimes de­scribes his work as “an im­pro­vi­sa­tional move­ment med­i­ta­tion” and “a freestyle crowded with in­tent.” Re­gard­ing the sub­ject mat­ter, the chore­og­ra­pher says his com­po­si­tion is de­signed “to bear wit­ness to in­jus­tice sin­cerely with in­tegrity.”

“D. Sa­bela is an icon­o­clast who suc­cess­fully bridges the gap be­tween what is seen on the stage and what is thought in the viewer’s mind,” says Ferro. “He is not afraid to blur the lines and ask tough ques­tions about race, so­cial jus­tice, in­clu­sive­ness and the vul­ner­a­bil­ity of the hu­man con­di­tion. His work evokes the mi­cro­cosms of ex­pe­ri­ence you en­counter when step out­side your door.”

Grimes re­cently dis­cussed his art and the phi­los­o­phy be­hind it with WiG.

WiG: Let’s take a deep dive right from the start. Tell me, what is dance at its core?

D. Sa­bela Grimes: Dance is ki­netic con­tem­pla­tion. Move­ment med­i­ta­tion. Mean­ing mak­ing. Ex­pe­ri­enc­ing knowl­edge of self. Com­muning and com­mu­ni­cat­ing. Cir­cling the cen­ter of now. Spi­ral­ing through fear­ful courage, change­able res­o­lu­tion, the mo­tion of still­ness, flam­boy­ant waves of quiet. Dance is Black be­ing­ness, the pres­ence of an­ces­tors and the un­born rip­pling through bodies.

Your ap­proach to hip-hop dance in­cludes the use of “funka­men­tals.” Please tell us about that.

Funka­men­tal MediKi­net­ics is a cod­i­fied move­ment sys­tem I cre­ated to pri­mar­ily cel­e­brate the present his­to­ries, tra­di­tions and spir­i­tual el­e­ments of African-Amer­i­can/ Afro-di­as­poric so­cial dance. I am fas­ci­nated by the dif­fer­ent ways sys­tems of cor­po­real in­tel­li­gence are or­ga­nized and trans­mit­ted in/through Black ver­nac­u­lar so­cial dance prac­tices.

Funka­men­tal MediKi­net­ics pur­pose­fully seeks to en­gage the phys­i­cal and meta­phys­i­cal ef­fi­cacy of Black dance prac­tices through spe­cific meth­ods of cor­re­spon­dence, com­mu­nity build­ing, en­cour­ag­ing the dis­ci­pline of play, col­lab­o­ra­tive ex­change and what I call whole-body lis­ten­ing.

Dancers that train in this sys­tem de­velop a keen aware­ness of how there is ex­po­nen­tially more to dance than mak­ing and mov­ing through shapes with their bodies. Dancers dis­cover how the im­ma­te­rial, in­vis­i­ble el­e­ments of Black dance prac­tices cul­ti­vate a deeper in­ner-stand­ing of how the art and ac­tion of dance pro­duces a greater sense of self through personal and com­mu­nal in­sights and holis­tic de­vel­op­ment.

Funka­men­tal MediKi­net­ics epit­o­mizes the bal­ance be­tween rais­ing one’s spirit while drop­ping it like it’s hot.

Is there a spe­cific “play­book” of move­ments for hip-hop dance?

Black dance, at it’s heart, is com­mu­nal, and the ev­i­dence of collective cor­po­real in­tel­li­gence. Hip-hop ob­serves time in the most sa­cred and deep ways. Some dances are tem­po­rary. Yet, when they’re “in” they ex­plode with the full­ness of life that dancers pull from and pour into it.

Some dances de­velop and ex­pand into styles or forms like Break­ing, Lock­ing or Pop­ping, stretch across gen­er­a­tions and carry a bit of the trendy/tem­po­rary dances, dances that seem to come and go, in their DNA.

Although “hip-hop” dance is said to have been born in the 1970s, it is im­por­tant to ac­knowl­edge that it is a part of the con­tin­uum of Black/Afro-di­as­poric so­cial dance prac­tices that pre­cede the era.

Tell us about Bub­bling Ut­ter­ances.

It came into be­ing through a one-word move­ment med­i­ta­tion that I did with the dancers. The dance is hip-hop in that its con­tent was de­vel­oped through im­pro­vi­sa­tion and freestyling, fo­cus­ing on knowl­edge of self, “build­ing” a cypher and ac­ti­vat­ing spe­cific ideas of mu­si­cal­ity.

Nonethe­less, the dance isn’t rep­re­sen­ta­tional, pri­mar­ily be­cause most of the dancers do not have pre­vi­ous hip-hop train­ing. The ap­proach draws from hip-hop and dancers are en­cour­aged to ex­press them­selves via their re­spec­tive dance lan­guages.

The dance re­flects the 2016 Sher­man Park riots. How did you be­come aware of the event?

Well, the word was on the streets. That’s how I heard about the Sher­man Park up­ris­ing. Plus, my chore­o­graphic res­i­dency at UWM be­gan ap­prox­i­mately a year af­ter the up­ris­ing. Things were and are still bub­bling.

Memo­ri­al­iz­ing an event like Sher­man Park in dance is an in­ten­tional way of say­ing, “I see you!” “I hear you!” “I feel you!” But, I am not memo­ri­al­iz­ing an event.

Bub­bling Ut­ter­ance isn’t overtly po­lit­i­cal. I am us­ing the power of dance to speak free­dom into ex­is­tence. It’s not about a mo­ment in time. It’s about hold­ing space, rais­ing aware­ness, think­ing crit­i­cally about sys­tems that pro­duce th­ese mo­ments.

It’s about prac­tic­ing em­pa­thy for folks that are still af­fected by “the event” and whose lives have been al­tered. It’s about ex­plor­ing ways, through dance, to sim­ply say, “I care about you.”

PHOTO: SHIZUKA TAKEMURA

Hip-hop chore­og­ra­pher D. Sa­bela Grimes

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