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SCRUTINY | Bboyizm’s ‘In My Body’ Takes On Aging With Street Dance Style

By Paula Citron on March 18, 2022

In My Body with Crazy Smooth (Photo: Jerrick Collantes)
In My Body with Crazy Smooth (Photo: Jerrick Collantes)

TO Live, dance Immersion & Canadian Stage/In My Body, choreographed by Bboyizm/Crazy Smooth, Bluma Appel Theatre, Mar. 17 to Mar. 19. Tickets available here.

Audience members who think that Bboyizm’s In My Body is going to be an evening devoted only to dazzling hip-hop dance tricks are in for a surprise. While there is certainly that element in the production, overall, In My Body is a serious show that deals with a serious theme. At the heart of the choreographic intent is the question of aging in an art form that we associate with the young.

But first, for some context. In 2014, I interviewed Crazy Smooth (aka Yvon Soglo), artistic director of Bboyizm, because he was starting to do innovating things with street dance. His main goal was to create full-length shows that told stories or were based on themes. In other words, he felt there was more to street dance than just the razzle dazzle that we ordinary folk associate with hip-hop moves.

His gamble has paid off. Bboyizm, which Smooth founded in Ottawa in 2004, is considered both a pioneer of bringing street dance into a theatre setting, as well as being one of Canada’s foremost street dance companies. As for Smooth himself, he has built a world-wide reputation as a performer, choreographer, instructor, contest judge and community leader.

Before launching into the production itself, I should mention that Bboyizm has come a long way in terms of theatrical values. In My Body sports elaborate design elements that embrace multimedia projections, and evocative lighting produced by a top-drawer team that includes the well-known Montreal-based company mirari. Sonya Bayer and Melly Mel’s attractive costumes mirror streetwear, but with a real dash of chic.

Right from the get-go of In My Body, Smooth, who is 41, makes his intent known. Via voice-over, we hear his story about undergoing his fourth operation, and the very real danger that every time he dances, he could permanently damage his knee which would end his performing career. Yet, he is defiant. “I am a B-boy for life,” he declares.

There are nine crack dancers in this intergenerational production. Five are young technical wizards who can toss off unbelievable physical manoeuvres that are impossible to describe in words. Each one of the three B-boys and two B-girls is a phenomenal street dancer who takes one’s breath away with the sheer audacity of their ability to defy gravity.

Then, there are the other four — and here’s the kicker. When the nine are performing in sync, this older generation, as it were, seamlessly fits in with the younger crowd. They can perform as well as any of them, or so it seems. Smooth, however, has also isolated these four, which includes himself, to show the aging factor.

Take Montreal’s legendary DKC Freeze, who is 57. He performs a demanding solo that struts his stuff, but then, when he finishes on his knees, only his laboured, rasping breathing is heard as the other dancers sit around him in silence. It is an agonizing few moments for the audience.

There is Tash, who was born in Montreal in 1971 which makes her 51. In a voice-over video projection, she tells her story about leaving dance and getting a nine-to-five job, so she could provide security for her children, but she is miserable, and dance calls her back again. Over the years, she has become a famous international contest judge and teacher.

She tells us that she was teaching in Estonia when Smooth called her to be part of In My Body, and she jumped at the chance. Prior to her video, where she stands perfectly still looking at herself, Tash is swept up by the others who come at her in waves. She joins in with them as they pass her, but stops as they move on. She also performs an eye-catching solo.

The very heart of In My Body begins as a solo for another Montreal native, Nubian Néné, who has been based in New York for the last 12 years. The original music by Dj Shash’U changes from rhythmic hip-hop to ominous electronica as Néné moves with robotic slowness, demonstrating a masterful control of her body. For me, she represents aging, or a taking back of energy.

Smooth then joins her in an equally slow-motion duet. There is a pervasive air of melancholy as he manipulates her body in seemingly improbable back arches. It is beautiful and haunting at the same time.

Interspersed with these performances by Smooth. DKC, Tash and Néné, are the showy outbursts of the younger set which had the audience roaring in delight.

In retrospect, In My Body gives mixed messages. Yes, dancers get old and become teachers and judges and community liaisons, but, such is the allure of street dance, that it locks their souls and becomes their very breath. They want to keep performing, and will clearly continue to do so until they drop in their tracks.

B-boys and B-girls for life.


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Paula Citron
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