IndieFest Selection FLEX IS KINGS in this week’s New Yorker

Posted by sfindie January 7, 2014 3489 views

 IndieFest Selection FLEX IS KINGS in this week’s New Yorker Magazine


Storyboard P, a Brooklyn dancer, comes from the 1300 block of Eastern Parkway, on the border between Crown Heights and Brownsville. When he was five or so, his grandmother tugged him onto the dance floor at a family gathering and, as reggae played, got him moving for the first time. “I hated it,” Storyboard said recently. A shy child, he felt intensely exposed: “When you’re dancing, you’re revealing yourself—all these temptations, vulnerabilities, things you can’t see otherwise.” But he came to find the sensation addicting. Today, at twenty-three, he is a star of flex, a form of street dance characterized by jarring feats of contortion, pantomime, and footwork that simulates levitation. Much in the way that Savion Glover infused tap dancing with visceral aggression, Storyboard has pushed street dancing in a darker, more mature direction. His choreography, most of it improvised, has a wide range of influences: Jerome Robbins, especially his work in “West Side Story”; the Nicholas Brothers, whose acrobatic tap-dancing routines amazed Fred Astaire in the nineteen-forties; and, above all, Michael Jackson, whose otherworldly movements frightened Storyboard when he was little. “I would cry when I saw Michael,” Storyboard said. “His energy would scramble your frequency.” Storyboard has some formal training—when he was about ten, his parents enrolled him in ballet classes at the Harlem School of the Arts—but he says that his technique comes mainly from “motherfuckers I’d see on the block.”

A decade ago, Storyboard began competing in Brooklyn dance battles: face-offs in parks, at all-ages clubs, and at house parties. In 2007, at the inaugural installment of BattleFest, a flex tournament that has attracted corporate sponsorship, the judges named him King of the Streets. The last time he danced at BattleFest, in 2012, he again took top honors. Deidre Schoo, the co-director of “Flex Is Kings,” a new documentary about flex, told me that Storyboard’s art is “polarizing.” Unlike many flexers, he appropriates other forms of street dance—the furious gestures of Los Angeles krumpers, the en pointe wizardry of Memphis jookers—and mixes in classical moves, going from a sashaying vogue strut to a balletic flourish. Some people, hollering epithets from the sidelines at battles, consider Storyboard’s style florid and effeminate. But, Schoo said, “no one will contest that he’s one of the best street dancers, if not the best, in Brooklyn. Maybe in the country.”

Storyboard has danced mostly at unheralded venues around Brooklyn: the Levels Barbershop, on Fulton Street; the Walt Whitman housing projects, in Fort Greene. But he has also performed at the Pace gallery and in the Beaux-Arts Court of the Brooklyn Museum. Judy Hussie-Taylor, the executive director of Danspace, an avant-garde venue downtown, says that Storyboard’s moves are “extraordinary” and bear “the mark of a master improviser—he takes you somewhere you don’t expect to go.” James Bartlett, the executive director of the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Art, in Brooklyn, which has helped organize outdoor performances by Storyboard and exhibited videos of his work in its galleries, likens him to Jean-Michel Basquiat: “He embodies that same sort of connection between the street and the soul, on one side, and quote-unquote ‘high art,’ on the other.” . . .