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Orange County Performing Artscenter
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It's Groovalicious – Groovaloo Extended Through 6/22/08 @ Orange County Performing Artscenter

by Rachel Levin
June 15, 2008
Orange County Performing Artscenter
Samueli Theater
600 Town Center Drive
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
714-556-ARTS
Thurs.-Sat. 7:30 pm; Sun. 3 pm
Tickets $25-$40
Who knew there were so many cool dads in the OC? On Father's Day, I took my own dad to see "Groovaloo" – a musical that brings street dance to the stage – at the Orange County Performing Arts Center's Samueli Theater and found the venue brimming with families. The show was created by the Los Angeles-based breakdance troupe The Groovaloos and features dazzling b-boy theatrics set to a pumping hip hop soundtrack. Not exactly the sort of thing you'd expect Dad to be hip to, but Groovaloo turned out to deliver a powerful message about filial ties and the struggle to define oneself in the face of fatherly expectations that transcended the hip hop culture aesthetic.

The show is structured as a collection of carefully braided autobiographical narratives – expressed through voiceover, movement, and spoken word poetry – that illuminates the struggles of the individual dancers to tackle personal demons, realize their own dreams, and forge careers in dance. There's Bradley "Shooz" Rapier, who was following in his father's footsteps by attending medical school when the fever for b-boying gripped him. There's Daniel "Cloud" Campos as Poe One, who found release in dance after suffering an abusive father in his youth. There's Moises "Moy" Rivas as Kid Rainen, who kept dancing despite his father's admonition that his choice of profession would bring shame upon the family. In all of these cases, breakdance emerges as a framework for these men to assert an adult identity beyond what their fathers modeled, one predicated upon physical prowess, passion, and resistance rather than upon professional degrees and filial approval.

That's not to say that women don't have a voice in the show. On the contrary, the female Groovaloos are exceptionally competent and compelling to watch. Their stories seem to synch up around the theme of aligning outward appearance with inner happiness. Keeley "Lockn'key" Kaukimoce had a successful singing career but didn't find true contentment until she answered God's call to glorify him through hip hop dance. Judy "Lady Jules" Ulrich wrestled with depression and suicidal thoughts before she kicked her demons to the curb with her dedication to b-girling. Alison "Al Star" Faulk was stymied by her drive for dance perfectionism before she found the courage to get in the circle and freestyle.

Though the narrative moments are poignant, equally enjoyable are the fantasy sequences that emphasize dance over story. In one brilliant spot, the dancers pop and gyrate to mimic the shaking and lurching of a subway train. In another, two dancers replicate each other's gravity-defying moves across an imaginary two-way mirror. Also delightful is a fantasy sequence in which Ashlee Nino as Out There frolics with a quartet of robots. The show has drawn some criticism for being over-choreographed, and, indeed, it may have been nice to see a bit more freestyle. But the choreography is so fresh, novel, and rewarding that it's hard to see it as a drawback.

Despite all the showiness, the dancer I couldn't keep my eyes off of whenever he appeared onstage was Steven "Boogieman" Stanton. Stanton survived being shot in the back several years ago, an injury which initially left him paralyzed in his legs. Eventually he was able to go from a wheelchair to a walker to crutches, and now he's back performing with the Groovaloos with only a cane for support. He doesn't do any of the flips and head spins that the others seem to throw down effortlessly, but his funky style and instinctive connection to the beat make him an irresistible dancer to watch.

The inspirational storylines and pure entertainment value of these athletic performers make "Groovaloo" accessible even if—like my Dad—you're not a hip hop hipster. It's definitely worth catching the show in its extended run.

For more information about The Groovaloos, visit groovaloos.com
Ivan 'Flipz' Velez and Randy 'DJ Wish' Bernal doing windmills. Background: Steven Stanton, Stunts, JaeDee McElroy, Bboy Steelo, Bradley Rapier, Rainen Paguio

Ivan "Flipz" Velez and Randy "DJ Wish" Bernal doing windmills. Background: Steven Stanton, Stunts, JaeDee McElroy, Bboy Steelo, Bradley Rapier, Rainen Paguio

Photo © & courtesy of Mike Quain

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