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Flash Review 3, 9-29: Get Down, Get
"Don't Fake the Funk" Keeps it Real
By Maggie Boogaart
Copyright 2001 Maggie Boogaart
AMSTERDAM -- Spectacular breakdance,
hip-hop, popping and locking moves are as ever popular in clubs, music videos
and movies today. While commercial producers worldwide "smooth out" the energy
in pretty steps performed by carefully chosen and trained youth, the multicultural
dance group "Don't Hit Mama," whose "Don't Fake the Funk" was seen earlier this
month at Theater Cosmic, goes back to the roots of this pure, physical expression
and reveals its true background.
In "Don't Fake the Funk" we experience
the power of urban life from three big cities. Having grown up in New York, Amsterdam
and Johannesburg, the dancers shaped their individuality by performing and dancing
in these dynamic, restless and overcrowded urban jungles. The group is as diverse
in artistic background as in cultural heritage: In addition to NYC club and classroom
legend Archie Burnett, there's Marjaroie Smarth, also of the U.S.; Glen Faria,
Clearence Koomdik, Dries El Hantali, and Honey Eavis of the Netherlands; and Jane
Sekonya and Moeketsi Koena of South Africa. This ensemble makes for a funky combination
of fast footwork, Wacking, Vogueing and Hustle from the club scenes, house and
loft parties and academic modern and jazz dance training mixed in with Haitian
and South African ritual moves -- all combining into a rich vocabulary.
During the performance, group dances
are alternated with surprising solos in which the individual artists show their
specialities. We find ourselves on a street corner in Brooklyn, in a dance club
and then again witnessing an African ritual. The set is simple, yet effective:
five small boxes making up a "skyline" serve alternately as percussion instruments
for the musician or chairs for the dancers. Following the African tradition, the
musician makes an active connection with the dancers both musically and theatrically,
while they respond with rapping, singing, clapping and tapping as true human beatboxes.
The accompanying cheers and clapping of the audience made the evening in Amsterdam
an energizing experience. The piece shows great potential to grow into an eye-opener
for dance-lovers worldwide, connecting history and the present of urban movements
on an accessible level.
The choreographers of "Don't Fake
the Funk" and artistic brain trust of Don't Hit Mama, Nita Liem (Netherlands)
and Moeketsi Koena (South Africa) try to establish the necessity of their work.
"Dancing is for purification, affirmation and celebration," says Liem. She has
been working for several years with youth who have had little or no academic dance
training and are in close connection with their reason to dance, showing a direct
approach to the work. Since 1996 she has been creating together with Koena, making
professional dance performances. The duo founded Don't Hit Mama last year. Shortly
after, Liem left for the U.S. on a scholarship to study the underground club scene.
Her enthusiasm persuaded several veteran dancers to follow her to the Netherlands,
where, complemented by four Dutch dancers, they made a pilot for "Don't Fake the
The choreographers vision was affirmed
when one of the dancers came up with the title "Don't Fake the Funk." Explains
Koena: "Dance is an expression in which you can put everything, it's about everything
that happens everyday." While respecting the choreographers ideals to remain true
to the dance(rs) origin I personally wonder how their work could evolve including
more (technique) training as in more traditional professional dance companies.
Could this enrich the movement and make the emotions even clearer and stronger,
or would this endanger the honesty of the feelings? In their joined search for
true urban dance dancers and directors make a statement against the commercial
exploitation of this originally pure form by excluding well known break moves.
"Most commercial dance(ers) show only a cover and no soul, therefore disrespecting
the heritage of the art form and eventually destroying it," says Liem. She holds
that the dancers of Don't Hit Mama have respect for mother earth as ambassadors
of this movement for purification of movement, hopefully guiding other dancers
back to their origins.
"Don't Fake the Funk" is performed
again tonight at 9 at the Lantaren Venster in Rotterdam, before moving to the
Huis a/d Werf in Utrecht, Wednesday through Saturday, and the Korzo Theater in
The Hague next Sunday.
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