Party on the Parkway: Flex-N-Barnes at the Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia
On July 30th the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia hosted a performance of Flexn, a type of dance that emerged in Jamaica in the 1990s but gained prominent following in the last decade in the dance halls and reggae clubs of Brooklyn.
When we arrive to the performance, the music is already flowing with the first dancer taking over the stage. Like a firecracker, his limbs erupt, contract and withdraw slowly dissolving only to gain momentum. He pauses almost unnoticeably then softly slides sideways. An instant later he jumps suddenly twisting his entire body to a breaking point. He is reaching the peak of his physically transmitted rapport, communicating an embodied message to the throbbing notes of the rhythm. He is visibly confident using a corporeal language that follows decodable structures of mimesis albeit remains fused with a fleshly vocabulary that solely belongs to him. A moment later he is joined by his fellows and together they launch into an electrifying party of movement pulsating to Rihanna.
As I learn later every devotee of the genre of flex dancing takes it upon themselves to express the social struggles of their community via a unique mode of linguistics based on movement. It is no whimsical afternoon hobby of a genre of dancing but an evolving art form that is underpinned with the mission to comment on the struggles of black lives and socially marginalized subjects.
Performance made possible by Tod Williams and Billie Tsien
Text Kinga Rajzak and photo Alexis Dahan