For most dance styles, the basis of choreography is the human body, but as Bboyizm’s choreographer Yvon ‘Crazy Smooth’ Soglo explains, street dance is different. “For a lot of contact improv and contemporary dance, bodies are the base of the movement — their weight and shape. I quickly realized that for us, the rhythm and the music is the base.”
This realization came out of workshops the company did with Sylvain Lafortune, who has a ballet background and a PhD in partnering. Soglo found analyzing the mechanics of partnering fascinating, and has always wanted to go back to these ideas that he had begun exploring a few years ago. “I never got a chance to get deeper and explore that possibility,” said Soglo.
While creating his new show, he brought Lafortune back and worked with his dancers to explore what partnering means for street dance. “I wanted to create something that has the principles of partnering, but for street dancers. I call it ‘rhythmic contact,’” he said, explaining that the music is their partner, as they make contact with the rhythm.
Bboyizm first performed in Vancouver in 2012 with their impressive, energetic show, IZM. They’re back this month with Music Creates Opportunity, and Soglo said the troupe is excited to be back on the west coast.
“When we premiered IZM, it was our first big theatre piece — you get attached.” Soglo explained that this new show is different in a few ways, as his personal choreographic style is always evolving. “IZM was a little bit of a roller coaster. This one is different in the sense that the music is very different and the pacing is very different. There’s more breathing between acts.”
This show marks the first time the company will have live music, and there are also some new street dance styles featured in Music Creates Opportunity. “IZM was 90 per cent bboying and 10 per cent rocking,” said Soglo. This show includes bboying, lots of rocking, house, and pantsula — a South African street dance style which bgirl Melly Mel will perform. “The vocabulary we’re using is from different dance styles. It comes out in a very interesting way,” said Soglo.
“It’s also different because the company has matured a lot, and I’m happy that’s some of the feedback we’ve been getting.” Soglo feels that this show is a natural growth from their previous work. “If you liked IZM, you don’t lose that aesthetic. You just get more, you get into the dancers a bit more.”
The choreographic process for Music Creates Opportunity has been much more collaborative than Soglo is used to. “Ninety-five per cent of IZM was already in my head,” he said. “I always have the dancers as collaborators. It’s important to see that the dancers are comfortable with the movements, but with this show I was letting the dancers have more input than usual.”
He found himself asking the dancers what they thought or felt about the movements, and there was more of a reciprocal creative process. “The dancers were much more involved, and you see that camaraderie; the coming together.” This dynamic is one of the characteristics of street dance in general. “It’s real emotions and real vibes that we’re sharing.”
Bboyizm’s tagline is ‘Dance to express, not to impress,’ and Soglo explained that this personal philosophy of his has become a part of everything he and his company do. “When I see a dancer doing their thing — when the intentions of that person are pure — I think it’s always impressive. It’s easy to be phony and disguise what you’re doing, but to truly do what I feel and express myself from a place of purity and honesty is different — I think it’s more powerful.”
This pure expression that comes from within is what the dancers of Bboyizm strive for, and it shows in their impressive physical feats and dynamic, smooth moves.
BBoyizm is performing Music Creates Opportunity October 21 to 26 at The Cultch and October 28 at the Surrey Arts Centre. For more information, visit thecultch.com.