The Plateau of Dance: Planet B-Boy (2007) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
21Oct/110

The Plateau of Dance: Planet B-Boy (2007)

The artistic border doesn't last, thank God, because the dancers are given the full frame to work with in Planet B-Boy.

Andrew COMMENTARYWhile in the process of being derailed by Antonio Banderas and spirited remakes, I have had time to reflect on my remarks with Feel The Noise.  I admired the multicultural spirit behind the film but lamented the lack of dancing.  No matter how pretty the landscape, it still disappointed me to see Omarion (a very talented dancer) relegated to above-average reggaeton production and very little grooving.

I found exactly what I was looking for in Benson Lee's Planet B-Boy.  This is a documentary whose sole focus, start to finish, is to show how hip-hop dance has become a cultural force spread across the entire world and deserves to be recognized as a legitimate art form.  Given the talent on display, it's hard to think of a counter-argument, especially since the film is so nonchalant about making it's case to begin with.

Lee's approach is direct in making it's case without ever coming right out and stating hip-hop dance (or, the B-Boy style) deserved such treatment.  After a brief and strangely framed history lesson where, amongst other things, he lays out just how deadly the '80s were to hip-hop dance as an artistic style - he proceeds to follow teams all across the world as they prepare for the Battle of the Year.  It's the ultimate B-Boy dance-off where, since 1990, teams come together to determine who is the best.

While there are teams all over the world competing, Lee decides to focus on the ones who are most talented and, not coincidentally, have dominated the competition for several years.  These groups are from Japan, South Korea, America, and France - each bringing a very unique style to the proceedings, as well as their own cultural identity.  What's interesting is how Lee also makes the point that, despite our continuous progression toward global homogenization, we should maintain our own cultural identities.

Wonderful advice about how to feel doing anything, not just dance.

Despite their dominance on the dance circuit, this is part of why Lee follows these teams.  Each country has taken a form of expression which grew out of America and added touches of their own cultural past, whether intentional or not.  Part of what ends of making an art form "legitimate" (if such a statement is feasible) is it's ability to transcend language in some way and be adopted into any situation.  This is what makes the comparison between each country much more fascinating.

The Japanese culture favors homogenization so the dancers tend to gravitate toward more outrageous stunt pieces.  They'll appear in costume more consistently and attempt more unusual positions and dance techniques.  Americans are, unsurprisingly, the most direct with their movements and in their interviews show they're there more for the battling and being the best.  South Koreans are technically amazing, occasionally coming off a bit stiff but with a talent which overcomes the mechanical nature of their performances.

My absolute favorite were the French, who managed to embody everything I love about the art of being a B-Boy.  One commentator noted they were the most optimistic and aggressive out of the various crews and this is very accurate.  When they finally performed in the contest I was enraptured.  Their technique was not technically flawless but they flew through the air so easily, landing and twisting into so many other positions, smiling and generally letting their bodies effortlessly defy the physics that keep us together.

Most fascinating is how differently composed these groups are.  The Japanese and Koreans were the most homogenized, but each crew had members who spoke different languages and could not be tied to one part of the world.  This goes back to the French, who had members speaking Spanish, French, English and Japanese while embracing a child in their ranks as well.  There was a black Indo-French Chinese dancer speaking at one point.  This is proof positive we're not very separate anymore,

Just standing around, wearing a spinning human as a hat. No big deal.

All of this is wonderfully photographed by cinematographer Vasco Nunez, who gives each dancer a full breadth of space.  There is never a moment where the dancers are given anything less than the entire frame to work with.  Nunez and Lee are clearly in love with the way their bodies are being used as a form of expression and provide a wonderful canvas for them to paint their emotions onto.  The only mistake comes early with some strange framing that looks like a poor Photoshop students work, but quickly disappears to allow the dancers time to shine.

I am disappointed Planet B-Boy only made about $300,000 in its worldwide gross.  But is there a time it could have done better, even with the brief documentary post-Moore documentary boom?  I don't think so.  Despite the joy of form and expression it's still preaching to a limited audience despite the films attempts at distancing itself from the embarrassing appropriation in the '80s.

Perhaps if it was released two years earlier it would have made a greater splash, but it's still an impressive document.  Even if the art of the B-Boy has been thoroughly integrated by this point (though in a far more positive fashion) it still proves how far the dance form had come.  It may not have the aggression of it's fictional counterparts or the raw personal appeal of Rize, but the distance is necessary for Lee and Nunez to make their point.

Watch and observe, there's a lot more going on than a bunch of impressive flips.

The Schedule
October 28th – Stomp the Yard
November 4th – How She Move
November 11th –  B-Girl
November 18th – Make It Happen
November 25th – Step Up 2 the Streets
December 2nd – Dance Flick
December 9th – Step-Up 3D

Planet B-Boy (2007)
Directed by Benson Lee.

Posted by Andrew

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