Rize: Krumping in the movies
In David LaChappelle’s documentary, Rize, the pent-up rage of kids from Los Angeles’ South Central bursts off the screen and grabs you by the throat. But instead of violence, the anger takes shape in the exhilarating new dance forms called krumping and clowning. Clowning was invented out necessity and providence by an ex-drug dealer, Thomas Johnson (Tommy the Clown), who entertained at children’s parties, adding a street/pop dance twist to his routine. His dancers split off to found their own groups and subdivisions, numbering up to 80.
The film begins with scenes of Los Angeles’s volatile history, including the 1965 Watts Riots and the Rodney King chaos of 1995. Both arose from racial tension -- an underlying dynamic of the urban disaffection driving krumping, but not the only one. It’s more the steam venting from lives being lived against a backdrop of gang warfare, drive-by shootings, poverty, and drug addicted parents.
Tommy the Clown’s routine is made kid-friendly with a rainbow afro wig and bright coveralls. He is shown working at parties -- a Pied Piper of sorts blowing on a coach’s whistle, cajoling the kids to join in, alternately giggling and talking about his years in ...