The Rise of Dance: Rize (2005) - Can't Stop the Movies
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The Rise of Dance: Rize (2005)

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Andrew COMMENTARYYou gotta have a big heart to go out into violence every day and try to do some good without remitting the same in kind.  You gotta have a big damn heart to do the same thing while wearing clown make-up and only using dance as a joyful form of expression.

That's they key.  It's a form of expression, not a tool or a weapon.  Though casual observers to the form of krumping may think that it's violent they'd be completely incorrect.  Replace "violent" with "silly" and "krumping" with "clowning"  then you've got the opposite true.  Both of these dance forms were born straight out of the smoldering ashes of LA and both are trying to do some good in the world.

It's a helluva lot more than, with apologies to Ryan, I can say about anything Michael Bay has done.  Or, with apologies to Danny, any of those beach party movies that provided brainless summer fun in the hopes of preserving the facade of Americana as long as possible.  Really, Rize is the kind of documentary that ain't sayin' much, but it's sayin' a damn sight more than just about anything else out there.

But just because I like the message behind Rize doesn't necessarily mean that I enjoy the documentary as much as I wanted to.  As much as I love watching all of the figures in action, popping and shaking like the apocalypse is being staved away with each movement, it all felt too repetitive in the long run.  Even with David LaChapelle's photography (who really wants us to be in love with these dancers as much as he is), it just isn't enough to say it's a great film.

"Subculture" gets large enough it start's forming its own fringes it's time to start paying attention.

Still, it's hard for me to find a moment watching Rize where my head wasn't bobbing along to the rhythm and movements of the dancers.  During each session of krumping, stripper dancing, popping, clowning and so on - I found myself in tune to the actions instead of the music.  These films, by and large, live and die by their accompanying soundtrack as much as the visual displays of athleticism.

Almost sounds like perfect cinema, huh?  The marriage of visual and audio in such a way that any emotion that wants to be expressed onscreen forms a vice-grip on the audience who is paralyzed to figure out just why it is they're so sad.  Or, as is in the case of most of this film, quite happy.  Except when it gets sad.  Which is a lot more deserved than in You Got Served.

All these words and we still haven't gotten to what Rize is really about.  Well, it's about krumping.  Maybe clowning.  Perhaps it's just a guy with a camera that saw a bunch of people that were dancing entertainingly and he decided to photograph that.  But LaChapelle still puts the actions into a very specific mindset at the beginning by transitioning from the LA riots of 1965 to 1992, showing how little has changed; then from 1992 to 2002, to show how things are getting better.

Not good, not by a long shot, but better.  Hell, one of the first dances that we see is simulating a police beating while the dancer kicks and pops his way back into a strong position.  From a position of weakness to one of strength through art, in this case dance.  So how do the rest of the performers fare since we don't return to these opening moments?  Strange we build to such strong emotions with them without returning to them.

"Dust off some of the white powder and there you have it, the color come back."

Narrative memory failures aside, we get into a comfortable groove with Tommy the Clown.  He encourages kids to stay off the streets, go to school, and confuse gangs as much as possible by wearing conflicting colors at all times.  It's hard enough to get away with going to elementary school with your face painted and this guy wanders around the streets of LA looking like Bozo's long lost third-cousin twice removed by marriage.  Then he starts to dance and it's like a piston overgreased with too much energy cycled into every available joint.

I wrote at length about Atom Egoyan, a director who makes movies about people with repressed passions.  It's so lovely to watch a movie that so thoroughly acknowledges the importance of dance and documents the reality it lives in.  Sure there's a conflict between Tommy and the rest of his crew who go off and start krumping, but even that style isn't antagonistic.

One of the things I loved about it is even when the two battlers seem to be aggressive they're still relying on one another for balance.  The one on "attack", so to speak, sometimes puts the entirety of their weight and balance into the arms of their opponent.  I found the implied message to be as interesting as the dance moves.  That being, "If you're gonna battle me, you're only as strong as your partner."

If this article seems like a series of snapshots, then that is because it's exactly how the movie is presented.  Sometimes it's showing the highs of pure dancing, lighting up kids faces and pulling others into the world.  Other times it shows the somber side of life in LA, where an unexpected trip to a casket-shop yields few smiles despite the dancing and promise of good times to come.

Good times, indeed, are had.

People die over the course of Rize.  Too many.  None of the one's documented had a crime more offensive than being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  It shows that the harsh lessons of You Got Served, while really poorly executed, aren't too far from the reality.  Even if you're nothing but a force for good, dancing and encouraging others, you may die at the hands of a stray bullet or have your home ransacked while you're off inspiring.

Is it fair?  Fuck no, but everyone keeps dancing all the same.  As a documentary it may not be as pointed as something politically oriented like Taxi To The Dark Side, or as entertaining as the effervescent Man On Wire, but goddamn did it all feel real.  I have a hard time claiming that of the best documentaries, let alone one's that show clowns dancing for most of it's run time.

I'm not saying that all great art forms get a documentary at one point or another.  I mean, there are multiple documentaries on video games for pete's sake (I kid, I love The King of Kong).  But for a mostly neglected art form (to this point) Rize is fairly potent, even if it juts around with the tone as much as its dancers.

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Rize (2005)

Directed by David LaChapelle.







The Schedule

September 6th – Roll Bounce
September 13th – Step Up
September 20th – Take the Lead
September 27th – Feel the Noise
October 4th – Planet B-Boy
October 11th – Stomp the Yard
October 18th – How She Move
October 25th –  B-Girl
November 1st – Make It Happen
November 8th – Step Up 2 the Streets
November 15th – Dance Flick
November 22nd – Step-Up 3D

Posted by Andrew

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