Behind the Groove – Times Square Edition
Full Circle Productions is a Bronx-based nonprofit breaking (breakdance) collective that provides uplifting and educational programming highlighting the positive aspects of hip-hop culture. Kwikstep and Rokafella, the husband and wife founders of Full Circle Productions, met as street performers in 1991, and worked their moves in Times Square in order to pay their dance crews and drummers. They slowly moved into video, festival, theater and educational realms, but always maintained their connections to the street and to the many generations of their dance family. Kwikstep and Rokafella keep the art forms relevant and evolving by giving young, aspiring hip-hop dancers/artists training and performance opportunities.
Kwikstep and Rokafella truly come full circle, returning to their origins in Times Square, the site where their dream of bringing hip-hop dance to the masses began. Since 2009, Kwikstep has curated Behind the Groove, a dance party that invites the community to freestyle to classic dance music without the pressure of competition or bar culture, allowing the dancers to organically engage in social exchange on the floor. Behind the Groove – Times Square Edition offers a choreographed time capsule that shows the span of street and club dance trends from the 1970s through the present day. Though breaking and other forms of street dance historically have not been sanctioned by the New York City mainstream, they have long been a staple in the consciousness of the less visible inner-city communities. In this program, popping, breaking, locking, up/rocking, house, lite feet, and krumping share the stage, spotlighting the music, the dancers, and the dances in their natural element. The production features a DJ set, as well as house, popping, and breaking contests that will be judged by local icons and audience interaction. This fusion of events and styles evokes the block parties found in the Boroughs, bringing the all-inclusive spirit of underground dance communities into the heart of Times Square.
“At a time when the mainstream defines and represents hip-hop in superficial ways, we continue to fight harder to shed light on the underground creatives who keep working, despite the lack of recognition. This project brings visibility to underground dance forms through a chronology of street/club dance captured in a performance and competitions by some of NYC's most sought-after dancers. At Full Circle, we use our platform to feature upcoming talent from the Five Boroughs of NYC, while showing respect for the elders and architects of this uniquely urban expression that has spread across the world to touch continents and countries far away.“
- Kwikstep and Rokafella
Behind the Groove is presented as part of Danspace Project at Times Square, which will also include performances by luciana achugar and Laurie Berg. Inspired by Times Square’s history as the home of Broadway musicals, vaudeville, dance halls, and vernacular dance forms that emerged throughout the 20th century, Times Square Arts and Danspace Project have commissioned these three new dance works that explore strategies for perception, amplification, and activism within the cacophonous landscape of Times Square.
Full Circle Souljahs: Odylle “Mantis” Beder, John “Flonetik” Vinuya, Nasir “Kid Break” Malave, Mark “Styleski” Mack, Raymond “Spex” Abbiw, Richard James
FC Hardrocks: Deana Richline, Jennifer “Beasty” Acosta, Janice Tomlinson, Sharmaine Sheppard
Lite feet by Noahlot: KR3Ts
Krumping: TJ Rocka and the Nu Knynnes
Logo design: Shiro
T-shirts: Eric Michael
Kuduro choreography: Manuel Kanza
Gabriel “Kwikstep” Dionisio (b. 1968, lives and works in New York City), started dancing between the ages of six and seven, influenced by Soul Train and block parties in New York City. He has taught highly sought-after workshops in breaking techniques at the Broadway Dance Center, Red Bull Beat Riders, and Red Bull BC One. For over 20 years, he has taught workshops in New York public schools, libraries, and colleges across the country in an effort to make students aware of hip-hop lifestyle and fundamental movement, as well as the history and meaning behind hip-hop culture. Kwikstep has performed in PBS’s Peabody Award-winning Everybody Dance Now, the Great Performances twentieth-anniversary special, and Kurt Weill’s September Songs, which was nominated for an Emmy Award. He won a “Bessie” award for choreography in 1991 and founded the internationally known Full Circle in 1992. In 1996 Kwikstep and his wife, Rokafella, incorporated Full Circle as a non-profit hip-hop collective known as Full Circle Productions Inc; its members are known as Full Circle Souljahs. Today he is an international icon in breaking known for his smooth style, versatility, and signature head spins. Kwikstep was also an original founding member and principal dancer in companies such as Rhythm Technicians and GhettOriginal (creators of Jam on the Groove, nominated for a 1996 Drama Desk Award). He, along with his wife, wrote, choreographed, and directed Soular Powerd (2002), a hip-hop theater piece that ran to sold-out audiences for three weeks at the New Victory Theater. Together they wrote, choreographed, and directed a new hip-hop theater piece commissioned by the Kennedy Center called Outside the BachX. Most recently, Kwikstep was Associate Director and Choreographer for a hip-hop theater piece, Syncing Ink (2017), directed by Niegel Smith, which ran at the Flea Theater.
Ana “Rokafella” Garcia (b. 1971, lives and works in New York City) has represented women in hip-hop dance professionally for two decades. She has taught workshops at NYU, Queens College, MIT, UMASS, and Howard University, as well as at neighborhood high schools and community centers. She is an artist in residence at the American Tap Dance Foundation, an Adjunct Professor at The New School, and a DANCE NYC Annual Symposium planning committee member. She co-founded Full Circle Prod Inc, NYC’s only non-profit break dance theater company, with her husband, veteran b-boy Kwikstep, generating theater pieces, original poetry, and New York City-based dance related events. She directed All the Ladies Say, a documentary highlighting the b-girl lifestyle, with support from the Ford Foundation, and performs music based on her experiences growing up in hip-hop’s Mecca. She is hired internationally to judge break dance competitions based on her mastery of the classic hip-hop dance style, and she teaches unique workshops aimed at evolving and preserving its technical aspects. She has worked with the Bronx Museum, The Smithsonian and the Queen Liluokalani Trust, helping to expose young students to the possibility of a career in hip hop dance. In May of 2017, she launched Shiroka, a t-shirt fashion line, with Japanese graffiti writer Shiro. She has been featured in pivotal rap music videos, tours, films, and commercials, and has choreographed for diverse festivals and concerts such as Lincoln Center Out of Doors, Momma’s Hip-Hop Kitchen, and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
Photographs courtesy of Ian Douglas for Times Square Arts.