Virtuoso flex in a moving direction by Reggie (Regg Roc) Gray and Peter Sellars

FLEXN

Reggie (Regg Roc) Gray, Peter Sellars

Flex is a form of street dance, that originated in Brooklyn, New York and evolved from Jamaican dance hall and bruk up. Flex pioneer and choreographer Reggie (Regg Roc) Gray and director Peter Sellars created FLEXN together with a community of dancers from Brooklyn. The dancers use a variety of styles – snapping, bone-breaking, pausing, gliding, get-low, hat tricks, and real-time in-body animation – to tell inspiring and powerful narratives about love and justice. As both a dance and social revolution, FLEXN is a virtuoso dance performance about ­living in times of great social unrest.

Programme book

Background information

With their production, FLEXN, dance pioneer and choreographer Reggie (Regg Rec) Gray and acclaimed director Peter Sellars challenge the complex reality of American life. The United States is a country where shootings, police violence, social injustice, 

dysfunctional legal systems, and underlying racial tensions affect the reality of many Americans. FLEXN developed in the midst of recent racially motivated shootings and police brutality, which resulted in the deaths of Trayvon Martin (Sanford, Florida), Michael Brown (Ferguson, Missouri) and Eric Garner (Staten Island, New York). The acquittals and/or light sentences awarded to the offending officers were seen by many Americans as a reflection of deep-rooted institutional racism. These incidents led to major social unrest, protests, riots and the founding of the Black Lives Matter movement. In the wake of these incidents, Gray and Sellars, with fifteen dancers from Gray's company The D.R.E.A.M. RING, have created a performance powered by grace, soul, and sheer exhilaration. Love and justice are explored in a variety of electrifying flex dance techniques and powerful personal narratives.

Flex is a type of street dance originating in Brooklyn, New York. Flex – also known as flexn, flexing, flex'n or FlexN – originated in the mid-1990s as a combination of various underground dance styles, rooted in the lively Jamaican reggae and dancehall culture of Brooklyn. The narrative, energetic dance style called bruk-up, named after the influential dancer George 'Bruck-Up' Adams, lies at the heart of flex. The form has evolved over the past ten years to include: pausing, snapping, gliding, bone breaking, hat tricks, animation and contortion. The flex dancers (or flexors) contort their limbs into intensely twisted postures (bone breaking), glide over the dance floor like movie characters (gliding), and may suddenly freeze and then jerkily start moving again (pausing). Flex dancers not only excel in terms of their often unbelievable body positions, but also in their ability to demonstrate deeply personal stories of triumph over social injustice and violence, Flex has its own evocative language to describe moves that simulate violence: gunshots, breaking of bones, ripping the heart from an opponent's chest.

The performance by Gray, Sellars, and The D.R.E.A.M. RING dancers is largely improvised within a fixed framework, and is driven by a soundtrack of reggae, pop and hip-hop. The result is a virtuosic dance performance about living in times of major social upheaval. The New York Times described the performance as, 'Part protest, part dance party, part collective autobiography. FLEXN rails against social injustice, from police brutality to the prison system’s failures in America.' The performance premiered in 2015 at the Park Avenue Armory in New York and has also been to Australia (Brisbane Festival), France (Festival de Marseille), Italy (Napoli Teatro Festival) and the United States (Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival and Dartmouth College). The Holland Festival marks the Dutch premiere.

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Biographies

The American dancer and choreographer Reggie (Regg Roc) Gray was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. At the age of three, he became fascinated by Michael Jackson, and as a teenager, he turned to the hyper-expressive styles of dance that originated in the 

Jamaican street culture of Brooklyn, such as bruk-up and dancehall. He was one of the founders of a new hybrid dance form, Flexn: a combination of various styles from the local scene, such as bone breaking, pauzin, gliding, get-low, connecting, hat tricks and punchlines. The style was named after the regional TV programme Flex N Brooklyn, where local dancers showed off their latest moves. He has travelled all over the world with his award-winning dance crew Ring Masters, and in 2011 he founded a new dance company, The D.R.E.A.M. RING (Dance Rules Everything Around Me). In 2015, he produced his first major choreography, FLEXN, for the Park Avenue Armory in New York. This production went on to tour the Brisbane Festival, the Festival de Marseille, the Napoli Teatro Festival, Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival, and Dartmouth College. Gray is a regular feature on American TV, for example in the third season of America's Best Dance Crew, various adverts, and in music videos for Wayne Wonder, Sean Paul, Nicki Minaj and other artists. Last year, together with his crew, he provided choreography for Public Works; The Odyssey (2015) at New York's Public Theater. Gray is currently Artist-in-Residence at the Park Avenue Armory and at National Sawdust where he is creating works that feature flex dance music and choreography.

 

American theater and opera director Peter Sellars is renowned for his groundbreaking and transformative interpretations of artistic masterpieces and for collaborative projects with an extraordinary range of creative artists. He gained international acclaim for his stagings in the late 1980s of the Mozart trilogy Cosi fan Tutte (set in a diner on Cap Cod), The Marriage of Figaro (set in a luxury apartment in New York City's Trump Tower), and Don Giovanni (set in New York City's Spanish Harlem). Sellars has collaborated on the creation of many works with composer John Adams, including Nixon in China, The Death of Klinghoffer, El Niño, Doctor Atomic, A Flowering Tree, and The Gospel According to the Other Mary. He has staged operas at the Dutch National Opera, English National Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, l'Opéra National de Paris, Salzburg Festival, and San Francisco Opera, among others. Upcoming projects in 2017 include productions of La Clemenza di Tito at the Salzburg Festival and the premiere of John Adams’ new opera Girls of the Golden West at the San Francisco Opera. Sellars has led several major arts festivals, including the Los Angeles Festival (1990 and 1993), the Adelaide Arts Festival (2002), and New Crowned Hope (2006) in Vienna. He is a Distinguished Professor in the Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance at the University of California, Los Angeles. The Holland Festival has presented The Children of Herakles (2004), Bach Cantatas (2005), Doctor Atomic (2007), and Desdemona (2013), written by Nobel Prize Winner Toni Morrison and Malian composer Rokia Traoré.

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Credits

a collaboration of
Reggie (Regg Roc) Gray, Peter Sellars en leden van de Flex community
lighting design, sculpture
Ben Zamora
costume
Angela Wendt
music mix
Epic B
associate director
Charlotte Brathwaite
production manager
Andrew Lulling
stage manager
Betsy Ayer
company manager
Abena Floyd
company
Ace- Franklin Dawes, Android – Martina Heimann, Banks – James Davis, Brixx – Sean Douglas, Cal – Calvin Hunt, Dayntee – Deidra Braz, Doc – Aaron Frazier, Dre Don – Andre Redman, Droid – Rafael Burgos, Erthquake – Jason Cust, Karnage – Quamaine Daniels, Regg Roc – Reggie Gray, Scorp – Dwight Waugh, Shelzz – Shelby Felton, Slicc – Derick Murreld, Tyme – Glendon Charles
executive producer
Park Avenue Armory
consulting producer
Diane J. Malecki
associate tour producer
Jenney Shamash
tour producer
Avery Willis Hoffman

This performance was made possible with support by