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S.F.'s Hip Hop DanceFest -- where "young" doesn't equal "novice" -- is bigger and better this year

Wednesday, Nov 20 2002
The San Francisco Hip Hop DanceFest, now in its fourth year, has always been a rowdy talent showcase: It's one of the few dance events where audience members give the performers shout-outs. That energy won't change this year, although two other things have -- the festival moved from a two-week, historically sold-out run at the now-hobbled Theater Artaud to a weekend at the significantly larger Palace of Fine Arts, and organizer Micaya has split the show in two. Friday is "Youth Performance Night," followed by the weekend's "Masters of Hip Hop" bill.

In this festival, "youth" (dancers aged 7 to 19) doesn't equal "novice" -- these kids have moved beyond recitals to television, trade shows, and competitions. Like their older counterparts, each of the dozen young companies puts its stamp on the form, sampling movement styles ranging from martial arts to capoeira. Grooming a new generation of hoofers is part of an ongoing effort to establish hip hop as concert material, taking it beyond the club and commercial circuits. Inspired by the success of Philadelphia choreographer Rennie Harris, Micaya has built the festival from local and national talent reflecting the genre's growing stylistic range and global reach.

Most of the performers are home-grown, including Micaya's own SoulForce, although some -- like Colorado's Motion Underground -- are willing to travel. Others, like the local chapters of Culture Shock, are part of an international organization with branches as far away as Paris. Culture Shock is used to performing in theaters, and musical acts like Missy Elliott regularly hire its dancers for tours and video work. Collectively, these companies give viewers a taste of both the old school -- witness the sharp robotics of 20-year-old trio Medea Sirkas -- and the new, as in Loose Change's marriage of hip hop and Lindy Hop. The fun begins, as it usually does, with an onstage freestyle circle.

About The Author

Heather Wisner


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