Rize - Review

David Lachapelle’s 2005 documentary, Rize, revolves around south central LA’s krump subculture. It is a culture born out of a long history of Black oppression. For generations, residents of south central neighborhoods like Watts and Compton have been subject to racial profiling and injustice. Its legacy includes horrific events like the Watts Riot of 1965 as well as the LA Riots of 1992, which originated in the South Central region but eventually spread into other areas throughout the metropolitan period over a 6 day period. Krumping, a direct descendent of Clowning, uses the aggression and anger that kids of the South Central ghettos experience in their environments and allows them to interpret and express their own reactions to it in a non-violent way. This style of dancing is yet another example of the creativity of ghetto residents when responding to their own sub-par quality of life.

For a dance form that has become so much about describing the pain and harsh reality of ghetto life it is ironic that its humble beginnings were in the clown profession. As a children’s entertainer, Tommy the Clown had great success with his unorthodox and high energy style of dance. What is most important about Tommy the Clown is that he is a reformed drug dealer and convicted felon who has turned his life around and put his efforts into positive reinforcement of the young. Although krumping has markedly shifted from this style and been developed in a much different way than clowning, it still retains this salient aspect of positive reinforcement. The behavior embedded in this dance form, though it seems violent, is passive and allows for the dancers who participate to let it all flow out of them. As one of the krumpers aptly puts it, “fighting is the last thing on our minds when we are dancing.”

Krumping’s resemblance to aggressive behavior is said to have initially a response to the vicious beating of Rodney King in 1991. Whether this is true or not, the movement’s connection to violence is a reflection of the heavily steeped aspect of violence in and around the ghetto community. Minorities in ghetto communities all around the world have faced prejudice at the hands of radically unfair policies that help to sustain an informal ethnic and racial segregation. At one point in the documentary a krumper says simply: “this is not a bunch of people just acting wild. This is a[n] art form. This is just as valid as your ballet, as your waltz, as your tap dance, except we didn't have to go to school for this, because it was already implanted in us from birth.“ It does not take an entire discourse or well-educated insight to understand who he is issuing this comment to: white folks.

Whichever way outsiders of the krump movement wish to consider it, the mere fact of its non-violence and positive reinforcement of less fortunate communities must be recognized. It is a positive force in what can often be a very negative environment. Elements of rage and aggression are true to the African American experience from the very moment the first Black man laid foot on United States soil. Creative outlets have always been important parts of Black expression and will most likely continue to be so long as economic and social disparities continue. Krumpers will continue to physically express their carnal feelings of anger and resentment for their unfair situation.


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