Street dancing, break dancing, B-boying, or urban dancing. Call it what you like, it’s not often that you get to see this style of dance on a stage in Vancouver. In fact, it’s not often seen on professional stages anywhere in Canada. That’s what Ottawa/Gatineau-based choreographer and dancer Crazy Smooth (née Yvon Soglo) wanted to change when he started his dance company Bboyizm in 2004. After being the first person to get a Canada Council grant to study hip hop, he wanted to bring his style of dance to the same level of professionalism and artistry as the other theatre and dance he was seeing, while maintaining the authenticity of its roots. Now he’s bringing his second show, Music Creates Opportunity, to the Cultch.
You may have a taste of street dancing from shows like So You Think You Can Dance or America’s Best Dance Crew, but according to Smooth, you are missing something vital if that’s all you’ve seen.
“I don’t feel [those shows] really represent what it is to be a street dancer or what it is to be in a street dancing crew,” Smooth explains, “I think those shows serve more of a commercial purpose than an artistic one, which is not a bad thing, especially when they give a lot of street dancers work.”
With the three to five minute performances featured on these shows that tend to focus on tricks and flashy aspects of the dance, it can be easy to think that’s all there is to street dancing. Smooth feels, however, that audiences will see a deeper side of street dance at his latest touring show, Music Creates Opportunity. “When you go to the Cultch to watch Bboyizm, you are seeing a 55 minute art piece, so it’s going much deeper in substance than a three minute commercial orientated piece.”
While classical styles of dance struggle to modernize themselves, street dancing has its roots in experimentation and pushing boundaries, and so is constantly evolving. This time Smooth has brought a new element to his work through an unexpected avenue: contact improvisation.
Contact improvisation is a tool used often by contemporary dancers where partners improvise movements while maintaining contact between their bodies. When the Bboyizm crew took part in training with classically-trained partner dance instructor Sylvain Lafortune, they studied and experimented with this new style of movement.
Smooth realized that while the movements in B-boying came directly from a response to the music, contact improvisers and other partner dancers gathered inspiration and movement in response to each others’ moving bodies. This inspired him to evolve their work by adding “Rhythmic Contact” to the vocabulary of his dancers. The result will be seen on stage in this new production.
“Music Creates Opportunity considers the intersection of rhythm, expression, and community in the making of music and dance. Music is featured as the critical link between dancers – dancers who may not speak the same language but who can find language together in the art form,” Smooth elaborates, “In coming together, dancers realize personal expression, individualized interpretation, and explore their own inner music.”
The Bboyizm Dance Company presents Music Creates Opportunity at The Cultch (1895 Venables St) October 21-26. Visit https://thecultch.com for tickets and information.