In April, the New Yorker started a bimonthly video series, Five Borough Freestyle, which documents the vast community of improvisational dancers in New York City’s streets, subways, and studios. While Manhattan might be home to old school dance institutions like the New York City Ballet, Brooklyn has become the city’s breeding ground for new styles and avant garde dance cultures, like Bruk Up, which fuses Jamaican dancehall with hip hop. In these stunning video portraits, Brooklyn dancers dance at dusk in the streets of East Williamsburg, in a barrel-filled warehouse-turned-studio, and in the glow of the World Trade Center Transportation Hub.
Albert (The Ghost) Esquilin
“My style is based on a lot of occult vampire crazy Steven King movies, stuff like that,” says Albert (The Ghost) Esquilin, a founding member of the Bed-Stuy Veterans, a Bruk Up dance crew.
Havoc, a flexer, dances through East Williamsburg streets. “The moves come from how you feel. Once a song is on, you get to see how my day was,” he says.
Poba and Rain
In suspenders and porkpie hats, Poba and Rain, founding members of Bruk Up dance crew the Bed-Stuy veterans, dance in a barrel-filled Brooklyn warehouse. “Bruk Up is a Patois — it means broken dance. Broke up. It’s the broken language between hip hop and dancehall,” they say.
Killa and X
Khalil (Killa) Williams and Xavier (X) Days are bone breakers from Bed-Stuy. “The culture of bone breaking really came from people being double jointed and knowing how to dance already, and adding that to the style they already had,” Killa says. “It evolved into what we do now, which is part of the flexing community, but it upheld its own stature as its own style. I’m not double jointed. I learned to do this.”
Head to The New Yorker to watch the rest of Five Borough Freestyle.