Storyboard P / Story Basquiat

Skill, beauty, poetry, emotion – the guy’s an artist. Watch these clips to see for yourself

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.

Here are a couple more links, worth following up:
Video: The Bullitts: Close Your Eyes
Video: Black Magic, to Rose Royce.
An there’s plenty more out there if you want to find it…

By Sanjoy Roy

Your say

  1. Terry Slaney says:

    How did I miss this body genius? OH, yeah, I live in the midwest.
    Made me want to weep; took my breath away. What joy and dispair..

    • Hello Terry – yes, there’s definitely something exceptional and uncanny about his dancing.
      You might be interested to know that Storyboard P is featured in the current issue of the New Yorker magazine.

  2. STORY OCHOA says:

    Please read story’s article in new yorker magazine. Toodles.

  3. STORY OCHOA says:
  4. BLACK STAN LEE says:

    Really enjoyed reading your article about me. YES I do have a thing for disguising my lanes of art so that the source creator is untracable. Chitlin circuit inspired my hustle. Feel free to email me anytime. Have some new exclusives to show you.

  5. lindy roy says:

    Story & Cinque Northern; wonderful collaboration. Hauntingly beautiful & poetic. xLindy

  6. Cinque Northern says:

    Great write up Sanjoy. Story is one of the most gifted and dedicated artists I’ve had the pleasure of working with. Appreciate you showcasing our work!

    • Sanjoy Roy says:

      Cinque Northern – it is my honour to get your response! The films are awesome. they have a real and very unexpected beauty. I have watched them many times over. The While My Guitar Gently weeps one is what I showed to my friends on the day I launched the website – I wanted them to impress them! But I think that line in my first paragraph best sums up the reaction: instead of wowing them, it cast a spell.

  7. Carole Richmond says:

    Found you (and Storyboard P) via Judith Mackrell’s piece in the Guardian and at 7.37am my day has been made.

  8. musa al rashid says:

    reading the guardian and ran across you! thanks for getting the second day of ramadhan off to a great start.
    musa

  9. Lorraine - Salsa says:

    I drifted off into another world, captivated by Storyboard P. In order that I don’t get fired from my job for watching video clips, I will come back to this again. A great selection with supporting commentary and the scooter piece put a smile on my face….love it! Really nice site Sanjoy, really nice!

    • Sanjoy Roy says:

      That’s really good to hear Lorraine. I was pretty captivated by these videos when I wrote this (as you can tell), and quite a few people have felt similar. Do come back and watch the rest (without getting fired!)

  10. Liz Hussey says:

    You write beautifully; an accompaniment to those amazing movements. However, the videos aren’t working on my computer. i could watch less than a minute of the first one which kept going back to the beginning and the others wouldn’t start. What I did see made me wonder if he’s made of the same stuff that the rest of us are. Does he have a skeleton??? I suppose he must, couldn’t see a silken thread coming out of the sky. Lots of love from Liz wait a mo. some music just came on! But no pics.

    • Sanjoy Roy says:

      Ah, thanks Liz. Don’t know what happened with the video embeds – they work ok when I try them. Have you tried playing them directly in Youtube? (after you click play, click on “YouTube” in the bottom right of the video controls, and it will open a new window on Youtube). If there’s still a problem, it might be something to do with buffering on your internet server. If not… I’ll take a look next time I see you. :)

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