Adelaide Fringe 2020: Cultural Renegades

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Who: Presented by Lisa Crowe

Where: Drama Llama at Rhino Room

When: 28-29 Feb

Tickets: Season ended (original page here)

This is going to be a slightly different review from normal. Mostly because Cultural Renegades is the show I’ve been dreaming of putting on for years.

As a member of Adelaide’s small but devoted street dance community, I’ve always wondered how we might be able to open up our little world to the general public and show them why we do what we do. How can we involve the wider community in the electrifying energy of a freestyle dance battle? How can we invite them into our dance cyphers and make them feel the joy, dynamism, and pure human connection we feel as we dance? Can we help them hear the music, feel the hype, experience the elation of self-expression through movement?

Being part of this scene is one of the greatest privileges I have in my life. Understandably, I want to share the way it feeds my soul with as many people as possible, whether they’ve danced before or not. Well, Lisa Crowe and her talented team of authentic street dancers have come to Adelaide and done exactly that, making a little dream of mine finally come true.

Cultural Renegades invites the audience to experience the raw, explosive vibe of a street dance party, with a focus on inclusion, community, and a boatload of pure fun. Set in a tiny basement room so the audience are right up close with the dancers, the show is constantly inviting the audience to form circles, mingle, groove, and even to show their stuff alongside the performers. The attitude is pure celebration – of movement, of music, of diversity and community and fun.

Hip-hop and dancehall are the main styles on display, but expect to also see popping, locking, breaking, krump, and more. Lisa Crowe’s team, assembled from across Australia, are a physically and stylistically diverse ensemble that represent the diversity of the wider freestyle community – it’s all about individuality, style, and skill, no matter what you look like or where you come from. Expect to see lite feet dancers move with astonishing speed, dancehall queens rhythmically celebrating their bodies, breakers spinning like tops on the floor, and poppers doing flawless robot impressions. I was so delighted to see that even the choreographed sections focused on authentic party dance moves that captured the true social spirit of the dances. Cultural Renegades delivers real and genuine street dance culture with incredible skill and versatility.

In between the dance sets, MC MelloDian showcased another aspect of hip hop culture with mesmerising spoken word and rap verses that elaborated on the themes of the show. His verses wove through a range of topics that centered on culture, community, and the uniting power of music and dance. In a truly memorable moment, female krumper Nadiah freestyled to an acapella spoken word piece by MelloDian, earning deafening cheers and hype from the audience. The MC also smoothly managed the fluid transitions in the structure of the show, from mock dance battles to showcase sets to audience-participation party grooves and cypher circles.

On the night I attended, a large group of the local Adelaide street dance community also showed up to the event. When the performers realised this they encouraged us to participate in the show throughout the night, truly eliminating the boundaries between performer and audience in the democratic spirit of street dance. It was an absolute joy to see the respected and accomplished members of my own community invited to demonstrate their skills too, purely in the spirit of connection and celebration. I was told that far fewer trained dancers attended the opening night, but the ‘regular’ audience were just as if not more responsive to the skill and infectious energy of the dancers.

Street dance, as a hobby and a community, has gotten me through the darkest times of my life and filled the best times with incredible lightness and joy. I truly can’t imagine life without the feeling of freestyle dance, and I am so ecstatic that Cultural Renegades has endeavoured to show non-dancers a sample of what this lifestyle and culture is really like. It’s a shame that this show only ran for two nights, because it’s an absolute must-see that I dearly hope comes back to Adelaide in the future. And if it fills you with the inspiration and passion to keep dancing it might even change your life, the same way discovering dance changed mine.

5/5 stars

–Tamika Glouftsis

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