When a lanky dancer called Storyboard P appeared at the Breakin’ Convention 2012 festival of hip hop dance, I stopped thinking – and started watching. He had a particular poetry – both interior and otherworldly – that instantly marked him out. Instead of wowing his audience, he cast a spell on us. “The body of a bird with the soul of an angel,” I wrote then. “Totally unclassifiable; totally watchable.” One year on, I immediately thought of him to open my “One to Watch” series of video posts. Look at the clips below, and I think you’ll see why.
This is just beautiful: a dappled, low-key response to The Beatles’ While My Guitar Gently Weeps, film by Cinque Northern (if you can, watch in full screen at high definition):
Now, come back down to earth and take a moment to register what you just saw. Did you clock (among many other great details) that sweetly touching moment at around 2 min 55, when his footwork, like a sensor, fleetingly picks up on the kids scooting by? What else did you see?
Now get ready for the next trip: another beautifully shot video by Cinque Northern:
I love the measured poise, the pauses for reflection, the spooky space–time warp of his leans, the shiver of his freezes. The play with pace, the jazzy inflections of line. And then there’s that amazing glide footwork, every part of the foot articulating with every swivel of the ankle and knee. He’s also great at making multiple connections with the music – lyrics, melody, rhythm, pitch, pace, mood – without ever just following it or using it as backing.
Here’s a short film (a single take, no edits) that he made in the corridor of his London hotel while at Breakin’ Convention 2012 – a perfect setting for the caged-bird tremor of the music. Because Storyboard P doesn’t do just solos. He can do solitude.
Some really exquisite moments here. The slow upward lift at around 1 min, ending with unfurled arms at the word “wings”. And how did he ever do that slow-motion lean at around 3 min 20??
Here’s some more, rawer footage, much more hard-hitting but absolutely no less poetic:
Any ballet dancers reading this? Marvel at the fluid pointwork in the next video, another transporting piece of solitary poetry. (Any contemporary dancers? – he can also do this kind of footwork in bare feet!)
You can hear more about Storyboard P’s technique, influenced by stop-motion animation and the idea of “storyboarding” with scenes and frames, in this interview. He calls it “mutant dancing”, and it’s a very mutable style: spliced, morphing, uncanny.
In another interview shot in his home turf of Brooklyn, New York, he remembers one of his early ambitions: “they’re gonna google me one day!” Well, I found that interview by googling. I found some of these clips by googling. And I also found that the The Wire magazine had just run a cover feature on Storyboard P, by Village Voice writer and visiting professor at Brown University Greg Tate, who was clearly hooked at first sight too. (The article’s not online, but it’s well worth a read.)
Maybe that encounter has something to do with why Storyboard P has recently begun using the name Story Basquiat (one of Greg Tate’s books is about another Brooklyn artist: Jean-Michel Basquiat). I don’t know. Whatever the case, I suggest you keep on googling him, because he is definitely one to watch.