National street dance company comes to Whitehorse

"Izm" is hard to define, but Crazy Smooth believes his dance company has it, and audiences will know it when they see it. "We have something that makes you remember us ..

“Izm” is hard to define, but Crazy Smooth believes his dance company has it, and audiences will know it when they see it.

We have something that makes you remember us …Yes, there are acrobatics that are a part of our dance, but it’s way deeper than that. When I’m talking ‘izm,’ it’s that thing that’s kind of unexplainable. And it’s like, ‘Oh, when I see that guy dance, he just has something that I really like.’”

Crazy Smooth, born Yvon Soglo in Benin, West Africa, is the artistic director and choreographer of Bboyizm Dance Company, a professional street dance touring company based in the Ottawa area. Smooth formed the company in 2005.

The company is bringing its show IZM to the Yukon Arts Centre in Whitehorse in October.

The company’s members come from different dance crews. This makes it unique, said Smooth.

Crews often begin informally. Smooth started his first crew with some friends after watching the movie Breaking, he said. While the street dance world is quite small, dancers from different crews rarely dance with each other, said Smooth. Each crew is like a team, he said. Crews take part in ciphers, which are circles of dancers who take turns competing by showing off their moves.

When he holds auditions for shows, he usually already knows the dancers, or if he doesn’t know them already, somebody will, he said.

The small size of the dance world doesn’t change his standards of professionalism.

“As the artistic director, I’m working on a piece. Same as if I was doing a movie, I’m looking for actors to play the role and that are going to interpret the role that I want the best. So it can’t just be open to people from my crew, I have to open it up to whoever can fit the role,” he said.

This current piece shows the different historical, social and cultural conditions street dancing came from. The 10 dancers come from a variety of ethnic backgrounds. The hour-long performance also includes a monologue. Talk-back sessions, after some of the shows, allow audience members to share their thoughts and ask questions about the performance.

There should be something in the show that appeals to everybody in the audience, regardless of how familiar they are with street dancing, said Smooth. The piece is a “roller coaster of emotions,” he said. There are very dark parts, but also comedic moments meant to question the bravado attitude often prevalent in hip-hop culture.

It’s an intellectually challenging piece that explores the difference between entertainment and art, he said.

One of the challenges of touring this piece is bringing the dancers’“natural habitat” of street dancing to the performing arts world, he said. Smooth lives near the Quebec-Ottawa border and often attends shows at the National Arts Centre. He often saw street dancers performing as part of contemporary dance companies, or street dance moves incorporated into the show. He began to wonder if it would be possible to present an authentic street dance show with the same level of professionalism.

In street dancing, the audience often becomes part of the dancing. Things are completely different in theatre settings, he said. Audiences may be most familiar with contemporary dance or ballet, and if they have seen street dancing, they may be used to thinking of it as entertainment.

“It’s not So You Think You Can Dance? three-minute fully intensive choreography and flips and things like that. You’re coming to see an art piece,” Smooth said.

So far, it’s been a success.

As far as he knows, his is the only street dancing company in Canada that has toured a show nationally, he said. IZM premiered in June 2010 and the company has performed the show across the country.

Smooth has been to several Inuit communities in the North, but this will be the first time he’s visited the Yukon. He is familiar with the hip-hop culture here, though. He’s seen Whitehorse’s Groundwork Sessions perform and is looking forward to meeting more members of the dance community here, he said.

IZM will show at the Yukon Arts Centre as part of the Art Lover’s Series on Oct. 2 and 3. Shows begin at 8 p.m. Tickets are $27 for adults, $22 for those 12 and under or 60 and older and $5 for those between 13 and 19. The college-student price is $15 with ID at the Yukon Art Centre’s box office.

Contact Meagan Gillmore at

mgillmore@yukon-news.com

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