Krump: From The stage, Back To The Streets
“I don't see masculinity in the men, I need you to look like you're gonna go beat someone up.” I hear her voice before I reach the hot, stuffy hall, alive with pheromones. Miss Prissy. They call her the 'Queen of Krump', pioneer of the new dance form. Bags and skateboards line the walls of the gymnasium. Dancers, expert and novice, crowd the space. “This is not ballet. I don't want to see this or this”. She yells, gracefully bringing her arms over and around her head. “I'm not saying that isn't beautiful, but that's not what this is”.
No. There are certainly no pointy shoes or tutus in this session. There are midriffs and sneakers, baggies and afros. Miss Prissy commands the dancers, who introduce their bodies to a new way of moving. They pop their chests and stomp their feet in unison. Their backs are damp with sweat.
“There's a lot of freedom to it. It's so emotional. It may seem angry but it's really about overcoming struggle,” says Asha Anderson as she wipes her face during a break. “It should become, not commercial, but known, so that people can use it as a positive form of expression.”
Krump has been on the streets for the past decade, and saw its first live performance at the University of Southern California last week. The dance class is following the well received show to actively engage youngsters with the new movement.
The music blasts from speakers on the far side of the hall and reverberates through the space, the energy is tangible. As soon as the beat starts I'm taken back to the night of the performance. Except there are now hundreds of dancers on the stage, stomping in unison, releasing their voices and freeing their bodies.
“You should never dance to music. From now on none of you should dance to music. I want you to dance with the music. You need to work together.” says Lil' C as he divides the group into two parts. “Ease your way into it. You can't convey a message unless you're comfortable with who you're working with and that's the music”. He starts with some strong repetitive arm movements, to get the muscle memories of each body working immediately. “Right, left up. Right left up. Keep going. Keep going”.
“I've known Prissy since Rize and Lil' C is my favorite judge on So You Think You Can Dance so being able to learn from them is great,” says Austin Pryfogle between gulps of water. “You're getting all sweaty and you don't have to worry about anything. You don't have to feel awkward,” she continues.
Even with 200 dancers Krumping for the first time, Lil' C manages to see everyone, he moves through the space, checking the strength of each dancer he passes, while keeping the others engaged. They break into applause with every profound sentence, which is often. “Don't clap. I'm insulting you guys right now. You're not believing it. You're faking it,” he says, “We want to leave you with something. We want you to believe the way we believe. Let's be serious about what we're doing”.
This is more than just a class. This is the evolution of dance. This is pushing the energy of movement. No doubt these dancers are going to be stiff with krump in the morning.