This was the second Company to perform in The Brand Associates/Glendale Library Dance Series that has been absent during the pandemic, and it is thrilling that it now is back!!
The Versa-Style Dance Company brings a new element to the mix of dance styles and appearances from former years, although they have performed in this series in the past. With a unique urban vibe, funky and down-into it and a free-form mix of styles… by that, I mean more improvisational, than say ballet or jazz. It gives you a free, uplifting and joyous feeling and is very infectious.
For over 13 years, Versa-Style Dance Company has promoted the empowerment, artistry, and value of authentic hip-hop dance culture through productions, educational performances and deeply rooted social justice work in the community. It is a 501 C 3 non-profit organization and dance ensemble that consists of committed and conscientious artists representing the diversity and beautiful complexity of Los Angeles.
Please visit their website: Versastyledance.org. View Their Work!
Their mission: “We create highly energetic work that fuses dances that are culturally significant to our community. These forms include Hip-Hop styles such as ’90s Hip-Hop, House, Popping, Locking, Whacking and Boogaloo, and Afro- Latin styles such as Salsa, Merengue, Cumbia and Afro-Cuban to name a few. As a reaction to the widespread media misrepresentation of these dance forms, Versa-Style specifically aims to perform for the youth of Los Angeles to instill the roots, history, and social and political issues surrounding the art of our generation. Hip-Hop breaks color lines by creating a forum where people come together for a common passion rather than grouping themselves by race or socio-economic backgrounds. Versa-Style demonstrates freedom of expression, freedom of individuality, hard work, self-discipline and dedication to the form.”
They explore and push the boundaries of the origins and roots of street vernacular dances.
Right off the bat, the African rhythm of the drums starts to invigorate you, while two couples start things off, dancing in unison to the pounding of the beat, partnering together and making their way to different sections of the exterior of the lovely Glendale Library grounds.
A trio of guys lay it out acrobatically, each interpreting their own version of the music, all very loose and flowing, and a feeling of freedom and the exuberance in showing it. Next come robotic movements combined with syncopated accents and twerks giving a new groove to the music.
Primitive in execution, the dancers are in sync with the music, again, giving them freedom to feel the rhythm down deep. Each dancer gets a solo moment; from dancing to a chant with intricate movements, to sitting in a chair, poppin’ and lockin’ away, in “Take It to the Dance Floor.”
Brandon “Beast Boi” Juezan and Jessi “Tru Flow” Pontillas give us the low-down on Hip-Hop, which was born in the Bronx in August of 1973. Like ballet and other dance genres, hip-hop has a foundation. Different dancers then demonstrate steps like “Bounce to the Rock,” “Bank Head Bounce,” and “The Milly Rock.”
We move inside the library, where we first see a male dancer sitting in a chair, then shooting up and stylishly locking and popping. Further in where the bookshelves are, we hear a conga beat growing stronger, adding specific accents to the instrumental that the dancers throw poses to. Adding in all the other dancers, all moving to the phrasing of the music together, with high energy and hitting furious sharp and funky positions, they make you feel like getting up there with them!
A heavy bass rhythm starts and the marvelous solo dancer takes to another room in the library, very loose and expressive as he does some nimble knee work and balances sharpness with smoothness in his movements. Once a funky rippin’ sax kicks in, he really goes to town, in an upbeat tempo, very agily and creatively interpreting the rhythm, seeming to almost tap out the rhythm like a tap dancer would.
The packed-with-energy dancers in Versa-Style are: Jackie “Miss Funk” Lopez, Leigh “Breeze-Lee” Foaad, Alli Gray, Harry “Full Out” Weston, Anthony “Berry-Groove” Berry, Cynthia “C-Soul” Hernandez, Brandon “BeastBoi” Juezan, Ernesto “Precise” Galarza, Gbari “GQ” Gilliam, Jessi “Tru Flow” Pontillas, Brianna “Passion” Grey, and Ceanne Klein (Apprentice).
The last section was “Free Style” where they all got to “do their own thing.” That strong conga beat intensifies once again, very rhythmic and “in the pocket,” and here each dancer really shines with their own individual expression. The energy is explosive, which, by the way, never lets up, from the very top of the show; it just intensifies!
They edge each other on, taking turns dancing their hearts out in the middle with great energy throughout, and it feels organic, captivating and invigorating. Let’s Dance!
Curated by Jamie Nichols for The City of Glendale Library, Arts & Culture Department. The Performance was viewed on June 19 & 20, 2021
Photos courtesy of Jamie Nichols