As the street dancer Storyboard P sees it, his body is separate from his spirit. The extraordinary Brooklyn improviser specializes in a style of flex dancing he calls mutant, where forms smash together to create the look of animation. He studied ballet briefly at Harlem School of the Arts, but his main training came from the streets, where he honed his performance quality in dance battles. He’s since performed at Sadler’s Wells in London and the Apollo Theater in Harlem. More recently, he was featured in the video for Jay Z’s “Picasso Baby,” and is in a new Sony commercial that was released this spring.
Storyboard begins his day with tai chi so that his body can pick up vibrations in the environment. “I do it subconsciously,” the 24-year-old explains in a phone interview from Ohio, where he is visiting friends. “That’s how I create a lot of my material.” As a dancer, he exists on a rarefied plane. The tremors and oscillations that course through his lanky frame are microscopic; as one connects to the next, it creates, well, a story.
Where did you grow up in Brooklyn?
I grew up on Eastern Parkway, where every block had its own style and form, and you would go around and collect styles—like a video game almost. You would collect skill sets. Dancing was like someone fighting their own demons. You could see dancers having conflicts with themselves as they figured out who they were; it showed in their art, in how they moved and in what song they played. You saw them struggle and then break through and take control so that they were jumping in and out of aggression and then into serenity. It’s a balance, and that happens as you keep channeling.
What do you mean?
When the dancers first start getting into it, it’s like a form of possession. They’re revealing themselves, and they have so much on their chest. It’s deep. It’s psychological.
How do you get your ideas when you’re dancing and improvising?
When I play a song, I have to just record and run through a whole song. It’s like I pick up the vibrations, but I won’t necessarily be dancing to it. I’m not doing moves yet. I’m more seeing what it feels like and then capturing the vibration and premeditating on it, so when I do go, I can start compartmentalizing everything. I put a little step here and a little step there and then I just sit on the beat, and then I put a little step here and a little step there. It’s like I’m building layers. It’s like recording music on a big machine. You’ve got to do levels with your body.
Do you have a sense about how you’re going to move before you consider the action? Does the feeling come first?
Yeah. It comes in the middle of my forehead and in the back of my head. In my pineal gland. It’s like light patterns. It really looks like wind or like smoke that’s telling me how much momentum I should give a certain direction. It’s telling me where to end the motion and where to start from. It’s like my body—my spine, my kundalini—locks up, and I’m able to coil into whatever shape I want to coil into.
What else influences you?
What inspires me most with movement is pedestrian form. Pedestrian is a layer that’s hidden in my style. It’s in modern dance: regular things that you do throughout the day. Our form is urban pedestrian. It’s us showing our feelings and our emotions and animating them and making them move how we want to, because it’s supposed to be lifelike. There’s always a story involved. It’s like you’re really breathing, you’re really getting into it. With popping, you don’t have to tell a story. It’s just a technique. But with flex, our way is about talking with your body. It’s about saying something. And if you don’t say anything, what you’re doing doesn’t make sense.
You must be extremely sensitive to dance the way you do.
Yeah, I’ve very sensitive—if I touch an apple and it has wax on it, I start breaking out. It’s one of those things. That’s why I’m in Ohio right now. The environment is better for me. I’m going to buy some land out here. I always have these more whimsical ideas, but this is more spiritual. I’m repositioning myself.
Photos: Storyboard P in the music video for “Drop the Game,” by electronic musicians Flume & Chet Faker; courtesy director Lorin Askill.
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If you think becoming a trainee or apprentice is the only path to gaining experience in a dance company environment, think again.
The University of Arizona, located in the heart of Tucson, acclimates dancers to the pace and rigor of company life while offering all the academic opportunities of a globally-ranked university. If you're looking to get a head-start on your professional dance career—or to just have a college experience that balances company-level training and repertory with rigorous academics—the University of Arizona's undergraduate and graduate programs have myriad opportunites to offer:
Yes, we realize it's only August. But we can't help but to already be musing about all the incredible dance happenings of 2019.
We're getting ready for our annual Readers' Choice feature, and we want to hear from you about the shows you can't stop thinking about, the dance videos that blew your mind and the artists you discovered this year who everyone should know about.
Ah, stretching. It seems so simple, and is yet so complicated.
For example: You don't want to overstretch, but you're not going to see results if you don't stretch enough. You want to focus on areas where you're tight, but you also can't neglect other areas or else you'll be imbalanced. You were taught to hold static stretches growing up, but now everyone is telling you never to hold a stretch longer than a few seconds?
Considering how important stretching correctly is for dancers, it's easy to get confused or overwhelmed. So we came up with 10 common stretching scenarios, and gave you the expert low-down.