In 2008, filmmaker and photographer Deidre Schoo was introduced to the wild, wonderful world of Flex dancing.
Developed in East New York, Flex dancing is best described by Julie Turkewitz of the New York Times as “gliding, pausing, dropping, shivering, contorting. One moment their movements are smooth and airy, then suddenly they’re violent, sharp like broken glass.”
Intrigued by the dancing and culture that surrounded it, Schoo began documenting the dancers, creating a series of energetic photos that capture the spirit of the movement.
She also collaborated with fellow film director Michael Beach Nichols on the documentary “Flex is Kings” — which became available on Netflix just this August.
We spoke with Schoo to hear about her experience and the community Flex has cultivated.
After attending one Battlefest in New York City to see Flex dancers compete and brazenly perform their routines, Schoo was 'hooked by the community spirit and their commitment to evolving dance and making a movement of their own,' she told Business Insider.
'The movement appreciates a wide spectrum (of dance) and isn't exclusive to any form. If you have style and you bring imagination, grace, confidence, and ingenuity to the floor -- they respect you,' says Schoo.
In the beginning it was difficult for Schoo, and her camera, to keep up and gain complete acceptance into the community -- but perseverance prevailed.
'These are kids (dancing), and they are sometimes hard to track down, and keep crazy hours,' she says.
But eventually, she found her way in. 'I hung around for so long and just kept showing up that, eventually, I was accepted and my presence became the norm.'
'Once that happened, it got fun. The dancers were ready to work with me and really enjoyed the attention,' Schoo says.
In the Flex community, dancers learn from their peers. 'Interested kids will work with a mentor and then will train with a crew and are encouraged to find their own style,' says Schoo.
'The Flex community comes from a hard neighbourhood,' Schoo told Business Insider. 'They are self-organising and mentoring thereby creating hope and options in a place where gang violence and police brutality are commonplace.'
'The Flex movement is progressive and a movement of supreme style, love, life, youth and exuberance,' says Schoo.
Schoo notes that back in 2008, Flex was a more male-dominated dance scene. 'But the scales are tipping, and many more women are stepping up and making a name for themselves through this movement,' she says.
For many of these dancers, Flex serves as a supportive creative community and an artistic outlet, which Schoo says is 'paramount to evolution.'
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