Tag Archives: J.U.i.C.E.

J.U.i.C.E.: Justice Uniting in Creative Energy

Scatterbrain

It’s a Saturday in October 2011 and people jam into MacArthur Park Recreation Center for J.U.i.C.E.’s second Free Cypher Jam, a free battle with no prize other than bragging rights. Breakers both young and old take turns entering the cypher, trading funky sets of footwork, poses, slides, spins, flips and rocks.

The crowd seems mesmerized, partly by the live DJ spinning break beats but more likely by the smooth moves unfolding center stage. The onlookers are as diverse as the city of Los Angeles, and hip-hop is their unifier. Bad day, good week, hard life, troubling family; the dance floor is their soapbox, a creative outlet to express what’s on their mind. There is nowhere else they would rather be. J.U.i.C.E. provides the space, but the hype participants create the empowering space.

Lamar Glover and Daniel Rizik-Baer, co-executive directors of J.U.i.C.E. (Justice Uniting in Creative Energy) since April of 2011, are constantly blown away when they stop by their Saturday workshops for at-risk youth. One instance at a music production workshop stands out in particular for Rizik-Baer.

“Lamar and I were speaking with young kids who used to be on the streets gang banging who are now having discussions about criticism versus critique,” he says. “These things go way beyond hip-hop. That’s the biggest thing for us that we’re trying to get across. We’re building knowledge, confidence, self-awareness and ways of thinking that translate to other parts of people’s lives. What we do in our program, and I think it’s a beautiful thing, is we make sure we are focusing on experiences that facilitate conversations about all aspects of life.”

In existence for 10 years, J.U.i.C.E. is a nonprofit arts program for all ages, providing space for kids and emerging adults to interact with hip-hop elders as everyone builds their skills. J.U.i.C.E. prides itself on being an inter-generational program. Every Saturday from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. at MacArthur Park Recreation Center at-risk youth, transition aged youth, and adults come together to create and practice all elements of hip-hop: music, visual art, and dance. Anyone can freestyle in the b-boy/b-girl open practice, learn how to spin on turntables, freestyle rhymes and record and produce music, and take graffiti and mural painting classes.

Glover views J.U.i.C.E. as a stepping stone for kids to delve into Los Angeles’s rich hip-hop arts community. “We’ve seen lots of folks move through the program and matriculate into professional artistic careers in all elements of hip-hop,” says Glover proudly. “It’s been a special place to be.”

More than the generous grants from organizations like the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs and California Arts Council, J.U.i.C.E. runs on heart; that of its volunteer teachers, administrators, directors and board. “Everyone has other jobs,” explains Rizik-Baer. “We do other things to support ourselves, and then spend all of our free time trying to make J.U.i.C.E. the best it can be. Of course, the more funding we get, the more effective we can be.”

It’s hard enough to secure funding for hip-hop arts programs in the first place, but add a crippled economy to the equation and times have never been tougher for J.U.i.C.E. Securing grants is a difficult process.

“I just finished graduate school for social work with a focus on management planning,” begins Rizik-Baer, “and one of the things I learned is that they are looking for real results and concrete numbers, which requires time and resources. Without funding to implement the solid programming that grants are looking for, it makes it difficult to prove concrete results like people expect. It’s a vicious circle.”

Rizik-Baer continues, “The sad thing is that there is only so much heart people can have before they burn out. That’s real to us. But social justice is part of our mission, and part of social justice is making sure people get paid properly and can afford to eat and have a roof over their head.”

Until further funds are found, J.U.i.C.E.’s heart beats on. “We’re not the type of nonprofit that sits around waiting for grants and donors,” says Rizik-Baer. “We are hip-hop in the true sense of word. We want to be able to expand and have self-sufficiency.”

Hip-hop culture continues to impact and inspire communities abroad. J.U.i.C.E. understands why, and taps into this movement to uplift its own backyard. “People look at hip-hop as a tool for organizing or consciousness-raising,” Rizik-Baer says. “In a lot of ways, I look at it the other way around. Community organizing uses hip-hop as a tool because hip-hop is a language. The very foundation of hip-hop really was about combating violence in poor areas, about getting youth away from gangs and into positive forms of self-expression. Hip-hop is a true form of human expression. Kids come from various walks of life and bring their different experiences and enter a space on common ground, which allows us to see life in a complex way.”

For more information, visit http://www.rampartjuice.com.

Posted on KCET

Advertisements
Tagged ,

The Origins of Hip-Hop Dance

The term hip-hop dates back to the ’40s when African Americans would say they were “hip-hopping” when they went out on the town. Then again in the ’70s, Afrika Bambaataa referred to hip-hop as the culture he was championing that encompassed the four elements of deejaying, graffiti, emceeing and breaking. Hip-hop dance is very much a part of, and cannot be viewed separate from, the broader hip-hop culture, and often intersects with the other three elements.

While many of the dance moves and styles that are considered hip-hop dance are relatively new, their beginnings can be traced further back in history. In the ’50s and ’60s, tap dancer and all-around entertainer Sammy Davis, Jr. introduced fancy foot and floor work in his star-turning routines that influenced modern-day breakers.

The athleticism, virtuosity and flash of tap dancers the Nicholas Brothers, who caught Hollywood’s attention in the ’40s but who were electrifying stages in the ’30s, planted ideas about what was physically possible on the floor, in the air and using props for effect. The impact of other popular African-American entertainers of the ’30 and ’40s, like Cab Calloway and the Berry Brothers, can also be credited with influencing today’s hip-hop dance styles.

“What we now consider hip-hop dance is the most recent manifestation of a genealogy of dance practices that have been going on since African people came here,” explains D. Sabela Grimes, dancer, UCLA professor, creator of The Funkamental Movement Experience, and host of the 4th Annual J.U.i.C.E. Hip Hop Dance Festival.

Amy “Catfox” Campion, teacher, dancer, artistic director of Antics Performance and co-artistic director of the J.U.i.C.E. Hip Hop Dance Festival, adds, “Dance history is a continuum with various dance styles continually being born, disappearing, developing, evolving, and influencing one another.” She lays out three defining factors when speaking about street dance, a term she uses instead of hip-hop dance as an umbrella term for a variety of street dance forms, including Uprocking from Brooklyn, Breaking from the Bronx, Popping from the Bay Area, Locking from Southern California, Footworking from Chicago, Wu-tang from Philadelphia, Hyphy from the Bay Area, Jerking from Inglewood.

Street dance takes place in unconventional spaces. “It did not emerge in a class or dance studio,” Campion assures, but rather “in everyday spaces like a parking lot, playground, garage, backyard, or community center.” Second, it centers around freestyle, and third, it generally springs up in urban areas.

It seems clear that hip-hop dance is conceived in relation to time, place and space. Grimes adds to the discussion about the inception of hip-hop dances within social contexts. “What’s interesting about hip-hop dance in particular is that we often get caught on the surface level, like these are the hip-hop moves or hip-hop dances, and we don’t think about the social context in which these dances are created,” he offers, “about how the community intelligence, collective intelligence, really gives birth, depending on what urban environment you are in. They are regional, vernacular, corporeal body languages and vocabularies exchanged among people in certain communities that are very relevant to them.” He views hip-hop dance as a conversation that’s wildly popular because of its inclusiveness.

Bradley “Shooz” Rapier, dancer, award-winning choreographer and creator of the Los Angeles-based Groovaloos, says that traditionalists often refer to popping, locking, and breaking as the central styles of street dance. Popping and locking share their birthplace in California and are known as funk styles, a term coined by Electric Boogaloos member Popin Pete for West Coast street dance styles. Popping, or the contraction of muscles to create a pop or hit with the body, hails from Fresno in the mid-’70s, as does the closely related Electric Boogaloo, which adds rolls of the hips, knees, legs, and head to the vocabulary of popping.

Boogaloo Sam of The Electric Boogaloos is credited with coming up with the term Popping. In the late ’60s, while trying the Funky Chicken, Don Campbell inadvertently created what is now known as a “locking” motion, or freezing the arms to the beat. After receiving huge crowd approval, he named the style after himself, Campbellocking, soon shortened to Locking. He formed the world-famous Lockers, which included Toni Basil before she released her #1 hit “Mickey.”

Breaking emerged from the South Bronx in the early ’70s and revolves around of a number of movements, mainly the Toprock, the Downrock, Power Moves and Freezes. Most importantly, “b-boying began with the break,” writes author Joseph G. Schloss, “the part of the song where all instruments except the rhythm section fall silent and the groove is distilled to its most fundamental elements.”

As Campion points out, “Hip-hop dance can mean different things to different people, so one definition is challenging.” What’s clear is that each individual dance style maintains its connection to hip-hop culture as a whole.

Posted on KCET

Tagged , ,