For 15 years, Bay Area hip-hop dancer and teacher Micaya has produced the San Francisco International Hip Hop DanceFest — an unprecedented feat for a dance form that isn’t always given its professional due.
“I have deep respect for these artists,” says Micaya, who books more than a dozen acts for the festival, which opens at the Palace of Fine Arts Theater on Friday.
“I want to put them in an artistic format and say they deserve to be on a stage, to have people appreciate what they do, and to be seen by dance critics. That was a revolutionary thought, especially in 1999,” she says.
The festival is the first of its kind dedicated to showcasing hip-hop dance in a professional, noncompetitive setting. The form, with origins tied to hip-hop music, has its performance roots in battles, dance-offs and competitions.
While hip-hop dancing has permeated pop culture — and there aren’t many music videos not influenced by it — the groups Micaya brings to town are on another level, showcasing advanced techniques and styles not often seen in the average pop video, such as bone breaking, or flexing.
This year’s festival features bone-breaking dancers Bones the Machine and NextLevel Squad. Both groups perform contortionist moves with astonishing virtuosity — twisting arms, shoulders and fingers into bizarre, jaw-dropping positions seemingly anatomically impossible. They glide around each other, making a virtual rearrangement of the skeleton.
NextLevel Squad performs in gas masks, adding to the spectacle. “What they do with their bodies is an interesting visual,” says Micaya, who uses only one name. “Some people find it difficult to look at.”
Festival veterans FootworKINGz from Chicago display exhilarating Chicago-based footwork that is blindingly quick, with a step for each beat of music. Their balletic elegance and agility belies popular notions of what hip-hop dancing looks like.
“They are art in motion,” Micaya says. “They have brought me to tears, and I’ve seen a lot of dance in my life. It takes a lot to impress me.”
Other performers this year include Chapkis Dance Family, Far from the Norm, Funk Beyond Control, Greathouse of Dance, Groove Against the Machine, Ill Style & Peace Productions, the Lor Brothers, Loose Change, Mix’d Ingrdnts, Nicole Klaymoon’s Embodiment Project with d. Sabela Grimes, Loose Change, and Micaya’s SoulForce Dance Company.
IF YOU GO
S.F. International Hip Hop DanceFest
Where: Palace of Fine Arts Theatre, 3301 Lyon St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday
Tickets: $39.99 to $75