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Popping, Locking, Grinning at the SF Hip Hop Fest - By - November 24, 2015 - SF Weekly
SF Weekly

Popping, Locking, Grinning at the SF Hip Hop Fest

Dancing by Academy of Villains

Who among us does not love hip hop dance? If you made it to the 17th Annual San Francisco International Hip Hop Dancefest over the weekend, you were likely popping and locking a big fat grin. Friday night’s 12 acts each took a different tack — from the shadow-play storytelling of Academy of Villains to the modern-dance inflections of Loose Change to the acrobatic hijinx of The Ruggeds — but each and every dancer was saying yes. Yes, I am, and yes to life.

The audience was in on the message, calling back and cheering wildly. Cindy Claes’s solo did elicit a no, but that’s because she was performing a woman's struggle to keep her eyes on the prize rather than get hung up on a romance. Not a voice in the house was cheering for a Hollywood ending, and Claes did not disappoint. Oakland ‘tween girls group On Demand also had a great message, telling us with their bright costumes and bold moves by a range of body types not to be afraid to shine. I’d like to hear more of that, America.     

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I also want to hear that black lives matter, because it truly can’t be said too often. Another Oakland act, Spulu, offered up a solo piece that paid tribute to the victims that spurred the current movement to eradicate the racist violence that remains as American as apple pie. Other acts also struck familiar narrative veins, such as 1Up Crew's tale of a nerd trying to hang with the cool crowd, and Face da Phlave's young woman coming-of-age story.

A duo from Japan, Hilty & Bosch, left narrative behind, deftly performing against a video backdrop of rhythmic abstraction. Ladia Yates, Mix'd Ingrdntsand Versa-Style also stepped away from the more explicitly narrative and gave the audience the thrill of their movement for movement's sake. And maybe for the sake of challenging gravity and messing with assumptions about what the body and the booty can do when it gets the spirit.

The San Francisco International Hip Hop Dance Fest also featured master classes and a screening of the documentary Shake the Dust. At the end of the show on Friday, festival director Micaya pointed out that there are plans for the Palace of Fine Arts to be developed into a luxury hotel. You can join me and many others in saying no to that by signing a petition on the Hip Hop Dance Fest’s website. Come on now, San Francisco, let’s keep some spaces free for a different kind of shake down.