Saturday, March 22, 2014

Flex is Kings | Screening at Brooklyn Academy of Music

A group of East New York dancers who have mastered the body-twisting dance style known as “Flexing” will make a Brooklyn star turn next week during a borough film opening.

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Jermaine “Flizzo” Clement and Jonathan “Jay Donn” George are chief among the contorting cast of “Flex is King,” an 83-minute documentary that hits the Brooklyn Academy of Music Thursday following a Tribeca Film Festival premiere.

“We were looking to do a slice of life of the community and in no way approached it to talk about the history of flex dance or talk about its roots,” said Deidre Schoo, who co-directed the film with Michael Beach Nichols. “We were drawn by the community itself and the fact that these guys are staying out of trouble and working hard to be creative.”

Filmed over a two-year period leading up to a dance contest called “Battlefest,” the documentary follows Clement, 31, and George, 28, as they compete on the streets and at underground showcases across the borough and beyond.

Schoo and Nichols said the dancers, who often perform shirtless and to rhythmic hip-hop music, typically dance and mime scenarios that relate to real-life struggles.

“It’s really reacting to what they see around them in the neighborhood,” said Nichols, an East Williamsburg resident. “In East New York there’s a lot of crime that’s happening and a lot of these guys are taking the violence they see and channeling it into this positive movement of dance.”

Flex Is Kings Trailer

The freakish dance movement in which dancers contort and pop and lock their bodies to hip-hop rhythms, first originated in East New York, a neighborhood that has faced high poverty and high crime rates for decades.

The raw, no-rules dance style actually has its roots in Jamaica. It evolved from a Jamaican style of street dance called “bruk-up,” which is performed to reggae music.

“Flexing is a really incredible dance form to come from the streets,” said Schoo, who lives in Bedford-Stuyvesant. “One of its defining factors is that it’s narrative.”

The screening of the film kicks off BAMcinématek’s fourth annual New Voices in Black Cinema festival and will feature a Q&A session with the directors and some of the dancers.

Screening of “Flex is Kings” at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, 30 Lafayette Ave. in Fort Greene on Mar. 27, 7pm, $13. Tickets at

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