It must be one of my greatest honors, to be associated with the 031 FLOOR ASSASSINS, a crew of hard working concrete cracking blood stained Breakers that I have had the pleasure of watching progress over the last (almost) 10 years. I will let them speak for themselves with the video clip below, but just to know that these fellas are one hundred percent homegrown Hip Hop talent, and I can vouch for that, having watched them take literally every step of their journey to international success and status. I was there when they took the title of Durban Champions way back when at the Life Check All Elements Battle of the Year. I was there when they travelled as a four man squad to compete in the African Hip Hop Indaba in Cape Town, their first experience of the world of professional Breaking and Battling. I have seen them broaden their perspectives and in embracing contemporary styles, broaden their horizons. They have grown from kids into choreographers, carrying the roots of Hip Hop culture and its philosophy of expression followed by freedom into every aspect of their craft. I have nothing but respect for these fellas. They keep the fire burning and bring us all in from the cold.
If you didn’t know, now you know. Floor Assassins forever.
This is the process of producing the final ‘piece’ that will feature as a video insert in the FLATFOOT DANCE COMPANY 10 Year Anniversary Season performance of the new work entitled “LAST THOUGHTS”.
The piece starts off by saying/reading LAST THOUGHTS in some funky lettering, before I completely oblitirate the literary function of letters with a full-on WILDSTYLE graffiti attack.
This style of Graffiti is the one that most people respond to by saying “I can’t read what it says!”. Google search “Wildstyle Graffiti” images if you are looking for some serious inspiration and awe inspiring artistic flair. I feel I need to explain that the point of this type of style, as with most Hip Hop ideas of ‘style’ or ‘styling’, is that it isn’t meant to be read as much as it is meant to be felt. Therein lies it’s perfect purpose within this work, “Last Thoughts”, which is about the language of the body, of feeling and expressing.
I have never been as comfortable painting letters (or ‘style writing’ as we call it) as I have painting characters. In my career as an artist I have painted pictures more then I have painted my name. Plenty of heads would use this as an indication of my lack of authenticity as a Graffiti Writer, but that’s their beef. I have written my name enough to know where I stand when it comes to having a can in hand.
This piece was produced under some interesting constraints. I had to move in and out of the frame every minute or two in order for us (my wife Karen is the ‘videographer’ producing this installation) to capture a suitable ‘timelapse’ effect, where the piece will seemingly paint itself on the back wall of the stage while the dancers perform in front of it. I also had to complete the work in a shorter time frame then usual, but thanks to some excellent babysitting efforts from Grandma “ShoSho” Robinson, some wonderful support and encouragement from Gary Nell and the customers of his salon “The G-Spot” across the road (not to mention the coffee and power source!) and some generally well-meaning spectators (except for that lady who wants to start a petition to have it removed) I ended up pulling off a satisfying ‘style’.
I am looking forward to seeing the full two-story version in performance. Every Writer wants to go large, I just had some visual assistance with this one! Next I’m gonna go CGI…
The Tenth Year Anniversary performance season of FLATFOOT DANCE COMPANY takes place in March this year, with a performance of their new piece “LAST THOUGHTS”. Artistic director of the company Leanne Loots calls this type of work a “choreopoem” and I have been privileged enough to participate in over ten of these works, partaking in the legacy of choreopoetry that Loots has engendered. A “Choreopoem” is multi-‘multied’: multi-media; multi-genre and multi-textual in a synergy that celebrates cutting-edge creativity. Video; Audio; Contemporary Dance; Breakdance; Graffiti Art; Hip Hop Culture; Spoken Word are all of the multiple layers that will combine in one work.
It takes both a focussed energy and a wide open heart/mind/soul to conceive and construct a work of this nature, and Loots is no joker when it comes to accomplishing such a task.
Our journey so far, over ten years (FDC formed while I was in first year at the then University of Natal) has been an immense privilege, and I don’t say that lightly. Loots and the company have consistently provided me with the most free and open space to write and recite my work, assisting me in developing what I can now call a career in the arts, through nothing more then heartfelt support and passion and true contemporary creativity. There is no denying the feeling of excitement at the thought of working on a fresh project with this company, and this season is taking our history of collaboration to a new level, with Loots incorporating a number of elements of Hip Hop culture into this “poem” and combining our two shared passions into one solid piece.
I joined the process this week having had some initial meetings with Loots already, sparking some rough poetic drafts that I brought into the studio and began to edit while the dancers continued to choreograph and rehearse around me. This is the most amazing space in which to write anything. Physical texts are being explored, together with initial audio ideas for the eventual sound scoring of the piece, and I get to sit amidst all of that creative energy and let my pen work what it will. It sounds intense but in actual fact it is relaxed, grounded in its purpose and respectful in its process.
I like to consider myself FDCs official “Poet-in-residence”, a title I have given myself, because in actual fact, if I have learned anything from Loots and her work and friendship, I am just another dancer, with words as the body of my language.
With just over three weeks to go until we open, the work has just begun. I will be writing two original pieces, learning and performing a Bob Dylan text, beat-boxing and painting some Graffiti for this piece. I couldn’t be happier. Once again I am diving headfirst into the process, in anticipation of the pure soul satisfaction of another season with the company that has come to embody everything that I feel Art should be: conscious; relevant; exciting and educational, from the page to the stage.
Forward FLATFOOT forward!