Dance is an art that can metaphorically represent all kinds of different things. And in the world of hip-hop, it has symbolized a whole mode of cultural expression—taking the sounds that revolutionized the very ways music is made and incorporating them into the physical body, through which they are interpreted in highly personal aesthetic statements.
The local nonprofit dance group Bboy Federation took its name from one of the first dance styles that emerged during the early days of hip-hop in the late ’70s: Bboys or “Break boys” would dance to the instrumental “break” of a record. The Bboy Federation arose in 2009 from the “X-series,” a number of dance exhibitions begun by James “Pyro” Karren and Joshua “Text” Perkins. That fall, the two men organized league-style events, and since then, the Federation has produced a number of different events, targeted at both experienced and younger dancers, including competitive “battle” events . The group has also produced smaller performances for the Utah Arts Festival, EVE 2011 & 2012, Adobe and Salt Lake Comic Con.
In 2013, the Bboy Federation became a nonprofit, and that status has allowed it to raise funds for more intensive programs. The newest event is the stage production They Reminisce. It’s a real departure for the group, as it’s not a competition, but rather a fully choreographed theatrical production. The performance takes the form of a retrospective of the history of hip-hop music, divided into three eras: its origins in the late ’70s, the “golden era” of the ’90s, and today’s modern era.
“Working together with so many dancers at once provides its own set of challenges that are new to us. We are also working more with elements such as stage lighting, something we don’t normally worry about with competitions,” says Josie Marine, Bboy Federation Development Director.
Another new challenge was the different stylistic approaches required by the eras represented in the production.
“In the Origin & Golden Eras, we want to use a minimal amount of production lighting. We want it to feel more like a house party rather than a stage production,” Marine says. “This changes as we get into the Modern Era of dance movies & TV shows. We also want the choreography of the first two eras to feel very personal—dancers dancing for other dancers, and not worrying about performing for an audience. And in the modern era, the choreography will be more “aware that it’s on a stage for an audience.”
The choreographers—Max Crebs, Micah Clark, Marc Alexanda, Chris Valdez, Kaleena Chung and Tyson Smalls—are experienced in a multiplicity of genres, and their expertise adds a depth to the show.
“From the start, we wanted our choreographers to put their own stamp on the show,” Marine says. “[Bboy Federation] is producing the show and provided the story context, but the choreographers and dancers are the ones that provide the content that will really make the show unique.”
Of course, the music is the backbone of everything, going back to the beginning of hip-hop. DJ Scratchmo, the musical director of the production, intended the music to seem like a mixtape, in which songs blend together.
“The goal is to have no pauses between pieces, “Marine says. “Scratchmo will mix music between the pieces so the audience feels as though the dancing is one seamless event that takes place on stage.”
They Reminisce is designed to work on several levels: as an entertaining, dramatic performance, as well as an educational experience that conjures up some of the flavor of hip-hop during those pivotal periods of its history. The practice of “remix culture” has infected many different genres of music since the first DJ s were mixing and “scratching” those decades ago, and the vocabulary of sampling and appropriation has reverberated into literary, video and cinematic works. By the time they get to the modern era, we can see how hip-hop has transformed into a part of the mainstream cultural landscape.
The Bboy Federation, similarly, became part of the culture of Salt Lake City. Marine says the organization looks to grow even more during 2014 and expand its staff and resources.
“We will continue to produce events and shows, but will also look to develop new scholarship programs and more dance opportunities for our community,” Marine says. “The end goal is to have our own facility, a goal we are always working toward.”
THE BBOY FEDERATION: THEY REMINISCE
Rose Wagner Center
138 W. 300 South
Jan. 9-10, 7:30 p.m.