Tag Archives: dance

Revisiting the Redemption Narrative

It’s been a few years since I’ve seen Stomp the Yard (2007), the sports inspirational dance film, directed by Sylvain White.  I can’t believe it’s thirteen years-old and these other dance films are at least that old too.

stopog

 

Today’s viewing puts the total number of times I’ve watched this film at approximately ten.  While I jotted down thoughts as the film played (including the refreshing lack of smart phones and the cell phones that were in use were strictly modes of communication — there was no social media happening in the story world), it made sense to me suddenly why pride, pain, and sadness underpin nearly all sports inspirationals and the redemption narrative.  The athlete protagonist cannot evolve nor can he win if he refuses to acknowledge he’s too proud to admit he’s hurting due to a figurative or literal loss (or both).  Anger is easy and however understandable an emotion it is to inhabit, it often masks more than it purges.  Athleticism is a conduit for and symbol of psychological struggle.  Although it is most evident in boxing and football films, where physicality is highlighted, the kind of dancing that Stomp the Yard depicts drives this message home very well.  Moreover, the main character DJ (Columbus Short), must learn how to be a part of a team — the crux of virtually all sports films about teams.

Additionally, what sports inspirational would be complete without a female character who may or may not be a love interest but who profoundly affects the protagonist’s journey?  For DJ, that woman (Meagan Good) not only witnesses the start of his psychological healing, but she facilitates his ability to complete his redemption as an actual plot point.

According to the making-of featurette, the director operated the camera during the dance sequences.  He incorporated cinematographic styles from sports films and martial arts films.  I did not fully appreciate his aesthetic choices upon the initial screening, but now I do.  Having the camera in the midst of all the choreography is much more effective in conveying energy and intensity than from a merely voyeuristic position.

 

All Eyez on ALiEN Dance Studio

I’ve written about the Kinjaz but I haven’t yet about ALiEN Dance Studio.  In my many YouTube travels, I came across this choreography video of Tinashe‘s song “2 On” and was entranced.  I’ve seen several male-only and mixed-gender dance crew videos on YT with much admiration and excitement, but ALiEN Dance Studio brings a bold and sensually precise dimension to the dance moves.

Their videos of Bruno Mars and Britney Spears songs leave me speechless.

ditzy

While we’re on the subject of grooving tunes, I watched All Eyez on Me (Benny Boom, 2017) over the weekend.  While I enjoyed the film and loved the music, I agree with many of the criticisms of the film discussed here on Reddit.  When Tupac Shakur was successfully navigating the rap scene in the 1990s, I was listening to The Cranberries, Cake, Dishwalla, Live, Bjork, Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, TLC, En Vogue — basically lots of alternative rock and top 40s pop/rock and r&b.  While I knew who Tupac was and had come across his music by virtue of being a teenager of the 90s and immersed in pop-cultural media, it wasn’t until I saw the music video for “Gangsta Party” (aka “2 of Amerikaz’s Most Wanted”) featuring Snoop Dogg that I paid (more) attention to his voice and presence. I liked the rhythm of the song.

During the late 90s through the mid-2000s, I listened primarily to Asian pop music (Japanese, Korean and Chinese (Mandarin).  Given the way Korean pop, hip-hop, and hip-pop have evolved in the last few years, I feel as though I owe my taste for Tupac’s music to Korean hip-pop. *  Specifically, these kinds of tunes:

 

There is no soundtrack for All Eyez on Me, but Tupac’s albums are available to own.  After YouTubing a few of the songs on his album of the same name, I went to Best Buy and got it.  Let me tell you, driving while listening to “All About You” has been so much fun.  Snoop Dogg’s narration at the end is hilarious.  It’s also interesting to realize that “Recipe” by Kpop girl group Brown Eyed Girls lyrically samples “How Do You Want It.”

 

So why would I watch a movie about a rapper whom I didn’t really listen to when he was still alive?  I saw Notorious (George Tillman Jr., 2009) in theatres out of curiosity and not too long ago watched Straight Outta Compton (F. Gary Gray, 2015).  I figured I’d have to watch the Tupac biopic for symmetry.

* I am aware that American hip-hop heavily influenced Korean hip-pop.

Deep into the Groove

Their bodies spin, slice, crumple, and roll like dice.  Their limbs go rigid then fluid again in under a blink of the eye.  No mandatory balls to catch, no pucks to pass, no bases to steal, just bodies in motion bending and rippling like water waves.  

I’m not referring to football players, hockey players, baseball players or any of those ball players.  I’m talking about dancers.  I am utterly transfixed by the Kinjaz.  Last night, I saw Wong Fu’s “Kpop” video and making-of.  A few of the members of the dance crew Kinjaz were featured in it.  Of course, I looked them up on YouTube and spent the next three hours watching their dances.

Just watch.

My favorite dancers from the group are:

Jawn Ha

Pat Cruz

Vinh Ngyuen

I’ve watched plenty of dance crew vids on YT and sometimes they start looking the same, especially when they’re from the same crew, but so far Kinjaz has proved choreographic consistency without being self-derivative.