By way of full disclosure, this correspondent is herself generationally disinclined to linger within earshot (which can be very far away indeed) of hip-hop music any longer than being stuck in traffic around someone with booming woofers absolutely necessitates. I try to keep an open mind about the artform’s cultural significance to urban youth, but can’t get around the fact that I just find it listening to it physically and psychologically stress-inducing. So I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the trailer for the documentary that’s being screened as the centerpiece of this Sunday’s program at the Rosendale, All the Ladies Say.
This film is a labor of love by Spanish Harlem native Ana “Rokafella” García, a veteran “b girl” or breakdancer and choreographer. Through her organization Full Circle Productions, Inc., Rokafella has been on a mission since 1996 to “present uplifting Hip Hop dance performances and provide educational Hip Hop dance programming throughout New York City.” Note the emphasis on the uplift: This is no incubator for the sociopathic rhetoric and violent misogyny associated with gangsta rap. In fact, Full Circle managed to land a Ford Foundation grant in 2005 to organize and videotape a series of community-based dialogues in six cities dealing with the extra challenges faced by women artists in hip-hop culture, titled “The B Girl Sitdowns.” All the Ladies Say is the visual document yielded by that project, and its messages are universal enough to be fascinating even to those like me who tend to swim in entirely different waters.
In the hip-hop world as in any other, a woman still has to perform twice as well as a man in order to be viewed as half as good. And the half-dozen or so gifted young women who are the focus of All the Ladies Say – mostly top breakdancers, although one is also a visual artist – have faced their respective struggles with grace and tenacity and humor. One speaks of the frustration of having to remain on the sidelines of her profession for the first six months after the birth of her child; another is shown dancing in her wheelchair while recuperating from an injury. The “b girls” discuss the expectations of sexual availability imposed by their male peers and how even women competing in the business tend to undermine one another. They are bright, inventive, articulate, determined – and they demand the respect that they’ve earned. You can see the trailer for yourself at this link: http://alltheladiessay.com/blog.
The Rosendale screening of All the Ladies Say will be followed by a lecture and dance demonstration by its director, Rokafella herself. And it will be preceded by a performance by the Hudson Valley’s own primo hip-hop dance ensemble, the Energizers Dance Company, and its core performers, the award-winning Energy Elite. Both are ongoing programs of the Kingston-based arts not-for-profit the Center for Creative Education, along with the celebrated Percussion Orchestra of Kingston, a/k/a POOK. If you’ve ever been to a parade in Kingston, or to the Artists’ Soapbox Derby, you’ve seen these kids perform and know how astonishingly good they are – good enough to have won scads of dance competitions and been invited to perform at the International Youth Music Festival in Germany last summer. Check out their mindblowing ten-minute rave-up that took top prize in a recent dance contest in New Paltz at www.youtube.com/watch?v=ACzFshW_Nzg&feature=related.
Hip Hop to the Top! kicks off at 2 p.m. this Sunday, January 9 at the Rosendale Theatre, which is located at 408 Main Street in Rosendale. There’s a sizable parking lot out back. Tickets are $10 for adults, $6 for children age 12 and under. For more info phone (845) 658-8989 or visit http://campaign.r20.constantcontact.com/render?llr=b6sakidab&v=001HMt6LRUvA5iR_NRGqkfoMBlOklwGZm3mKbTHNQALK4U_LQ4NAHAJ_luHyeYzjsikddeGnG63FG631wptPGvsx0s2oghnyyJQ72BHerOm7_xCJ_6FCVfJPA%3D%3D.