Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Planet B-Boy: documentary about break dancing


Most of us have grown accustomed to overhearing hip-hop and rap (even when kids go to websites at school to play it), but I didn’t really realize it’s connection to break dancing, which is an athletic form of dancing somewhat resembling gymnastics (without apparatus) and tumbling, and requiring extreme upper body strength. Most dancers are male, have slender or light builds and extreme levels of both strength and aerobic fitness. Many dancers are solo, and in group dances physical contact is minimal. Break dancing would lend itself to becoming an Olympic event.

As mentioned in this documentary film, break dancing inspired the hit film from Paramount, “Flashdance,” in 1983, dir. Adrian Lyne, although I remember the film for its lilting theme song.

The term has sometimes been loosely used to describe some kinds of “dirty dancing” in discos. Sometimes, in the early hours of the Thursday night dance, a couple college-age guys would do almost real “break dances” on the stages at the Saloon in Minneapolis when I lived there.

Planet B-Boy
(2008, dis. Elephant Eye, prod. Mondo Paradiso, dir. Benson Lee, 85 min, NR but can be G, Germany/ South Korea) traces the progress of several break dance teams from around the world, to a competition in Germany. The most conspicuous team comes from South Korea. The film mentions mandatory military conscription required of all South Korean males, and actually has a scene at the DMZ. There is a scene with one South Korean soldier dancing for fun in uniform, and it looks odd that he has an earring while in uniform. The film shows some scenes of other towns in South Korea, an unusual opportunity for on-location viewing. The team travels to Germany and stays in a dorm, which is a bit like a budget traveler’s youth hostel, with multiple sleeping bags on the floor in just one barracks-like room. Another team comes from Japan, and the film mentions that the Japanese believe individuals should not draw undue attention to themselves, but break dancing provides a culturally acceptable exception to that rule of social courtesy. The American team is shown practicing in the Red Rock Canyon near Las Vegas (I drove through it in 1997 and recognize the unusual scenery.) The French team practices on the grounds near the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre.

The film has some grainy digital video, and the narrator’s voice is a bit muffled, but the music itself has great sound. In one scene in S Korea, the dance music sounds like an Asian variation of the Pachabel Canon (used in "Ordinary People" 1980, Paramount, dir. Robert Redford, novel by Judith Guest), with a ground bass and continuous variations.

The closing credits show break dancing in some less commonly filmed locations, like Warsaw, Turkey, and Lake Geneva.

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