An eye-popper showing the old pop and lock brought to thrilling, disorienting extremes, Deidre Schoo and Michael Beach Nichols’s Flex Is Kings movingly documents the flex dance scene centered around Brooklyn’s BattleFest.
Fluid and at times disorienting, flex centers on the rhythmic italicization of the human body; the highlights here often involve what looks like the dislocation of dancers’ shoulders as they work through their slo-mo, zero-g contortions. The best dancers build to mad flourishes they call “punch lines” and even incorporate some tough-minded street-life storytelling into their self-taught routines — it’s autobiography as joyous athleticism.
The film sketches quick and sympathetic portraits of its dancers, including Jay Donn, a daring and expressive performer whose hard work lands him a collaboration with a modern dance troupe and then an invite to perform at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. (We see him hug proud and tearful relatives, and Schoo and Beach make his schlep to the airport feel epochal.)
The film is more an on-the-fly glimpse of the scene than a deep-dive exploration, but that doesn’t make it any less electric, especially those punch lines.