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Beyond Dance: The Underground Street Chronicles

Catherine O'Sullivan |
September 6, 2013 | 8:45 a.m. PDT

Contributing Writer

Boogie Frantick performed in The Underground Street Chronicles at USC's Bovard Auditorium (Wiebke Schuster/Neon Tommy)
Boogie Frantick performed in The Underground Street Chronicles at USC's Bovard Auditorium (Wiebke Schuster/Neon Tommy)
I’ve got to be honest here.  By the late 1980’s I had pretty much given up on dance.  I blame two things. One, a lot of modern dance troupes disappeared due to a lack of funding. And two, Ikea opened stores across the country and began selling long collapsible nylon tubes you could crawl through, stand up in and even use as tents. My kids had a few and had a great time with them. I believe I saw at least three modern dance performances in which participants thumped across stages like unhinged tube worms trying to communicate something.  I was never sure exactly what.

On September 3, 2013, the performance of The Underground Street Chronicles and “krumping” at the University of Southern California changed all that. Krumping is not just dance. It transcends dance. And Tuesday evening’s performance was the most kinetically honest thing I have ever seen..

Click here for Neon Tommy's interview with The Underground Street Chronicle performer Boogie Frantick.

Krumping is anything but gentle and as far as I can tell has few to no boundaries at all. An intensely physical style requiring equal amounts of strength and coordination set to music, it is not so much a dance as the complete utilization of the human body to express intense emotion. It blows through metaphor. It is not “meta” anything. It doesn’t waste energy with symbols and convention. Instead of telling us what something is like, it represents what is. It is real human angst, fear, anger, sorrow, trepidation, intimidation, play, love and hate physicalized and delivered with a knock-out punch to every pre-conception you have. It is the human body as message: pleading, despairing, screaming and warring.

The entire performance was electric but two pieces stood out. The first, called “Heavy is the Crown,” performed by Lil “C” begins with police lights and recorded cop voices hassling a guy for dancing, again, which key here. Lil “C’s” performance communicates exactly what it feels like to exist in the narrow allowance that is being urban and poor, dwelling in a world where you are hassled by authorities again and again for simply trying to exist. He pleads, crawling across the stage arms extended, he rails, he moves into his own skin depicting exactly the violence being continually harassed and threatened does to the human soul. He doesn’t tell the audience what “it feels like.” He tells us what it is. It’s an important distinction and an incredibly moving piece by the person, who with Miss Prissy, is responsible for krump.

The second is Marquisa “Miss Prissy” Gardner’s, “She Is.”  To see Miss Prissy, the Queen of Krump, allows little doubt.  With an intense physical presence and disciplined dancer’s body she’s classically trained and has obviously been at it hard her whole life. This is an angry piece beginning poignantly with a mother’s gentleness as she sees her young daughter off stage and escalating as she lashes out at the universe for everything that has tried to restrain her and stand in her way knowing full well that her beloved daughter will have to go through the same things. She rails, her facial expressions angry, her chest-forward postures allowing no doubt that you’re in the presence of an alpha female. She struts across the space punching the air, spiritually roaring like a lioness and as she squares off with a harsh and unfair world.

There is an intrinsic contradiction in presenting material inherently free-form on the stage. But I would have liked it if the show had ended more cleanly, clearly delineating the question and answer session at the end of the show from the performance.  As it was they melded into each other not altogether smoothly. This detracted from the impact of the performance.

Oh, and this is cool: There will be krump workshops with Miss Prissy and Lil "C" Wednesday, September 11, and Friday, September 13, from 4:15 to 5:30 p.m. on USC's campus. Admission is free and open to everyone. RSVP required. 

Learn more about The Underground Street Dance Company here.

You can e-mail Catherine, and you can follow her on Twitter.



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