I took the 49 and the 30 buses across town to the Palace of Fine Arts for the International Hip Hop DanceFest – its 25th year! If you can, grab tickets and go tomorrow, it was an incredible trip.
The show was particularly great this year. I think my favorite peformance was the one led by Selasi Dogbatse from Brussels, “A Piece of Me” , which was incredibly emotional and dynamic – it seemed to go through a narrative of culture, family, artistic expression and a sort of artistic journey, but what often made it great was the relationships between the dancers as they really danced with each other in a communicative way that also felt like change happening between them. Ensemble work where everyone was individually going through artistic growth by their interactions in the actual performance! I don’t really know how to write about dance, but that was my impression!
Wildly energetic and skilled dances from Flawless (London) who were acrobatic and stylish, House of Jit (Detroit), Wanted Posse (Paris) were total crowd pleasers, big ensembles. Wanted Posse acted out fantastic scenes from a 1920s speakeasy, House of Jit showed off Detroit style which I was not familiar with but which is FAST and complicated and looks super cool.
There were two smaller acts, Snack Break Movement Arts from Philly, and Ben Donner who gave a heartfelt solo dedicated to his grandmother, as the opener to the show. Snack Break’s set was really beautiful as well and told a loose narrative of childhood friendships, games, rivalries and fun as the two friends compete and play – it had a nostalgic feel as they incorporated hopscotch and hand clapping in with their hip hop and swing moves.
Then there were the local ensembles, California representing! Str8jacket from San Mateo had a lot of young people and great choreographic talent. I thought of my son’s old group Community Street Jam and the choreo by Barb Miron and her crew who were often paying homage to Jabbawockeez, with fast and complex moves that never felt repetitive. I never know how they remember it all! Whew! They had great energy and I love the bay area waacking, popping, and whatever they were doing, I think I’d call it House. Then Versa-Style Dance Company from LA giving us a more matured west coast style infused with salsa that had the audience screaming and hooting! Along with a kind of similar feeling to Selasi Dogbatse’s group in that you could see different personalities and artistic journeys expressed and the joy and difficulty of creativity and collaboration. It feels wrong to pick favorites but they were also my favorite, they were just so perfect in every way and I could not even keep still in my chair! I had to go home and do some dancing around too!
The best thing about hip hop is the supportive culture that always shines through in Micaya’s shows, you can see the emotional strength of all the collaborations and of the (temporary) community around the show that she creates. Really a joy every year — I put it on my calendar for November just as soon as the “Save the Date” email arrives!
I had a little interlude at Crissy Beach feeling the sand in my toes, admiring the pelicans, taking pics of the bridge and enjoying the late fall sun. Right near me a group of obviously queer parents of toddlers were dressed in spangles and sparkles for the birthday party of a little kid who has the same name as my son who I was thinking of all day long since we have always tried to go to this show together! It was funny to wish this tiny, silver sparkle loving Milo a happy birthday while I was thinking of my own grown up sparkle-loving Milo!
On the bus on the ride home I got lucky with entertaining bus driver action. It was rush hour crowded on the 49 but the driver kept us all amused in front of the bus with his friendly greetings and running commentary.
At one stop there was a lady with a giant cart with stuff strapped to it with bungies, a load higher than her head and probably about 2 and a half feet wide. Our driver pulled up and was like, “I am sympathetic to your situation but you got a lot goin’ on sister”. Very much standing room only at the front of the bus with me also wedged in there in my powerchair absolutely surrounded by close up butts and elbows. Cue an argument from Cart Lady. “But my dog needs these things and I have to protect my dog! When is the next bus!” (They come about every 5 minutes!) I assume there was a dog in the crate strapped at the bottom of the pile. No one likes to be passed up and I felt sympathetic but it was just impossible.
Then the kicker, she yelled, “BUT YOU LET WHEELCHAIRS ON THERE!! IT’S NOT FAIR” The entire front half of the bus groaned and rolled their eyes and me and the driver started laughing once he had pulled away.
“Look now, we’ve seen everything, if you have wheelchairs, you gotta also give equal rights to dogs!!”
“The thing is, I’m way more fun than a dog!”
Later on the ride the nice driver was telling stories of how he worked on all the Bay Area bridges in all weather and how cold it was but how beautiful.
I was also called “Sir” yesterday and “Buddy” “Pal” and “My man” today at random times so my nonbinary haircut must be doing its job.