In the words of KRS-One, Versa Style’s six-run engagement of “Positive Dose” over the past two weekends was “edutainment.”
It was a true mind and body experience: The audience felt the kinetic energy of the hype dancers while meditating on the history of hip-hop dance within the larger context of the dance world, and of the power and meaning of dance within hip-hop culture.
The multimedia components of the performance were as captivating as the physical movements. Not to downplay the skill sets of the individual body movers, who each bring their own funk factor to the stage, but what really impacted the crowd was the video segments’ creation of historical narrative.
Opening the show was video footage of Rennie Harris, a hip-hop dance legend, teacher, and artistic director and choreographer of Rennie Harris Puremovement, who traced elements of hip-hop dance back to singer and bandleader Cab Calloway, tap dancers the Nicholas Brothers and all-around entertainment phenomenon Sammy Davis, Jr. Viewing footage of Sammy bouncing gracefully on the floor, kicking his feet to the beat, it is hard not to spot the beginnings of breaking.
Next, came a visually stimulating lesson on the huge influence of “Soul Train” on hip-hop dance styles and their increasing popularity.
Dancers became celebrities and the newly invented dance styles circulated the globe. Interviews with historical icons like Damita Jo Freeman, the first lady of “Soul Train,” put the past in the present’s lap, not only to celebrate the funk styles of that time but to acknowledge that today’s funk links to yesterday and inspires tomorrow.
The most vibrant elements of hip-hop culture—the spirit of inclusion, innovation, reverence and authenticity —were on display at the Rosenthal Theater at Inner-City Arts in Downtown L.A.
The first half of the performance was billed as “travelling into the roots of dances that have contributed to the rich hip-hop experience.”
Versa Style made each of us feel wealthy beyond words.
“Positive Dose” was more real than dance reality shows like “So You Think You Can Dance.” The multimedia presentations revealed the historical heart of hip-hop dance, and the cast on stage showed it to us, in the form of popping, locking, breaking, house and other popular funk and dance moves.
Dance styles will continue to change based on time, place and space, but they remain in conversation with the culture. Versastyle did an excellent job of recapping this conversation for people who knew and best of all, for those that didn’t.