(This visual journal only reflects on my personal experience of photographing the show, and does not necessarily represent The Bboy Federation's mission or their intention on how the show should be seen. The journal is best viewed on a desktop/laptop for optimal image layout and authentic visual experience.)
As a dance artist, my body has learned to speak many different languages - ballet, jazz, modern, contemporary... but I have never taught myself the dialect of hip-hop. And as a dance photographer, I believe in making photos that represent the art form true to its core. Needless to say, I was a bit nervous to come and shoot "They Reminisce" - a show created by The Bboy Federation with the purpose of showcasing and educating audiences about hip-hop culture. Without former knowledge about the form, how can one represent it through photographs!?
The situation was even more challenging as I had the shoot the actual show since I wasn't able to shoot their dress rehearsal. I was constrained to one height and one seat (which I chose the centered one, second row from the stage). I didn't have the mobility that I often enjoy - the mobility that helps build my signature styles. I was also amidst of a crowd whose movement could easily obscure my lenses. Despite these difficulties, I had an incredible time taking photos because of the awe-inspiring performance that The Bboy Fed delivered. In fact, if you look at these images, it is the dancers' virtuosity that makes the photos so captivating to look at! The challenges I faced rewarded me with the best show I ever photographed! Hands down!
Known as a street dance form, relocating hip-hop onto the proscenium stage can challenge hip-hop's ideology of being a community driven/engaged based art as the stage often invites passive voyeuristic gaze from audiences. However, Josh Perkins did a really good job of holding the crowd's enthusiasm from the very beginning with his assertive story telling, as well as the performers who showed every bit of their firing passion for the craft.
Even though I didn't know anything about hip-hop, I remember feeling the urge to move and groove alongside these dancers and jam to the rhythm that the DJs offered. I'm sure the people around felt the same because I could hear clearly and loudly their cheers for the crew, building a dynamic, yet intimate environment despite the formality of the space. I appreciate this performance intimacy a lot because I don't see it often in the modern/contemporary dance world. I know quietness is good because it builds drama, but it doesn't hurt to have fun like this!
Not a lot of time that I have the luxury of taking photos while enjoying what I'm photographing, but "They Reminisce" let me bargained even more than that. The jaw-dropping dance moves were built on a framework that aims to educate audiences about hip-hop history and its vibrant landscapes, from its inception to its modern interpretations and variations. Audiences also got to see snippets of DJ, MC, and graffiti showdowns - important elements that help shape and cultivate hip-hop culture. Like a good translator, the show helps audiences like me who don't speak hip-hop understand and navigate meanings behind this beautiful movement language.
Since this is a visual journal, representation matters! See what I just did with the row of 5 images above!? I tried to make a point saying that the colorful lighting throughout the show works quite well to visually deliver the diversity of hiphop (or maybe it's because I just love photographing bold colors very much)! To end, I would like to thank Josh Perkins for the opportunity to shoot "They Reminisce", and congratulate everyone in the show on your successful performance and production! It's definitely one of the shows that I would love to revisit again, but as an audience member and not a photographer. Until next time!
P/S: The SLUG Magazine also published a review of the show by Connor Brady. Click here to check it out!