We're heading over to South Korea for today's spotlight feature. And this time, it's on Expression Crew. After winning Battle of the Year 2002 in Germany, this bboy crew has been seen as the first public face of the Korean bboy movement by the rest of the world. Although they have predecessors, Expression continues to command the public's imagination as they continue to innovate. (Photo above is from a Google Image search.)
You can see a clip of Expression performing their Wizard piece here:
The early 2000s had a huge fan reaction towards the arrival of Korean bboys on the international scene. As documented partially in the film Planet BBoy, bboys and bgirls around the world were amazed by the innovative power moves, combinations, and commando routines that Expression displayed in their competitive rounds. In southern California, there might have been a revival in street dance partially due to the public exposure that Expression and other Korean bboys were receiving after 2002. If everyone else was pulling off two to three combinations, Korean bboys were doing five to six times more combos. They appeared superhuman in their athleticism, balance control, and sheer technical execution of power moves. While Expression has seen a constantly rotating roster since the early 2000s, many of their original members continue to innovate in other Korean crews including Drifterz, Gamblerz, and Maximum Crew. Although Expression won many fans, there were also naysayers who criticized these Korean bboys for forsaking footwork, toprock, and style for their power moves. Some of these critics were documented on online forums (such as freestylesession.com) and videos, expressing their concern that the true essence of bboying would be lost if athletic tricks were all that future generations worked on.
But Expression seems to have had other plans. Even after their 2002 win, the crew was seen performing in South Korea on theatrical stages and with classic symphony orchestras. The venues that these bboys performed in were rarely occupied by their U.S. counterparts. Take a look at Expression's Marionette or Wizard shows. They brought pantomime, theatricality, and stage magic to these choreographed performances. More than technical routines, these shows brought humor, high drama, and a mystery that usually is reserved for performance theater or Cirque Du Soleil. Expression should be credited for making the most out of their bboy skills by using their foundation to create great concepts on stage. Even to this day, it seems that bboying and street dancing is more widely accepted in public theatrical venues and commercial media formats in South Korea than in the U.S. Yes, there have been examples of U.S. hip hop Broadway musicals like Jam on the Groove, the legendary Graffiti Rock show, and the recent Groovaloo show. But for most American street dancers, it's still hard to file that as their primary occupation on their tax returns.
Where will Expression take us next? Will they venture into taking bboying into performance venues that we've never seen before? What if we saw a collaboration with a U.S. bboy crew? Whatever the future holds, Expression Crew has already left a vivid legacy that has inspired young bboys and bgirls in their country as well as all over the world. Within the framework of Korean society, they've carved a respectable niche for themselves. And for many aspiring bboys, they represent a dream that is still being shaped today.