Street Dance Orixas

By Amy Campion

I’m so happy to feature my dear friend, Amy Campion, Los Angeles based activist and artist, in this month’s OnBlast! section of NoPaper mag.  Over the years I’ve been constantly awe-inspired by the way she’s been able to seamlessly weave together her art, her social & political passions and her deep caring for family, friends and community.  Gratitude, Aim, for dropping us creative bombshells.

-Njoli-

In 2012, I did a 3 month residency at the Sacatar Institute on the island of Itaparica in Bahia, Brazil.  While there, I researched, wrote, choreographed, and directed a short dance film called Street Dance Orixás.

From the streets of Salvador to a surreal windswept island and back again, seven street dancers from Bahia, Brazil incarnate powerful orixás (deities from the Afro-Brazilian religion of Candomble) through a hybrid of breakdancing, popping, and parkour movements.  Street Dance Orixás explores the intangible connections between Afro-Brazilian dance traditions and contemporary hip hop dance forms through rhythm, movement, stories, and colors.  The orixás manifest their divine qualities through alleyway acrobatics, sidewalk airflares, train station arm swings, and cobblestone footwork- each orixá in a location linked to his or her tradition.  Exú careens through crisscrossing alleys, vaulting over walls, his shirt changing from red to black in mid air.  Ogúm cuts down imaginary enemies along the train tracks, using breakdancing battle tactics to assert his presence.  Yansã toprocks through the cemetery, hair blowing in the wind.  Xangô explodes in a flash of flying feet in front of his demolished building. Oxúm’s irresistible charm glints in her gold sneakers as her footwork flows along the cobblestones. Oxóssi stalks his prey with intricate hits and finger tuts around an enormous urban tree.  Yemanjá arises from the ocean to offer her blessings in freezes and flares along the breakwater.  In a surreal sequence, the orixás are transported to an island made of sand where they dance out their dreams.  When they finally unite in a dance cypher (circle) on the streets of Salvador, Bahia, they are utterly stunning and unstoppable.

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As a B-Girl (woman who breakdances) and a capoeirista (person who practices the Afro-Brazilian martial art/dance of capoeira), I have long been curious about the connections, both historical and abstract, between capoeira and breakdancing.  Over my 15 years of studying breaking (breakdancing) and capoeira, I have noticed an uncanny number of similar movements and philosophies between the two.  Capoeira has deep roots in the Afro-Brazlian religions that believe in a pantheon of deities known as “orixás”.  Each orixá has a tradition of associated dance steps, drum rhythms, stories, colors, personalities etc.  In the Northern Hemisphere, African American and Latino American social dance have had a major influence on the urban dance practices that known today as “street dances” such as breaking, krumping, popping, etc.  While these various street dance forms are not commonly associated with a religion, many street dancers experience a deep spiritual connection through their practice.  Notably, there are many movements/steps which can be found both in the traditional orixá dances as well as various street dance forms.  I created Street Dance Orixás in order to explore the intangible connection between orixá traditions and hip hop dance forms through a contemporary interpretation of the orixás as performed by street dancers of different styles.

During my residency at the Sacatar Institute, I immersed myself in the local street dance community and researched Orixá myths and traditional dances under the guidance of Joelmo Teixeira.  I wrote the script, choreographed the movement, cast local Brazilian dancers, hired a local Brazilian film crew, scouted locations, rehearsed, directed, and shot the film in Salvador, Bahia and on the island of Itaparica on the beach near the Sacatar Institute.  The relationships that I developed with fellow international artist residents at the Sacatar Institute led to collaborations with Mexican composer/musician, Ernesto Diaz, who created the soundtrack and American painter/animator, Matt Sheridan, who created the animations.  I returned home to Los Angeles and began to work on post-production in 2013.  In Los Angeles, editor Noah Berlow contributed immensely to the overall vision and shaping of Street Dance Orixás.  Robert Crosby did the color correction and Evan Langley did the visual effects.  Street Dance Orixás was produced with the support of many individual donations throughUSAProjects.com.


And now I’m sure you want to know more about my long time homie, Amy Campion, so you can follow some of her amazing ongoing and future projects….

DSC_1272Amy “Catfox” Campion  

Antics Artistic Director

www.AnticsPerformance.com

Speaking the language of Hip Hop, Campion crosses artistic and social boundaries to unite diverse audiences, daring concepts and dynamic performances.  Her work draws on the expressive capacity of Hip Hop by weaving stories and ideas with breaking, krumping, popping, Capoiera, mc’ing, dj’ing, poetry, film, beatboxing, and theater. Campion manipulates the traditions of street dance to create moving visual metaphors that are a true urban hybrid of street dance styles.  Her choreography has been presented at the San Francisco Hip Hop Dance Fest, the J.U.i.C.E. Hip Hop Dance Festival, the B-Girl Be Festival in Minneapolis, the Ford Theatres in Hollywood, the REDCAT, the Music Center in Los Angeles, and the Esalen International Arts Festival, the Levitt Pavilion, the Skirball, the Los Angeles Theater Center, and the Bootleg Theater Dance Festival as well as on Ovation TV, Strife TV, PBS, KCET, and LA36.  Her dance films have been featured at the Dance on Camera Festival at the Lincoln Center in New York, the San Francisco Dance Film Festival, the Dance for Camera Festival at the Phoenix Center for the Arts, and in 2014 at the VivaDança festival in Brazil.  She has been b-girling (breakdancing) and training Capoeira for 15 years and also studies hip hop, house dance, locking, popping, and salsa.  She received an MFA in Choreography from UCLA in 2006 and since then she has taught dance and arts activism at Loyola Marymount University, Cal State Northridge, El Camino College, Cerritos College, the Boys and Girls Club, the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking, and many others.  She has received awards from the Center for Cultural Innovation, the Durfee Foundation, and the Flourish Foundation, and participated in the Emerging Leaders Institute at APAP, in the LA Dance Advance initiative, and in Pentacle’s Help Desk.  As a dancer, Campion performed for Rennie Harris in “Heaven” and “1,000 Naked Locks” and was a founding member of Jacob “Kujo” Lyons Lux Aeterna Dance Company.  She danced in music videos for Genevieve Goings, Kana Shimanuki, Shaka Wear, and Open Mike Eagle and was featured on 1,000 Ways to Die, Voador (a capoeira film), and B-Boy the Movie.  She has appeared in print and in interviews in Dance Spirit Magazine, Dance Magazine, Ms. Magazine online, the photography book “Dancers Among Us” by Jordan Matter, and “Girls Got Kicks” by Lori Lobenstine.

”Amy ‘Catfox’ Campion… stands out in her Antics Performance troupe, as she does in any group, as the bad-ass, tiny, hard-rock dynamo who can b-boy with the best of them.”                                                                          

-Jessica Koslow, Neon Tommy

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