Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Rize v. Stomp the Yard

I recently watched two movies on the subject of clowning and krumping. Clowning and krumping are dance forms popularized primarily by black folks in South Los Angeles. Dancing is viewed as a positive creative outlet for youngsters dealing with very harsh living conditions. Many of them also turn to their churches for support and inspiration. The dancing itself is very frenzied and violent. I would dislocate many joints if I were to attempt this dancing myself.

The first movie I watched on this subject was Stomp the Yard. It's fortunate that I hadn't already watched Rize, because I might have been incredibly offended by Stomp the Yard, otherwise.

I felt silly describing my rationale for watching Stomp the Yard to Judy when she visited, so I went with it. People often find it incongruous and humorous when I speak about black culture. So to hear me say that "DJ's brother was killed after a dance-off" and that he "takes heat from a dude after walking through a step line to holla at a shorty," must be amusing. You must know that my greatest lament, whether Barack Obama agrees with me or not, is that I'm "not black enough." I'm sporty, but uncoordinated, I can play music but I can't dance beyond the white boy shuffle. Of course, because I'm hopeless, I want nothing more than to be able to dance and step and be in one of those southern school marching bands. Thus, I'll watch any movie that takes those things as subject matter, regardless of what Roger Ebert says about them.

Stomp the Yard was mostly disappointing-- an attempt to bridge the separate dance traditions of krumping and stepping. (Not to be confused with Chicago Style Stepping, which is more like the jitterbug, but equally awesome.) The hokey way in which they dealt with the main character's discovery of Black Greek history, the turf war among the frats, the way Darrin Henson's character acted as if he were better than the main dude's, because he was from a wealthy family. That part was the most unbelievable for me, as it was all about proving how authentically black you were when I was in college (which generally meant acting as if you were from the hood, though most weren't). But maybe they do it differently in the South. I should ask my cousin who went to Emory.

Rize, on the other hand, was amazing. It was beautifully shot by Dave LaChappelle and presents a history of clownin/krumping's development in the words of its adherents. I give Rize four stars, Stomp the Yard two stars.

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