Get in the Circle; Incredible Feets and the Groovaloos make some noise in Vail
The Groovaloos take hip-hop funk and street dance to the stage Tuesday, Aug. 1, as the Vail International Dance Festival teams up with Hot Summer Nights free concert series at the Ford Amphitheater.
The Los Angeles-based dance troupe founded by Bradley “Shooz” Rapier in 1999 will perform its electrifying moves to the sounds of The Tony G Allstars. The Groovaloos have studied dance foundations within the hip-hop culture dating back from the early ’70s. But it wasn’t until last year that the group put its efforts into a theatrical stage show. What the Groovaloos hope to do, Shooz said, is to use this knowledge and their personal experiences and abilities to excite and inspire others, sharing the dynamic styles and positive spirit of street dance that brought them together as a family.
From the streets
When Shooz initially came up with an idea to stage a show highlighting the trademarked talents of his hip-hop, street dance company, he began writing a fictional tale. During the evolution of the story, he asked the dancers about their personal journeys. He found their tales so profound, he used them to anchor the show, arced over Shooz’s own history of growing up with tremendous pressure from his parents to become a doctor while he longed to become a dancer.
Shooz chose to follow his heart, and in turn, chose to disappoint his family. Overcoming hurdles and making the best of them, that’s the theme of the show.
“Even though our stories are different, they are all reflective of one another,” Shooz said. “Not every story is a tragedy, and the show leads to us all overcoming and pulling together with the strength of our faith and our dance and our family.”
Each time Edmundo “Poe One” Loayza would start to dance, the memories, too painful, paralyzed him.
The Grovaloos were to perform a menagerie of street dance and original poetry inspired by the dancer’s personal stories. Loayza’s story: A father, diseased by alcoholism, who abused him and his mother physically and tormented them psychologically.
As time went by, and Poe One listened to a poet on stage convey the struggles of his past through beautiful, fluid language, he found himself moving, little by little into the present.
Once ridiculed for his desire to dance by his father, he found the fruits of his desire now ushering in acceptance to replace the pain.
From the time Groovaloo dancer Al Star was 3, she had studied dance in the studio. While she was one of the best clasically trained dancers in Los Angeles, when it came time for her to freestyle, she was terrified she had no style of her own.
“I’m just imitation,” she would tell Shooz.
“Which is totally a lie,” Shooz said. “But that’s what her brain told her. An awesome technically trained dancer, she thought she didn’t have anything to offer, that she didn’t deserve to be a part of it.”
With a little encouragement, Al Star proved herself wrong. Overcoming her fears, she began to freestyle, stepping into herself, which is really what the Grovaloos are all about.
“It brings you inside our personal struggles, hopes and dreams as we traveled to L.A., discovering our purpose and destiny as a group,” Shooz said. “Of course I’m biased, but it’s an unbelievable, thrilling and hugely inspiring show. There’s mind blowing displays of dance, heart-felt insight, mixed with vibrant music and powerful spoken word poetry.”
Freestyle street dance and personal expression are synonmous, Shooz explains. Unrehearsed, the dancer pulls from what’s inside and draws the moves he knows. That’s why a Grovaloos show leaves half of the time in the show for improv. “Every night is like a blank canvas.” Shooz said.
That’s what differentiates street dancing from other forms of dance; you’re not trying to look like anyone else, you’re only trying to look like yourself.
“I truly strengthen every part of my life,” Shooz said. “It really, truly gives me a place to express who I am, to celebrate me.”
The tradition of clogging came to be much like street dancing. Totally improvisational, cloggers would dance on a piece of wood, not on stage, not as a performance, but to add percussion to the sound of a live band and to have fun.
“It’s an individual pursuit where the dancer feels very connected to the music,” said Eileen Carson. Carson studied classical and modern ballet until the age of 17, when at the Union Groove Festival in North Carolina, she saw some cloggers and “caught the bug,” she says. In 1979, she founded the Fiddle Puppet Dancers which eventually became Footworks Percussive Dacne Ensemble.
“It’s a product of our journey which we started as cloggers from a social place and loved it so much, we started choreographing and performing,” Carson said. “We saw it as a valid art form and wanted to present it on stage while trying to stay true to it.”
The dancers soon found themselves invited to folk festivals across the East and it was the first time clogging had been seen out of its region. As they toured to various festivals, they would come in contact with other forms of percussive dance such as Irish step dance, African and African-American dance, step dancing, gumboot dancing and tap. Over time, the company learned and introduced all of these freestyle techniques into their show.
“It’s sort of like a historic homage,” Carson said. “There’s a lot of paces in the show where there’s improv, which is truer to the tradition of dance but it is a stage show, which is almost a contradition.”