JUiCE Hip-Hop Dance Festival Review – Breaking Free of Stereotypes

(Hollywood, CA) October 4, 2008 – I had no clue what to expect while driving on Cahuenga on my way to the Ford Amphitheatre for the JUiCE Hip-Hop Dance Festival. I had never heard of JUiCE or Antics Performance, but saw a few video clips on YouTube and decided they looked interesting enough to drag myself out of the Westside and into the depths of Hollywood on a Saturday night.

Justice United in Creative Energy introduces individuals to all forms of hip-hop dance and art

The Antics Performance Presents JUiCE Hip-Hop Dance Festival showcased various aspects of the local hip-hop community. The dancing ranged from breaking to house to popping & locking to krumping, and even ventured as far out as slightly interpretive, but with a hip-hop flare. I know that when you hear “interpretive,” you instantly think of bizarre reenactments of the “She’s All That” bodysuit choreography or hacky-sack drama, but I assure you that JUiCE and Antics kept their cool.

Opening act, "Pandora's Box" choreographed by 'Machine' and performed by West Bound

Just because this was a hip-hop dance festival, however, don’t fool yourself into thinking it consisted solely of dance performances. Quite contraire! “Hip-hop” entails all facets of creating movements and expressing emotions, so the festival was representative of these varying aspects. There was pre-show music by DJ Orator ( KPFK’s Divine Forces Radio) and MC Toquon ( Soul Elevation), a huge graffiti painting by JUiCE artists that was constructed live throughout the evening and local vendors selling music, clothing, and other souvenirs.

Graffiti painted created live during the show by JUiCE artist

What is most interesting about JUiCE (Justice United in Creative Energy) is that it is a non-profit organization lead by ordinary individuals wanting to make an extraordinary difference in the lives of all community members, regardless of age or background. JUiCE, in hopes of reducing juvenile crime, is dedicated to providing a safe program where young people can develop their artistic skills, build self-confidence and seek creative expression without fear of discrimination or judgment. Every Thursday, JUiCE participants unite to learn and practice the different forms of hip-hop dance; visual urban art, such as large-scale paintings and graffiti wall murals; as well as audio urban art, such as deejaying, emceeing / spoken word and music recording.

"Awaken II" choreographed by Jolieba in collaboration with the dancers

Antics Performance, on the other hand, is a professional hip-hop dance / theater company. Artistic Director, Amy “Catfox” Campion, likes to transform hip-hop culture’s dance, visual art and audio art into stylized hand-clapping and foot-stomping performances, resulting in the aforementioned “interpretive” choreography.

"Awaken II" incorporated visual art and urban music into the hip-hop dance

As you can see, both the content and the performers’ skills and techniques varied greatly in the JUiCE Festival, which was apparent in the different routines.

"Ike and Syndi's Friendship" choreographed by 'Peppa' and performed by Outer Circle

The “Illabilities” trailer, for example, was a pre-filmed and edited clip that offered incredible inspiration to the viewers. It featured three hip-hop dancers who were disabled in one way or another, yet moving in ways you would never imagine possible. One boy was break dancing, spinning and jumping around with one prosthetic leg, while another boy was doing similar movements, but with arm crutches. I was in awe that despite immense physical hardships, the dancers in the film maintained their optimism and passion for dance, movement and competition.

Next, Soul Elevation’s DJ Orator and MC Toquon got the crowd riled up with a rap performance, accompanied by video clips and shout outs to hip-hop legends, such as Biggie Smalls and Tupac to name a few. Though Orator and Toquon didn’t showcase a novel skill or any awe-inspiring talent, they filled the amphitheatre with laughter, evoked camaraderie and created energy within the audience that remained unparalleled throughout the entire JUiCE Festival.

Soul Elevation's MC Toquon rapped about peace and gave shout-outs to Biggie Smalls and Tupac

It wasn’t until later in the show, however, that I witnessed a few of my favorite acts, which due to their cleverness and sophistication, deserve praise regardless of stylist preferences.  The first act after intermission, “ Metanoia,” was choreographed by Jacob "Kujo" Lyons and performed by Lux Aeterna dancers to steady, beat-box music and neon laser lights paving patterns on the stage.

"Metanoia" choreographed by 'Kujo' and performed by his company, Lux Aeterna

Each movement was expressed with precision and confidence as the performers twisted their bodies into backbends and interlocked with one another to create shapes.

Another favorite, “ Ryte,” choreographed by Amy "Catfox" Campion and performed by Antics, emphasized various dichotomies, such as slow, steady choreography set to rapid, electronica music beats and neutral-colored, simple bodysuits moving against a black night lit up by flashy, neon laser lights. These opposing characteristics of the dance simultaneously evoked multiple emotions in the viewers, while revealing the dancers’ abilities to flawlessly transition from acrobatic positions to graceful modern jazz techniques to funky stylized hip-hop in the blink of an eye.

Graffiti Research Lab's "LASER Tag" accompanied Antic's "Ryte" dance piece

Atonal Beat,” performed by One Step Ahead to a fast-paced, urbanized remix of David Lanz’s“ Christofori’s Dream,” followed “ Ryte.” Not many people know of Lanz’s song, but it is one that always whisks me away into a trance of pure relaxation! At first, it was a little strange to experience this song in a different environment, but by the end, “Atonal Beat” was a favorite of both my boyfriend and myself. The act revolved around a love triangle (two men and a woman) and was able to portray anger, excitement, happiness, lust, despair and passion amongst the three simply by varying the speed and gracefulness of the movement.

"Atonal Beat" performed by One Step Ahead under artistic direction of Marissa Labog

For example, at one point, the taller man quickly spun the woman around his body until lowering her to the ground where she pirouetted hastily into the arms of the other man. Other moments, however, featured all three plus two other dancers taking uniform and long, delicate strides across the stage where two women gently stood on the legs of their partners who lifted them whimsically into the air with arms open to the world.

I had hoped to go “three-for-three” in terms of favorites in a row after intermission, but the next performance burst my bubble. Due to the lack of style, technique and talent, “ Becoming Superfly,” felt like it was drawn out forever! The music was a techno / house beat that repeated the same few, flat notes the entire time and really didn’t offer much rhythm. Nothing the dancers did required skill, but the worst part about this dance was that the choreography was uninventive and unexpressive.

"Becoming Superfly" choreographed and performed by Teena Marie, Adrenalyn, Kadance, Pandora and Pringlz

Despite my criticisms, I would recommend seeing the JUiCE Hip-Hop Dance Festival. Not only is the message incredibly optimistic and encouraging, but in an effort to spread appreciation and understanding of various art cultures and points of views, Target Dance Series partially funded the event, so student / children tickets are only $5 (adults are $25)!

Finale, "XTreme Movement" choreographed by Robert Gilliam

For more information on participating companies, to see video clips of past performances or to view additional photos from the JUiCE Hip-Hop Dance Festival, compliments of Paul Antico of Creative Antics Photography, visit the following websites:

The JUiCE Hip-Hop Dance Festival took place at the Ford Amphitheatre in Hollywood


JUiCE weekly hip-hop sessions are free and open to people of all ages and backgrounds, so try a session for yourself!
When: every Thursday, 4pm-9pm
Where: First Unitarian Church
    2936 West 8th Street
    LA, CA 90005

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