Dropping The Beat
● By Robert Frey
The Power Of Breakdancing
By Amanda Jean Elliott
Dance is that rare art that connects people; it’s one part athletics and another part personal expression. The Kabuki Kru brings it all together in one-of-a-kind performances that are both electrifying and personal. Just before writing this piece I saw three of the crew perform for the first time. They were in a word — mesmerizing. They had a crowd at Acadiana Center for the Arts vibrating within seconds of hitting the stage.
And while their skill and the joy they bring to the stage were clear in the performance I saw, it is their work beyond dancing that’s perhaps the most powerful tool they have as dancers.
“We do performances in the schools,” says founder Terrance Morgan. “One program we do now is about never giving up. It’s 45 minutes long with dancing and a live drummer.”
In addition to the dancing and the new drummer, the group delivers their message via skits. “We take the message of never giving up and one of encouragement and we add it all up with a workshop in there,” Morgan says.
The “In or Out: Never Give Up” program is just one example of the kind of effort Kabuki makes to bring about change within the community. They are also working on anti-bullying campaigns as well as an anti-gun violence performance and adding spoken word portions to the routine.
“It’s naturally evolved,” Morgan says of the dance program that’s gone from performance to inspiration.
And it’s one of fellow dancer Jude Romero’s favorite parts of being a Kabuki guy.
“The one we’re doing now is called ‘In or Out: Never Give Up’ and it’s about working hard to achieve goals and sticking to what you’re trying to accomplish and that it’s worth the dedication,” says Romero. “We bring the message that it’s worth it. Working hard - it’s relevant to any of those things.”
Romero knows the difference dance can make. Because it made such a big difference for him.
“I was super introverted and would never get up in front of people. I started out in martial arts and things that were physically challenging,” Romero says.
Romero found that his efforts in the new arena were helping bring him break out of his shell. While he wasn’t gifted at “regular” sports, he discovered a place in what most people call “B Boy” dancing or break dancing. It stemmed partially from his love for hip-hop, which is the same reason many young people are drawn to the Kabuki Kru performances.
“There’s a lot of positivity that comes from it,” Romero says. “I’m 39 and I still understand kids. What we do is eye-catching. Dance — it’s one of those things that doesn’t have rigid structure and it’s fun and you can make it your own. Different kids from different backgrounds can look at it and find something and find a common factor.”
Romero and Morgan and their fellow performers make it all look quite easy. But, in truth it’s a physical task that has been honed over decades. The idea for educational touring began when Morgan’s friend in Houston was working for a company that was touring the world for performing arts and educational programs. The group came out of New Orleans and when Morgan spoke with him, he began to marinate on the possibilities for Kabuki to do something for education.
“We started working on programs and our own concept,” he says.
In addition they also perform at places like Festival International. Perhaps their biggest performance to date took place on the main stage at Festival. Every year he helps host a Park Jam with Digital (a local DJ) and all the DJs at Park Lafayette.
“We try to incorporate all that on a positive note and we have a great message and that’s what we try to preach and have fun, of course. That’s always in the program.”
Their most recent performance was at Beneath the Balconies — New Iberia’s Main Street performing arts event that kicked off Nov. 6. The festival from the Iberia Preservation Alliance and the Main Street Program includes food, drinks, music and performances on the Shadows Front Gallery on the balconies of New Iberia downtown with all manner of theatrical performance.