Monday, November 2, 2009

Inspiring Show: Groovaloo (2003 Edition)

Our new series this week will revolve around inspiring street dance showcases and choreographed pieces that have touched our souls. To kick it off, we're going back to 2003 when the Groovaloos unveiled the first public rendition of their Groovaloo show at the North Hollywood El Portal Theatre. The hip hop troupe has released updated versions of the show since then with the most recent show touring to NY and soon to other cities. But this 2003 first edition stands out as a fond memory and inspiring showcase that bared its hip hop soul with heartbreak and triumph. (Photo above is from the Groovaloos website for the recent show.)

You can go to their website here:

And you can see a video promo of their show here:

Looking back, this show was a series of personal testimonies told by Groovaloos members. And it was very personal. It was rousing, crowd-pleasing, and very energetic in its delivery. While there were routines, there were also plenty of freestyle sets that dazzled the crowd. On top of that, they even had spoken word pieces woven into the show. Some critics have compared the show to A Chorus Line for touching on many life experiences as told by the cast. But Groovaloo had a heart of its own, which was uncompromising and raw in its delivery. Street styles were heavily featured from locking pieces led by Lock N Key and bboying routines powered by Steelo, Kid Rainen, and Poe One among others. The Groovaloos used these styles to express their deepest emotions and struggles. Lady Jules performed a solo bgirl set to a spoken word soundtrack revealing her struggle with depression and suicidal thoughts. A group of bboys broke out of their everyday, mundane life at a box factory and started breaking with and around cardboard boxes. And one of the closing pieces revealed the inner thoughts of several Groovaloo members when they heard their fellow dancer Steven "Boogieman" Stanton was shot. You could feel the love and affection that this troupe has for each other in the best and worst of times. What Groovaloo proved was that personal stories told in honest ways are always compelling. And when these stories are of street dancers, it only humanizes them in ways that make them relatable to all audiences.

The year 2003 was a different time for street dance in Los Angeles, even for the Groovaloos. The troupe was started in 1999 by Bradley "Shooz" Rapier and many of its currently high profile members were still unknown to mainstream American audiences. Lady Jules and Teresa Espinosa would later be known as members of the Beat Freaks on America's Best Dance Crew. Kid Rainen would also be seen on the same show as part of the JabbaWockeeZ. And other members would later gain recognition from being on NBC's Superstars of Dance. Street dance had not gone viral through online videos. And we were just starting to see elements of it appear in Hollywood films like You Got Served. Morolandis Dance Studios had just become Millenium Dance Complex on Lankershim Boulevard. Imagine going back to that time. Even though it was just six years ago, it seems like a lot has happened since then. Suddenly, there are more opportunities for street dancers to perform professionally in mainstream media. They can develop fan followings and become Internet celebrities as devotees follow their Twitter and Youtube channels. But despite all the buzz, our hope is that the power of the Groovaloo show is never lost.

Perhaps more of America will now see these personal Groovaloo stories as the show continues to tour through the country. That would be a major step forward for broadening awareness of the hip hop and street dance movement. Over the years, the Groovaloos have had time to refine their show as the tastes of a public audience change. But the heart and soul of our movement will never change. It's universal and it's based in our need for love, community, and freedom. As freestylers, many of the Groovaloo members are living embodiments of those qualities. Maybe there will be kids in middle America who will get inspired by this show. They'll realize that there's a whole world out there - a whole art form which they can use to embrace the trials and tribulations of life. They'll get a glimpse of what it means to be a Groovaloo. And just maybe they'll find an avenue to be free.

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