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'Groovaloo' explodes laws of physics

The hip-hop extravaganza's latest incarnation is inspiring but over-rehearsed.

June 07, 2008|Daryl H. Miller | Times Staff Writer

It's called the circle, that ring that forms when street dancers gather to show off their moves. It's an impromptu stage -- a place to shine, to prove oneself.

In the hip-hop dance explosion known as "Groovaloo," it gets expanded into a symbol for life. Inspired by the personal stories of members of the L.A.-based dance group the Groovaloos, the show presents the circle as the place its members have come for encouragement, as well as an implicit challenge to always deliver their best. Area audiences have seen the show -- with its breaking and locking, robot-moving and freestyling -- emerge again and again, in various states of development, since 2003. Returning with further refinements, it's at the Orange County Performing Artcenter's 300-seat Samueli Theater this weekend and next.

For street-dance enthusiasts and novices alike, the thrill of "Groovaloo" comes from seeing what the human body is capable of doing. Each dancer's torso, arms and legs move in so many directions, all at once, that rules of anatomy seem to be broken. The 15 performers ripple like ocean waves, shake like earthquake zones and spin like corkscrews. Some are capable of standing flips, handstand jumping jacks or locked, sideways handstands in which their bodies are frozen, modern-sculpture-like, in impossibly twisted shapes.

Dazzling solos are delivered, of course, as are group numbers so uniform and precise that they would be the envy of many ballet companies. What's largely missing, though, is the spontaneity so essential to hip-hop. The show is so slick and commercialized, so preset and rehearsed, that the spark of improvisation -- the miracle of instant creation -- seems all but buffed away. Consequently, the energy in the room feels dampened, even when the audience contains as many whooping, grooving, under-twentysomethings as showed up for Thursday's opening.

In its delivery of the personal stories, the show -- conceived by Bradley Rapier and Danny Cistone, with a script by Rapier -- is not so much narrative as evocative. Little context is provided. What's delivered instead are moods: danger, challenge, perseverance, escape. Recorded (and, less often, live) voice-overs are mixed with thumping, bass-heavy music -- the show's heartbeat.

The result is inspirational. The performers, from a wide variety of cultures and communities, have come together to create something positive. There's real human drama onstage, even if it has been honed and regimented to within an inch of its life.




Where: Samueli Theater,

Orange County Performing Artscenter, 615 Town

Center Drive, Costa Mesa

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays

through Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays

Ends: June 15

Price: $25 and $40

Contact: (714) 556-2787

Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes

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