Over the course of the festival, HAU2 and YAAM will act as home bases for an exploration of the crossroads between various innovative forms of movement and sound.
In "FIVE Berlin," multidisciplinary American artist Rashaad Newsome will investigate the African, European, and North-American roots of vogueing. This underground NYC dance tradition emerged out of the queer black & Latino ballroom scene in Harlem in the 1960s and 70s, but was only first thrust into the wider public eye in 1990 when Madonna released the eponymous song and music video inspired by it. The documentary, Paris is Burning, likewise released in 1990, also popularised the form. At its core, the dance style is a fluid, codified, highly developed form of runway modeling – in mid-20th-century New York, blacks and latinos had little hope of becoming mainstream supermodels, so they held their own competitions in community halls and ballrooms. As the popularity of these events increased, so did the rivalry, and the models began to develop demonstrative, highly performative runway routines that mimicked and reinterpreted white mainstream runway culture.
Newsome’s work draws its title from the five basic gestural elements of the tradition: hand performance; catwalk; dips and spins; floor performance; and duck walk. Each one is represented – and performed – by a dancer dressed in a bright color symbolic of the move’s character. The five dancers will be joined by five local musicians who imitate the dancers’ choreography through a mix of improvised and pre-composed material. Meanwhile, NY-based MC Princess Mami Precious and baritone opera singer Justin Austin will weave in vocal interjections throughout the entirety of the piece.
Rashaad Newsome, whose own work blends several practices – collage, sculpture, video, music, computer programming, and performance – to form a new creative field altogether, likewise brings a multidisciplinary approach to the project. While on the one hand the practice of vogueing is portrayed in a performative, 3D domain, it is likewise materialised and immortalised into the 2D as colourful, live-generated line drawings. Using video game controllers and custom motion tracking software, Newsome will map and visualise the movement patterns of dancers in real time; as he puts it, "the dancers act as my pen, creating lines, shapes, landscapes, and an array of narratives." The resulting drawings, which are projected on stage, are dynamic representations of energy; and as stand-alone visuals, they recall modernist abstraction and action painting. During the performance, drawing, music, dance, and technology collide and build into a beautifully structured crescendo of movement and sound.
As an addition to "FIVE Berlin", which will run for three nights in a row at HAU2, club accelerationist Lotic and classically trained American dancer Roderick George team up to present "Embryogenesis," a piece exploring the restrictions of assigning certain dance genres to specific racial groups or cultures. An embryonic form of "Fleshless Beast," a piece they created for the Sophiensaale this past fall, this collaboration investigates the potential of blurring boundaries between "high" and "popular" culture, setting dance styles from hip hop, breakdance, and modern dance to Lotic’s metallic dancefloor blowouts in a kinetic, ever-evolving exchange.
Saturday night at YAAM will feature a special focus on the NYC scene of Flex Dance Music (FDM). Like many artists in this world, Hitmakerchinx and DJ Aaron are both dancers and producers – and in these roles they’ve worked with the likes of Rihanna and Madonna. Flex, an offshoot of dancehall & reggae dance styles, evolved in the Caribbean neighbourhoods of Brooklyn after legend and innovator Bruk Up relocated from Kingston in 1995. The dance style alternates elastic contortions and ballet-like fluidity with disjointed, “broken” movements and wacky facial animations. The music to accompany it, originally known as “flex tunes”, has also grown into a genre of its own with club-ready beats and obscure samples – now known as FDM. In their CTM performance, Hitmakerchinx and DJ Aaron will both move between the decks and the dance floor, where they’ll also be supported by a collaborative force between OG hob dot, one of the leading pioneers and creatives of the bone-breaking flex style, and the female flex dance phenomenon Shellz.
Funded by the Capital Cultural Fund. "FIVE Berlin" is a co-production with Kampnagel (Hamburg).