Photographer credit_ Jinki Cambronero

Photographer credit_ Jinki Cambronero

Pacific Dance Festival 2021
Ooshcon: Director | Choreographer | Performer
Byrin ‘XIII’ Mita: Choreographer | Performer
Trenten “12” Baskcomb-Omeri: Choreographer | Performer
Jay ‘PlainSundaee’ Mita: Choreographer | Performer

at Mangere Arts Centre, Auckland
17 Jun 2021
[60 mins]

Reviewed by Mark James Hamilton, 19 Jun 2021

The theatre is full and so is the stage. A gathering of local krump artists cluster about one another as they take turns to enter into the rapids of movement that makes the form. Extraordinarily, the mix of artists include a little troupe of kids who delight the elder dancers with their intense rendering of the art: they are miniatures versions of the adult movers with no less intensity. The audience whoop and yell – contributing their own commitment to this curtain raiser phase.

The performance proper commences when the three men are alone (Byrin ‘XIII’ Mita, Trenten “12” Baskomb-Omeri, Jay “PlainSundaee” Mita) and a large wooden block is wheeled centrepoint. It is the size of a door but as thick as a stone wall. One side is bare and the other is radiant with a an abstract mural (Elliot ‘Askew’ O’Donnell). It is a mass of rich colours (red, blue, purple) and overlapping shards of shapes – echoed in a pool of similar imagery on a centre-stage floorcloth. The music throughout the performance is huge and captivating (Kamau Mbonisi Kwame Ageyaman ‘KAMAUU’). Vibrating bass lines rumble steadily under four or eight  bar loops of bright melodies blasted by horns, jangled by bells and soared by strings. Vocal rifts weave into the mix and rasping drum shots mark the driving pace.

There is lots of laugh-out-loud entertaining moments in this work. The dancers relish their sure capacity to mime vivid illusions into life. With a white marker they each draw a range of images on the block’s plain face and then enact the scenes the illustrations have conjured: they take turns courting a female figure, one enjoys gaining his own royal crown, and they lock themselves together in electrocution by inserting wet fingers in a huge power socket. The dancers are exceptional clowns and they carry the audience into gales of guffaws and fits of giggles. One dancer even gets to lip-synch a crooner’s ballad under a  real glitter ball, and the audience whip out their phone torches to create the iconic swaying stadium of fans.

Yet the real body of this performance is a deep dive into ingenious choreographic permutations that celebrate and reveal the  unique artistic potential of krump. The dancers take to the floor (literally) and their movements become a horizontal drama of long low shapes and actions. One, lying-low, fits his feet to another who stands. It is like a 3-D shadow or a mirror image made in another plane. Slow motion is used to great effect. It elongates the dancers’ dense motifs to expose all their emotional and expressive nuances. At that speed, the sustained raging expression of one dancer becomes a silent scream that fills the theatre. Group formations are used to fill out the imagery evoked and generate situations and environments around the movements. They elaborate implicit narrative threads. We see wild angles and sudden shifts anew; it is as if forces are being battled that pull and push the dancers from every side. When the dancers accelerate, the tangible power of their actions are magnified. When they decelerate, the hidden inner life of this charged embodiment surfaces fully.

There is much tension throughout the work. The air bristles with apparent volatility and implied antagonism. It comes to the fore when two of the dancers switch off — standing immobile and impassive, masked with their own caps. The remaining man is left alone and strives without result to stir them to life and relieve his isolation. But they have withdrawn and won’t engage with him, regardless of what he does. This cutting-off, and the misery it raises in the space, is made sharper still in a section when these dancers now refuse to embrace him. They hold him off with reserved hand clasps and detached shoulder pats, while he keeps on opening his arms and his heart wide to them.

The weight and density of krump is evident throughout the performance. The changes of pace show the vibrating taut rigidity of the dance. Its convulsing spasms of pulses are always teetering on an edge that could slip into explosion or implosion — a place of physical and emotional collapse. But instead, this work arrives at  an apex of compelling resolution. A dancer advances on another who moves on the spot before the bright coloured block. He is reeling in the thickest throes of his krump art: his body ripples as wave-after-wave of energy rises up from his centre and hurls out of his limbs. His peer walks slowly towards him – arms open, ready to hold him. And inch by inch, step by step, the meeting is made. We see the heaving breath and sweat-beaded brow of the active dancer slow and soften, and his hands release to find his calm friend. There is an intense journey in this performance that carries the audience through the high hills of krump’s unique spectacle into new spaces of emotional richness that are challenging and fulfilling.

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