Jason Tseng

Theatre review: "Ballerina Who Loves B-Boy"

Filed By Jason Tseng | October 25, 2008 4:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Media
Tags: Ballerina Who Loves B-Boy, break dance, dancing boys, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Korea, theatre

Uptight, classically-trained ballerina falls for a street dancin', wise-crackin', B-Boy. The ballerina dips down into the culture of break-dance and hip hop; gets her boy and some rad new moves in the process. Love conquers all! Even dance forms!
B who loves B-boy 011.jpg
While this might be a story we are familiar with. Very. very. familiar with... where Ballerina Who Loves B-Boy lacks in originality it makes up with tremendous technical skill, fourth-wall shattering audience participation, and a good bit of all-around fun.

I had the opportunity to sit down and partake in the new hip-hop, breakdance-theatre production hailing all the way from South Korea which blends extreme street dance, concert dance, and theatre. Ballerina Who Loves B-Boy landed in New York City earlier this month, and opened on October 22nd and will play through December 21st, after a favorably received run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival earlier in the year. It's a kid-friendly crowd-pleasing romp through the dizzying spins and flips of some of Korea's break-dancing best.

And that's no exaggeration. Ballerina Who Loves B-Boy features the breakdancing, hip-hopping, popping-and-locking, brilliance of legendary dance crew, Extreme Crew; who, incidentally, are the current title-holding world champions of break dance. A title so important to the Extreme Crew that they plan to put their production on hold in the middle of its New York run, in order to defend their title at the upcoming world competition.

I feel quite confident in saying that the street dance in this show is easily the most impressive that I have ever seen, live or otherwise. Breathtaking leaps, impossible freezes, dizzying spins, one-handed vaults into the air leave the viewer physically winded from just watching it. Granted, I'm no connoisseur of street dance, but I was blown away by these dancers. And considering how the show is a considerable 90 minute extravaganza of street dance, the performers offer an enjoyable and eclectic mix of dance styles which break up the pace of the show and keep energies and interest high.

Interspersed with this thrilling street dancing from the men, come the lackluster and completely unappealing ballet portions which are included, one imagines, to provide a contrast and a dramatic foil. The B-Boy must have his ballerina, and she appears with her own entourage of two other "ballerinas" adorned in nauseating frilly pastel costumes. And I'm not one who is biased against classical dance. I am a great fan of ballet and more formal concert dance, but it is a hard comparison with these three ballerina wannabees, who cannot even be moved to dance en pointe to the men who shock and awe audiences with their technical skill. The hip hoppers are joined by three female hip hop dancers, who are just as inspired as their balletic counterparts. With oddly proportioned bodies that are more limbs than booty, these ladies present only disappointing allusions to the MTV-driven V-girl dancing of the Pussycat Dolls et al.

The show cuts back and forth between the mediocre balletic interludes and the up-beat breakdance sequences, with heavy and entirely tiring pantomime along the way. The format drags the what might have been brisk and high-energy production, into a drawn-out love story that is so inconsequential it would hardly be missed.

I am also disturbed by the message seemingly propagated by Ballerina Who Loves B-Boy, essentially: changing yourself for someone you like and tossing aside your ideals and integrity will make people love you. What many of Hollywood's similarly plotted films I alluded to earlier benefited from was the idea of cultural exchange, and how both Ballerina and B-Boy had something to teach each other.

While the break dancing and hip hop is a sight to behold and well-worth your time and money, I would encourage the director to cut out his attempt at a plot and stick to what they know... and that is a jaw-dropping, spectacular break dance show.

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Michael Crawford Michael Crawford | October 25, 2008 5:04 PM

After reading your title, I was thinking "who had the brilliant idea to do Save the Last Dance as a play?"

So what made you decide to go? What was the opportunity? :)

I was thinking save the last dance as well, but there's nothing wrong w/ repeating the same story. I've seen Spice World about 10 times, and that's about the same thing as seeing the same story in 10 different movies.

Oh, wait, no... Spice World didn't even have a story.