J.U.i.C.E. Hip Hop Dance Festival
The J.U.i.C.E. Hip Hop
John Anson Ford Amphitheatre
October 4, 2008
Reviewed by Victoria Looseleaf
Amy “Catfox” Campion
and Jacob “Kujo” Lyons
in Lux Aeterna’s
The decibel level was high, as was the unfettered energy at this first annual event, co-directed by Amy “Catfox” Campion and Jacob “Kujo” Lyons and produced by the youth organization J.U.i.C.E. (Justice by Uniting in Creative Energy). Which isn’t to say that all the numbers in this extravaganza were ready for primetime.
Indeed, too many of the works—intended to showcase L.A.’s local hip hop community with its homeboy cred and athleticized glory—were high schoolish, with B-boys and krumper types vying for the spotlight amid groups of raucous dancers flailing about as if on speed. But artistry, like cream, rises to the top; and Lyons’ troupe, Lux Aeterna, proved a magnificent melding of contemporary vocabulary with street in his Metanoia.
Set to the music of Arvo Pärt and Bach, the piece turned breaking into something transcendent. Lyons, a virtuoso with arms of steel, created sculptural choreography, and the five dancers, often in slow-motion, accentuated hip hop’s derring-do. Whether partnering Campion in powerful balancing poses or tossing her about like exotic cargo, the diminutive Lyons took movement—one-armed angled handstands, no-hands back-flipping—to new places. The remaining trio, also masters of cantilevered poses, occasionally resembled lotus flowers, their arms outstretched, their heads bending impossibly backwards.
Lyons, who is deaf, was also featured in a film trailer of the physically challenged dance company, Illabilities. A touching work directed by Jed Klemow, the documentary could have Oscar potential. Other film clips—“All Out War,” directed by Robert Pilichowski, and Alexander Mercado’s “Dancing with Devotion”—were less involving.
In Campion’s Ryte, a jiggy riff on spray painting danced by Antics Performance, the troupe made good use of the Ford’s outdoor setting and 60-foot towers. One Step Ahead, directed by the mighty Marissa Labog, offered Atonal Beat, a whimsical take on Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, with Labog and crew in tuxedos, gleefully faux-running, pretzel-coupling and uncoupling with wild abandon.
A clutch of other frenzied but fatuous works were less successful, including West Bound’s Pandora’s Box, Outer Circle’s Ike and Syndi’s Friendship, and Robert Gilliam’s choreography for XTreme Movement.
It’s cool that hip hop has taken its rightful place on the concert stage, but a firmer curatorial hand is recommended for future outings.