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Sunday, April 21, 2013

Flex is Kings Movie Review


A new form of dance has taken hold in the local neighborhoods of Brooklyn, especially in the East New York section. They call it Flex. Watching these young men - there are also a couple of women - perform is akin to watching human beings try to move their bodies in a fashion similar to how a snake slithers. That description probably doesn't do it total justice but take a look at a demo of it and come up with a better description.


For many years, on the streets of Manhattan, when it's warm, there have been groups of kids performing dancing acrobatics that feature robotic movements in combination with athleticism and grace. Flex appears to be an evolution of this street entertainment. Some of the robotics remain but flowing movements and contortionism have moved to the forefront.

Michael Beach Nicholls and Deidre Schoo serve as co-directors of "Flex is Kings", an independent feature length documentary that focuses on these performers, especially on two of them. They are very different in physical appearance and in their respective styles.

Flizzo is a charismatic showman who has been big on the scene for many years. He is sort of the aging champion of the sport. He is a rather large gentleman that at first glance doesn't seem like the athletic dancing type, but he's smooth and his forté is creative choreography. Jay Donn is part dancer and part athlete. Physically, he can do things that none of the other performers can come close to matching, at least as it is presented here. Flizzo and Jay Donn appear to be headed in different directions in life. Jay Donn is headed towards a career in legitimate dance and performance, as is evidenced by where he ends up about two thirds through the film. Flizzo has no monetary future in Flex or dance. He may have one as a choreographer, but a couple of things we learn about him make us question how he will end up.

"Flex is Kings" is a good-looking film filled with hope for those who could most use it. It is at times inspiring and at other times depressing, even if unintentionally so. While Jay Donn is on the road to an apparently rewarding life, it is hard to distinguish a future for anyone else here, except perhaps a promoter who puts on a show featuring the performers. While it is well done, the editing tries to make us experience multiple story lines simultaneously, which drags it out a bit. This dragging gives the impression of a short that has been painfully flexed out into a full-length feature.

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