Turning Dance on Its Head


When the lights come up on Innaviews, Rokafella and Kwikstep are curled up in a fanciful bed (designed by Garland Farwell). They’re wearing Santa caps in honor of the season, but they haven’t been dreaming of sugar plums. Instead, they’ve revisited a nightmare—a noxious old British TV show (projected on the back wall) in which ever-so-mod commentators marvel both naïvely and condescendingly about the break dancers performing behind them.

Anita “Rokafella” Garcia and Gabriel “Kwikstep” Dionisio haven’t included the other members of their company, Full Circle, in this show, which is directed by Gamal Chasten. It’s just the husband-and-wife hip-hop artists, replaying scenes from their early days alone and together, occasionally bursting into exuberant displays of breaking (perfectly in-sync multiple pirouettes on their heads—now that’s a marriage of equals!). They begin with a rhymed exchange (gentler than a rap) laying out what they want and don’t want. Both got their start dancing in the streets, and they lament the fact that hip-hop’s current popularity has resulted in slick packaging. Can they keep it real—an expression of individual freedom and creativity—and still achieve success?

They wrote and deliver four satirical interviews in which the various questioners reveal their prejudices and their ignorance of the form. Rokafella’s a naïve graduate student quizzing Kwikstep, the expert. Then he becomes a media manipulator bent on shaping her history (“What kind of drugs were you on?”); to this former soldier, the hip-hop crews’ “battling” must be wars for turf. Rokafella is hilarious as a flirty, voluble Spanish television hostess, asking the bemused Kwikstep, for instance, if he can connect hip-hop to flamenco (“Uh, no”). Later Kwikstep slithers on in shades as an interviewer dedicated to the gangsta image; he asks Rokafella if she’s ever been stabbed, and looks admiringly at his gold medallion while she speaks of breaking as something that’s sacred to her.

The pair sweetly parody their first meeting on a club’s dance floor, and in monologues reveal the joys and griefs of two Latino kids pushing their way into a field dominated by African-Americans and a woman’s effort to hold her own in a mostly male art. Rokafella speaks of cutting her hair short (“a Puerto Rican contraceptive”). Kwikstep, a man who doesn’t discriminate based on race or skin color, remembers his father disapprovingly telling his seven-year-old self, “You have a Negro soul,” and him dropping uncomprehending tears into his cereal bowl. The couple nearly end with a marital squabble, but carry the words over into dance moves that in turn lead them back to the reality of love and hopeful plans for their dancing future.

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