Friday, April 26, 2013

"Primo"...Lisa Brasile

While Italian hip hop culture has a deep and undying devotion to the roots of urban NYC street artistry, there has been a recent movement towards contemporary hip hop fusion. I credit this shift to the confluence of American pop importation and the open-minded curiosity of European sensibilities. Choreographer Lisa Brasile, of Florence's Meltin' Pot Company, is a perfect example of this new amalgamation. She represents a bridge between these two aesthetics and her work is fundamentally situated in the crosshairs of both.

MUSICALITY: The opening sequence of this video immediately demonstrates something peculiar to most hip hop works. Unlike most commercially sampled music that relies on a steady drum loop, Lisa's musical begins with slow acceleration of tempo that requires all the dancers to hear this gradual rise in unison. By the time the beat drops at (0:40) the entire group has been brought to tempo simultaneously and starts to shuffle in time with the percussive groove. The most lovely aspect of Lisa's musicality lies in her ability to distinguish between different rhythmic textures. Whether it is at (0:57) when we see her dabble with a series of dub step whirls and clicks, or (1:49) with her petite footwork representation of the electronic tremolo effect, she is always listening carefully to the musical messages encoded in the track.

DANCER SYNC: At (2:39) we see a moment where the dancers slide to the floor with such grace and ease, that we glimpse Lisa's recognition of the need for choreography to support the well-being of the dancers. Working on concrete could spell problems for choreographers who are not intelligent enough to think through the transitions. However, I know that Lisa is adept with breaking technique and has incorporated many of the sequences bboys use to go from top rock to down rock into her fusion choreography. Over years of dancing on the street, bboy culture has developed an ad hoc technique for moving to the floor safely and efficiently, and Lisa takes full advantage of this knowledge and works it into her choreography easily. Furthermore, her costume design for this piece also serves to support her dancers comfort. The choice of clothing a choreographer expects a dancer to use, is often a contentious point within the creative process. But Lisa understands that ease of movement and comfort is an integral part of "how" the choreography looks and flows on the dancer's body.

AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT: Because many hip hop choreographers work within the commercial world of film and TV, the majority of their works are somewhat frontal and presentational in terms of formation and blocking. But Lisa likes to work in 360 degrees and plays with all the conventions of typical hip hop choreography. From (3:02-3:12) her dancers break off into duets and trios, working on oblique angles, diagonals, and multiple levels of high and low. Far from being homogeneously cookie cutter, Lisa's work is hip hop at its most complex. Her work is simultaneously architectural, mathematic, and three-dimentional.

KUDOS to Lisa for her reinvention of what hip hop movement implies and what it can be.

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