To start, some quick definitions from the world of street dance.
B-boying, breaking, or breakdancing: Consists of four types of moves. Toprock: steps performed from a standing position; Downrock: Movement on the floor with hands and feet supporting dancer; Power moves: acrobatic moves, some borrowed from gymnastics and martial arts; Freezes: poses where the breaker suspends him/herself off the ground using upper body strength.
Popping: Contracting and relaxing the body in a rhythmic way.
Locking: Holding a movement (locking it) in a certain position for a period of time and then continuing in the same speed as before.
Waacking: Moving the arms, often above the head and behind the shoulder.
OFFTA’s second night of programming included the MashOFF, an event that brought together six street dancers in conjunction with urban dance non-profit 100Lux. Each invited creator performed a work that pushed the artistic boundaries of his or her street dance expertise, and then joined a second dancer in improvised duos. This intellectual and creative assemblage revealed how innovative and surprising contemporary dance becomes using these street forms as a language.
The night began with some big beats that had me wishing for earplugs (it didn’t last long) from solid DJ TruWayz (Carlos Quezada). As a more capioera drum overlay came on, Louis Elyan Martin centred himself on the stage in a wide-legged squat position for an incomprehensibly long time (locking to the extreme). My one thought was that this guy must have thighs of iron. In his stylish white button down and black pants, he had a clean cut look that complimented his polished and engrossing choreography. He switched from the strong angularity of his squat to sensuous arm and torso movements as well as hip gyrations. At times, he seemed fluid and boneless, yet his movements had a sharp precision to them. No doubt, thi scomes from his background in Gaga dance.
Waacking was the core of Marie-Reine Kabasha’s dance, though from her duos with Martin and Dany Desjardins, it is clear that she is competent in many forms. Barefoot, in jean shorts and a button down shirt, she caressed her face and arms, touching her skin in complete silence, repetitively, almost obsessively. Her hand gestures were reminiscent of belly dance as a poem praising ta peau came on. The dance turned into a frenzy of waacking, her arms and hands and shoulders moving too quickly for the eye to follow. This highly abstract piece seemed very much like dance as an art project.
Dany Desjardins has been a part of numerous dance companies, including that of Marie Chouinard (need I say more?). This dance was without music, and instead set to a motivational speech. This was no rousing grad speech delivery either, but one along the lines of a Law of Attraction. Desjardins began barely moving, in the dark, and as the speech continued, he moved across the stage, into the light. His movements became more complicated. He stripped off his clothing, to reveal a dress beneath that he then tucked into his underwear. It was an extremely creative piece, where elements of waacking, ballet, and b-boying came together.
The duo between Gregory Selinger and Desjardins had no music, but instead consisted of Selinger picking up on the motivational speech theme and pushing Desjardins to give him 30 seconds more over and over again. This was the ideal lead-in for the artistic director of Bodyslam’s poetry dance.
Gregory Krypto Selinger (artistic director of Bodyslam) delivered a monologue about ideas, including those of Stephen Hawking and Ray Kurzweil, noting his own desire to “live forever.” As he spoke these poetic reflections, he b-boyed and locked. At times, he demonstrated his yogic-power moves — flips, hand and arm balances. Other times he spun round, back fully arched, reminiscent of a fish gasping for air. It was a true showcase of how the forms of street dance can take on different meaning when they punctuate concepts.
Lea Ved was like water. She combined styles, pretzeling her way into complicated locks, then flowing out of them again. She had such an expressive form of movement and made it seem so effortless.
Last, we saw the popping skills of Handy Monstapop Yacinthe who concentrated on the jerking motions of his back. Even under his shirt, it was possible to see the muscles rippling, tensing and releasing with knife edge precision.
All in all, the OFFTA’s MashOFF redefined street dance and starred/underlined/exclamation pointed yet again the depth of Montreal’s dance talent. The scene is creative, challenging, and pushes the limits on all forms of dance.
OFFTA continues until June 4. Click HERE for schedule and details.