Thursday, October 23, 2008

On-Stage: Ballerina Who Loves a B-boy

Generation Myspace, your show has arrived. You are explicitly invited to take digital pictures during Ballerina Who Loves a B-boy, and post them to your social networking page. Beginning a limited run at 37 Arts last night, the Korean hip-hop “break-dancing” theatrical experience is in fact quite photogenic, which explains the producers’ confidence in the ultimate drawing power of such peer-to-peer image sharing.

Ballerina keeps the story simple, telling it sans dialogue through dance. The narrative follows a Romeo & Juliet-style romance between a sheltered ballerina and a street wise B-boy, who performs with his crew beneath her studio window. However, the story as such, is not really the point. Rather, it is a showcase for the moves of the Extreme Crew, the past champions of many international B-boy battles. Their performance arsenal includes acrobatic air steps, tightly synchronized robotic “toprock” choreography, and held freezes requiring exacting strength and balance.

Given the nature of the show, with its booming hip-hop (entirely pre-recorded) and constant exhortations to rouse audience enthusiasm, the poor ballerinas’ dance numbers are unfairly overwhelmed. They are actually excellent dancers in their own right, but their style is a bit too sedate for the B-boy extravaganza surrounding them. However, the only real acting per se comes from Eun Hae Yoo, as the ballerina who loves a B-boy, who has to emote quite a bit during nightmarish dream sequences. She proves she could have been a successful actress during the silent era.

Still, Ballerina is clearly Extreme Crew’s show in no uncertain terms. They are a talented, high-energy ensemble, who delivers some spectacular moves. Though it is a large company, some individual personalities emerge from the crew, particularly the stocky B-boy, who seems to defy physics with his body type. However, as someone who knows something about marketing, I would recommend they use the Hip-hop girls, the trio of Soobin Kim, A Rum Park, and De Heen Choi, in their advertising campaign. Let’s just say that in addition to being talented dancers, they also have great stage presence, and leave it at that.

Ballerina is a very entertaining show that brings plenty of flash and style. Its only fault might be the dream sequences, which though quite distinctive visually, might be a bit intense for younger children, and seemed to drag on a bit, dissipating the audience’s energy-level. Still, the Extreme B-boys always return to what they do best, getting the show back on track with a spectacular set of steps.

With its ultramodern concrete architecture, 37 Arts feels like the perfect venue for a show like Ballerina, given its hip, urban sensibilities. Currently, Korean B-boy stock is on the rise following the international success of films like Planet B-boy and Always Be Boyz. Ballerina is an impressive live vehicle for the Extreme Crew, with just enough narrative to give the show a sense of structure. Regardless of your stylistic preferences for music, you have to give them props for talent and showmanship. Now officially open, Ballerina runs through December 21st.