Friday, March 29, 2013

KRUMP kreations: Dance style makes its way from inner-city streets to UI Jazz Fest workshop

Lindsey Treffry | The Argonaut

For Christa Davis, KRUMP started three springs back at a national conference in San Diego, Calif. But for Thomas Johnson, aka Tommy the Clown, it began more than 20 years ago.

Davis, a University of Idaho doctoral student studying Physical Education Pedagogy with a dance emphasis, teaches UI classes, such as children’s dance, to pre-service teachers. When she attended the national conference three years ago, she spent half a day with Tommy and his crew in order to learn more about “krumping” or KRUMP, which stands for Kingdom Rejoicing Uplifting Mighty Praise.
Tommy the Clown created KRUMP.

“He was born in the inner-city,” Davis said.

One day in his early teens, he visited a cousin in inner-city Los Angeles. His cousin was doing a drug deal and Tommy decided to join in and conduct a drug deal, too.

“He made lots of money,” Davis said. “It became his vocational vision.”

In a few years, he moved to Los Angeles, set up his own space as a drug dealer and eventually got caught. He spent five years in prison.

“He had a lot of time to think,” Davis said. “He thought he needed to do something positive that was not destructive.”

Once released, he found a job as a typist clerk. One of his co-workers asked if he’d be a clown for her daughter’s birthday. He had no idea how to be a clown, Davis said, but he bought a rainbow-colored afro-wig and thought, “I can do hip-hop dance, so I’ll be a hip-hop clown.”

“The kids loved him,” Davis said.

From there, he decided his “clown dance” was the positive thing he was looking for.
“So he used what he knew as a drug dealer and translated it into dance,” Davis said.

Tommy rainbow-painted a van, played music through loud speakers and danced in the streets.

Children were attracted to the music and dancing, and eventually requested to perform at birthday parties with him. So, he developed an academy for KRUMP.

“The kids could dance as long as they were gang-free, drug-free and doing well in school,” Davis said.

KRUMP took on new forms and morphed into its own style. It was a way for dancers to release what they were feeling, whether it was happy, frustrated, mad or sad.

“KRUMP is unique,” she said. “It’s initiation-motivated movement.”

She said your first step leads to your second. For example, if your chest pops forward, your foot will step forward.

Tommy’s academy was full, as was his crew, and other crews began to break off.
“And from there, it exploded,” Davis said.

Some crews, sometimes gang-like, leaned toward more sexual or violent dances, but Tommy and others stayed true to his dance.

And so will Davis as she leads two KRUMP workshops as part of the 2013 Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival.

“Krumping allows people to be healthy emotionally, based on how they’re moving,” she said. “There are no mistakes and you don’t have to be perfect.”

Davis will give a brief history of KRUMP and lead two krumping combinations. She said there may be a chance for a KRUMP battle or an improvisational session.

As seen in Feb. 19 issue of The Argonaut.

Hope after the storm

Lindsey Treffry | blot

It’s on bumpers, buttons and stickers. It hangs from buildings and businesses, and is displayed in the University of Idaho Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender office. The rainbow flag is even tattooed on Julia Keleher’s arm.

Keleher, the UI LGBT Office and Programs Coordinator, got the tattoo at 19. 

“Our LGBT community back in the ‘70s … had the idea of pride,” she said. “It’s all about pride. It’s being proud of who you are.”

In 1978, the San Francisco Gay and Lesbian Pride Parade commissioned artist Gilbert Baker to design a new symbol for its marches. Baker taught himself to sew and began crafting the banner. 

“The rainbow is a part of nature and you have to be in the right place to see it,” Baker told a CBS Chicago reporter in June 2012. “It’s beautiful, all of the colors, even the colors you can’t see that really fit us as a people because we are all of the colors ... all the genders, races and ages.”

Paige Davies, the AmeriCorps women’s mentoring, service learning and volunteer coordinator, said Baker probably chose rainbow colors because they are obnoxious.

“It’s in your face. There’s no hiding it,” she said. 

Davies’ interpretation has changed throughout the years.

“To me, now it’s annoying,” Davies said. “Everything has to be rainbow-colored.”

But Davies said the loud colors led her to Inland Oasis, a volunteer organization that serves LGBT communities.

“The logo had rainbow flag colors. Now it says ‘open, accepting, affirming,’ but it used to only have the rainbow,” Davies said. “I knew, then, that that was a place I could go. It was reassuring.”

She said it was just as reassuring to see rainbow flag stickers in UI professors’ offices — part of the UI Safe Zone project.

“They didn’t have to tell me that it was OK to be gay,” she said. “I just knew.”

Katie Noble, UI Women’s Center administrative assistant, said the flag represents a unity of all differences in the community.

“Before coming out, you’re hiding who you are. But with the flag, you’re not gonna hide from that anymore,” Noble said. “The flag is so vibrant and solid.”

And each vibrant color has a meaning.

Red means life. Orange, healing. Yellow, sunlight. Green, nature. Blue, harmony. And purple for spirit. 

The flag once had pink for sex, and turquoise for art or magic, but the colors were later dropped to simplify production.

“The flag is our connection to our history,” Keleher said. “There are symbols (like the flag) and it’s important in understanding where (they) come from.”

Noble said interpretations aren’t always positive.

“For those who are not supportive (of the LGBT community), they’re like ‘Oh, there’s another rainbow flag,’” she said. “There are two sides of it.”

Davies said she might understand why the rainbow was chosen.

“It’s happy, rich and full of life-colors,” she said. “It’s the hope after the storm.”

As seen in February issue of Blot Magazine.