Marco Gerris had a vision for a theatrical event like no other. As he explained to a friend, it would band together extreme Rollerblading with DJ spinning and scratching. Break dancing with human beat boxing. Music videos and martial arts. And it would all be dropped onto a half pipe.
The friend, impressed, said, “Oh, so it’s ish.”
“What’s ish?,” asked Gerris.
“You know, a little of this, a little of that.”
Gerris granted it was ish. And when the director/producer launched the show in Amsterdam in the Netherlands, he dubbed it “ISH.” That was 1999. And the Dutch production, with a street-smart look and feel, continues to roll and grow.
It spent years in the Netherlands. Then “ISH” toured Europe. Along the way, it added more acts, including trapeze artists and acrobats. It’s now in its fourth incarnation. Thus, it’s new name, “4-ISH.” And its that show that will turn out tonight at Proctors.
Basically, “ISH” takes street and club life diversions to the limit. It has been described as “a visual spectacle that flies by at breakneck speed” as well as a pageant that is “driven by the desire to stretch the limits of human ability.”
Big and bold
Gerris says that characterization is spot on. “It’s big and bold. We are always upgrading. The half pipe is bigger, the skills are higher.”
“A little,” admits Gerris. “But we know what we are doing. It’s a tight group.”
Gerris, who relishes in hip-hop music and the moves it inspires, said the first thing Americans need to know about “4-ISH” is that it is a family show. Sure, it’s hip-hop. But Gerris said he and his crew are not flashing their street cred. “We don’t have that in Europe. That’s an American thing.”
Rather, the skaters and breakers want to stun and incite the audience with explosive artistry. They also seek to encourage young people to pursue their dreams. The message is conveyed through in a paper-thin story. A boy strives to fit in but is continually rejected by the crowd. He finally wins approval when he follows his heart and becomes a drummer.
“It’s a happy ending,” said Gerris, “A pretty American ending. There’s a lot of humor in the story, too.”
The point, said Gerris, is “everyone should find what he enjoys and do that in his life. What I want to pass onto youngsters is they need to respect their own voice.”
Gerris heeded his inner voice when he created “ISH.”
“I was always interested in creating a show that combined the things I liked to do, to make a performance young people would be interested in,” said Gerris.
More and more ish
At 23, he was the youngest theatrical producer in the Netherlands. Though Rollerblading in a proscenium setting was untried, he did it anyway. And “ISH” became a sensation there. It was nominated for the Netherlands Broadcasting Prize for Culture. That recognition led to offers to perform, direct and choreograph on stage and in film.
In 2002, he created “ISH2” and expanded the cast. That was followed by “Triple ISH” and “Heroish” as well as the establishment of ISH Institute, a nursery for youth culture.
New talent continually spring from the institute, replenishing the “ISH” cast. The “4-ISH” crew consists of 13, all masters in their respective fields. Gerris, himself, performs on skates and as a dancer. In addition to martial artists, acrobats and beat boxers, he is especially pleased with the show’s DJ — two-time champion on the Dutch DMC Team DJ Daze. Born Rene Oude Brunink, Daze freelanced with “ISH,” but has joined the crew full-time for its American tour.
“He’s the one,” said Gerris. “He gets a lot of respect in his discipline, all around the world and home.”
Before the tour took off, Gerris admitted that the idea of coming to America was daunting. The hottest hip-hop artists still hail from these shores. So he worried that the European cast might fail to pique the interest of Americans. But that hasn’t happened. Gerris attributed it to the exceptional talent of the team.
“To come to America is a big honor. It’s really cool. We’re loving it. Everybody understands what its about, what we are trying to say.”
Gerris is thrilled by American enthusiasm as much as he is by the perpetual success of “ISH.”
“Every day, I’m a little bit shocked,” he said. “I think, for me, I feel blessed. Not in a religious sense. I’ve been blessed by life.”
And by “ISH?”
“Yes, ‘ISH’ is very cool.”
WHERE: Proctors, 432 State St., Schenectady
WHEN: 8 tonight
HOW MUCH: $35 to $25, with $25 to $15 for 17 and younger
MORE INFO: 346-6204 or www.proctors.org
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Categories: Life and Arts