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Monday, April 14, 2008

Planet B-Boy and the Dance

When I was living in New York in the mid-1980s I would take my lunch during the summers and eat it in Washington Square Park. The park was a nexus of activity both legal and illegal from chess playing, comedy acts, feats of daring-do, escape artists, student filmmakers shooting films to crack dealers right next to NYPD's finest sitting in their Ford cruisers.

And then there were the dancers. The break dancers.

One weekday afternoon, my co-office worker at New York University, Sheri Bishop and I went over to the park and on that day her son Bobo had come down from the Bronx on the subway to share lunch with his mother. We went to the park where a bunch of kids with boom-box and cardboard sheets set up for break dancing.

After a few minutes of Sheri watching in consternation, her brow deeply boroughed with confusion she said "Bobo, you show these boys how to break dance!"

"Ma, no, don't start" he said. We were close enough to this group of East Village kids to hear Sheri's comments who often came over from Alphabet City to do their dancing in the park and hoping for a few dimes and quarters to be thrown their way.

"No Bobo, that ain't break dancing. These boys don't know how to break dance."

"Ma, shut up" he said embarrassed and trying not to be heard by the downtown crowd, "I don't come downtown to show anyone how to break dance."

"Bobo! Show these boys how to break dance! This ain't dancing they are just pulling tricks."

"This isn't my turf ma, don't make me..."

Truth was that the Alphabet city boys, some crush and some stravin; marvin, weren't break dancing -- all they were doing were tricks. Amazing as tricks can be, the ten, twenty or thirty second routine was nothing more than gymnastic flips, freezes, twists and spins. Astonishing and cool enough for any guy eating his Gyro and grape Fanta at lunch, but, Sheri was right: it is not break dancing.

A few minutes later one of kids came over and invited Bobo to join them and he did. The kid from the Bronx showed these downtown guys how check-in, take out, cut it and the challenge was on. This kind of community dancing in the streets, the give-and-take, and the exchange of moves both athletic and artistic is amazing.

When you watch PLANET B-BOY by filmmaker Benson Lee you feel at bit of the same way. You're not seeing the whole dance but the tricks are so amazing and death defying you won't be disappointed.

1 comment:

boardincali said...

Awesome story! As you told the story I visualized the scene perfectly. I witnessed this kind of scene on Venice beach here in Cali years back. I wonder if that kid in your story was David Elsewhere he dances for Motorola now, he has some awesome moves! Great post and review.