DAY IN THE LIFE OF DANCE: LayeRhythm (On The Move) with STASIS: Works & Process at Lincoln Center
Artistic Direction (LayeRhythm): Mai Lê Hô
Artistic Direction (STASIS): Joshua ‘Sage’ Morales
Choreography: Joshua ‘Sage’ Morales and Rafael ‘Droid’ Burgos
Improvised Dance: Cal Hunt, Rafael ‘Droid’ Burgos, Xavier ‘X’ Days, and Joshua ‘Sage’ Morales
Music: Jaquan ‘Qui’ DeJesus // Improvised Music: Axel Tosca (keys), Christian Almiron (keybass), Osyris Antham (MC), Malik Work (MC), and Rodney Harrison (drums)
Lighting Design: Joshua ‘Sage’ Morales // Photo Documentation: Lauriane Ogay
Video Documentation: Kash Gaines (Box Avoided) and MJ Abiva // Panel Moderator: Reggie ‘Regg Roc’ Gray
Presented at Lincoln Center’s Clark Studio Theater in collaboration with Works & Process and 92NY, and community partner HI-ARTS
December 15, 2022
When was the last time you danced (like really d-a-n-c-e-d) at a club?
When was the last time you lost yourself in the music?
When was the last time the dance took over your body?
When was the last time you felt completely free?
I don’t know about you, but for me and the club it’s been a hot (pandemic) minute since last we were together. But oh, do I remember all those feelings (and then some). They fill my body with memory and longing, wistful and bittersweet, conjuring stolen minutes and cumulative hours of movement exploration, ecstatic improvisational self-discovery, and dance floor therapy at some of my favorite venues from Harlem to Oakland. The infinite opportunities that await on an empty dance floor, the sweat and sway of a crowded one, those first notes of my jam taking me over from sole to soul.
It makes me want to go back—need to go back—to that singular atmosphere that for many years was an essential part of my creative process, physical practice, and emotional well-being. Though to be honest, it may be a while still before I can feel safe enough to be so free again. Even so, it’s abundantly clear to me that this is what’s been missing. There is nothing like those moments—freely chosen, privately held, and publicly shared—that reveal the deeply primal connections that rhythm creates between body, soul, music, and dance.
It’s those ephemeral qualities that can easily be lost in translation when presenting street and club dance styles in theatrical settings. There’s a tinge of simulation that dulls the edge of the experience, a sanitized, safe distance that marks and divides “audience” from “performer.” This is the distance LayeRhythm intends to bridge in its mission to bring freestyle dance and music into interactive theater settings to span “the continuum of concert and social dance.” Through participatory engagement in live improvisations, LayeRhythm can educate and entertain audiences while preserving the legacy of street and club dance forms. The Works & Process format in Lincoln Center’s intimate Clark Studio Theater provides an ideal platform to take a deeper look at the intentions and inner workings behind LayeRhythm’s artistic model and creative drive.
LayeRhythm artistic director Mai Lê Hô curated the evening’s lineup of top-tier artists, spotlighting dancers from Joshua ‘Sage’ Morales’ group STASIS in both choreographed and improvised works. While Hô’s primary background is house dance, the STASIS dancers are grounded in the street style FLEXN, which is best known for its fluid grooves and extreme contortions. The four dancers embody the spectrum of FLEXN substyles: Xavier ‘X’ Days turns his astonishingly hypermobile ‘bone breaking’ antics into high art; Sage jams in the ‘get low’ style with floor-based movements and slithering transitions; and Cal Hunt and Rafael ‘Droid’ Burgos round out the crew with their unique flavors of ‘gliding’ patterns and ‘connecting’ kinetic illusions.
The choreographed work “EGO · death” introduces each dancer through introspective solos that compose, decompose, and recompose their outward personas. They use their unique physical languages to discover and reveal their conscious and subconscious selves, only then sharing in conversation with one another. Together, the movement, sound, and lighting design reflect a journey through the seven chakras, traveling from the foundational ‘root’ through the opening ‘heart’ to the liberated ‘crown.’ Suspended in a moving meditation, they are all the while attentive to the intricate, interconnected details that make their bodies and auras one.
With this movement foundation established, the dancers are launched into LayeRhythm’s signature game-based interactive improvisations. Joined on stage by three musicians, two emcees, and a handful of brave audience members, the possibilities are endless. The foundational concept is this: the rhythm conducts the body just as the body conducts the rhythm. Music and dance are layered, interconnected elements of a singular, multivalent rhythm that is big enough to incorporate everyone and build community by blurring the line between participant/performer and audience/observer.
The first game, “Four Corner Brick Layer,” uses four audience-generated physical movements and emotions to spark solo improvisations, amplifying these foundational gestures and intentions through the unity of dance and music. “Dance Upon a Word” challenges MC Osyris Antham to craft on-the-spot rhymes from two audience members’ alternating word-based prompts, which Droid and Hunt respond to with grace, humor, and sly skill.
In “Rhythm Conductor,” the audience matches each dancer with a musician whose improvised score they will ‘conduct’ with their dancing body. This dynamic pairs the hyperfocused, in-the-moment listening on the part of the dancer with the musicians’ intimate, lasered gaze, intent on every ripple and gesture. Together, the artists mutually absorb and transform kinetic energy and sonic flow. Short solo studies warm up each pair, and then the layering begins, building to a full-bodied, harmonious groove. Through their collective improvisation, every artist reveals themself, their signature style, and their responsive flow. Beats drop, grooves ride, feet flutter, and shoulder sockets slip with ease. It’s this: “Easy,” that they murmur at every impossible acrobatic feat—in this crowd, “easy” is the best hype there is. And it’s that ease that allows a sense of deeply connected, reflective focus to bloom—til a smile cracks and the joy bursts forth uninhibited.
The evening closes with an open cypher, welcoming audience members to jump into the flow and showcase their moves. It doesn’t quite feel like the club, but it begins to feel like community. And while I did not rise to the occasion this time, I am certain I soon will.