Think hip-hop and wholesome doesn’t exactly spring to mind.
But in the hands and feet of 4-ISH, street and club culture is so whitewashed that it’s appropriate for preschoolers. This Dutch ensemble, which performed at Proctors on Friday night, neutered breakdancing, DJaying, psychedelic videos, extreme rollerblading and beatboxing, turning it into a mash palatable for tots.
The cast of 13 clowned and mugged, taking their respective specialties molded on concrete sidewalks and smoky bars, into silly circus acts. In so doing, they stripped hip-hop of its appeal. Breaking, blading, martial arts, etc., are dangerously exciting. But with 4-ISH, they were mildly amusing.
It was too bad as the 75-minute show had the potential to be a kinetic nail biter. Center stage was DJ Daze or Rene Oudebrunink, one of Europe’s top scratchers and mixers. With vinyl records at his finger tips, he wove some incredibly infectious beats.
In front of Oudebrunink was a half pipe, in which two champion roller bladers (Sven Boekhorst and Tio Eerhart) flew with fluid finesse, hitting back flips and other eye-popping tricks that send them upside down and sideways.
The break dancer, Sebastien Ramirez, was exceptional too. Pliant and fleet, he launched himself through the air, spun on every body part and skipped on his hands, surprising the audience at every spring or turn. But he, like the bladers, hardly performed — just at the start and in the end.
Instead, the show focused on Marco Gerris, the director and producer. He did a little of everything, but not as well as the others. He played a guy who was shunned by his peers, even as he embraced their every whim. He failed at getting any attention until the end when he, on his own, becomes a drummer. The moral being this: Follow your heart, not the crowd.
That was nice. But what was annoying was how it was told without fully unleashing the force of the talented crew. Take for example, beat boxer Abdel Baadi. He’s a top artist in his field, a human synthesizer, who deserved the spotlight alone. However, he was reduced to making wincing noises and funny voices for Gerris and the various juveniles he met and tried to impress.
Then there is the case of martial artist Ken “Kenny Boy” Shrisangkhan, who was horribly typecast as the nerdy Asian. With his pants hitched above his belly, he stumbled on skates and made a general fool of himself. Here, Baadi was relegated to vocalizing bad Chinese accents while Shrisangkhan mouthed, out-of-synch with Baadi, silently. The scenes with Shrisangkhan bordered on offensive. But Gerris and Shrisangkhan’s physical comedy was too much of a groaner to make anyone really care.
What was missing were the battles. That is what hip-hop culture is known for — dancer going against dancer, DJ against DJ, in displays of strength and prowess. Alas, Gerris didn’t let that happen.
4-ISH should just dump the schick and attack with straight up dance and music. Gerris’ crew has the talent. All he needs to do is release it. Then, 4-ISH would not be boorish.
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Categories: Life and Arts