Tuesday, September 16, 2014

"No Such Thing" - Jon Rua

Integral to the notion of artistic progress, is the necessity for innovation and experimentation. Jon Rua is an artist keen to explore the limits of street style movement, fusing it with a theatrical aspect that strives to dig deeper towards an internal motivation. Similar to the process of Adler and Stanislavski, Jon's approach to street style choreography is as interested in the "moves" as he is with the "motivation." For Jon, it is not enough to merely create visually exciting pictures, but these pictures must also serve a primary internal purpose of story-telling and character development. For this reason, Jon's style has been described as "urban theater" since it resides directly in the cross-hairs of foundation steps (locking, popping, isolations, waving, top rock) and traditional method acting.

MUSICALITY: For Jon, the importance of musicality cannot be stressed enough. But essential to this idea of musicality, is Jon's profound understanding of "the groove." It is a concept that is explored in various disciplines, such as the gaga technique used by the Batsheva Company. Essentially, it implies that the "motor" of the body is constantly plugged into the pulse of the music. If the music were to suddenly stop, the dancers would easily be able to continue the movement because the groove is still strong within. If you watch the initial moments (0:22-0:32) you notice how Jon has his dancers literally sit into the pocket of the groove, get into character, prior to moving. This moment of quiet stillness is fundamental to Jon's movement strategy. He also makes nice use of the percussive groove (0:47-0:49) where the back kicks mimic the dynamic impact of the kick drum heard in the track. One of the most visible moments of groove, occurs in ending tag of the chorus (1:37-1:39) where the pendular swing of the arms are mirrored by the lower body and knees. This creates a beautiful signature moment that Jon returns to later in the piece, creating continuity and structure, all based on the same groove.

DANCER SYNC: When the groove is strong, it is almost impossible for the dancers to feel incongruent with the movement. This is one of the beautiful aspects of groove-based vocabulary...it almost always feels wonderful. There are, at times, instances where a choreographer will ask a dancer to do something wholly incongruent with the groove, for aesthetic purposes, but this is not one of them. I cannot identify a single moment where Jon's choreography seems out of sync with the dancers' natural movement instincts. It goes without saying, therefore, that Jon's choreography is not only safe, but also fun to dance.

AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT: Jon himself has an extensive background in theatre, having worked extensively on Broadway and live performances. One huge advantage that this history gives him, is the ability to create dynamic staging, without relying on camera tricks or post-production. Notice that the entire video was shot in a single take, without edits, and still maintains a high level of dynamic, visual information. Intrinsic to this ability, is Jon's creative use of diagonal perspective. Look how seamlessly he transitions from a stage left diagonal, to stage right, to 3/2 formation, just within the span of 10 seconds (2:50-3:00). And for the typical audience member, who is unable to articulate why they feel so engaged with the stage action, these subtle shifts yield huge returns. For me, Jon has a stage director's eye and is also able to create background and scenery with the dancers' bodies. Notice how the dancers in the rear of the stage, create a backdrop for the featured couples at (1:45-2:05).

KUDOS to Jon for truly pushing the boundaries of hip hop story-crafting and creating new ways for us to view traditional street style movement.