This is our first Krump Kolumn. That is, a brand new kind of kreation for me and Miss Paws, my faithful kanine ko-writer.
That’s Heidi’s new “krump” name after we were invited to drop in on a little-known ritual that has been happening once a week at Magnolia Shopping Center for more than four years. At midnight, right there at Vineland Avenue and Magnolia Boulevard, in the shadow of Carl’s Jr., Ralphs and El Pollo Loco, magic happens.
No krump dancer turns into a pumpkin when midnight tolls, but what happens here has been a Cinderella story for many. Krump, celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, is a form of freestyle hip-hop born right here in Los Angeles. The 818 Session, also known as the krump circle, has transformed the lives of professional dancers and amateur enthusiasts alike who felt confined by the limitation of established dance technique and the walls of the studio.
Most in the 818 Session are pros like Duece and Manny “Xclusive” Fernandez, who says krump allows dancers to “let our emotions out very clearly –we’re not able to do that with other dance styles. With this, there’s no limit.” Adds Deidra “Krucial” Cooper: “It’s a lifestyle.” Dancers come from all over the city, attracted by the relative safety of the area.
These are the people you see on tour with Madonna or Snoop Dogg, or maybe teaching nearby at the prestigious Millennium Dance Complex on Lankershim Boulevard, dancing here for free. The 818 Session is their sanctuary, where all are welcome including the cops who stop to make sure cruising cars, thumping rap music and aggressive-looking moves don’t mean something bad is going down. Performers say the peace officers become entranced by the dance.
Then there are non-pros like Oldz Kool, 71, who taught himself to dance in his West L.A. home after falling in love with David LaChapelle’s documentary Rize, exploring L.A.’s krump subculture. A working actor whose real name is Ray Buktenica, Oldz Kool spent two and half years perfecting the signature chest pop, stomp and arm throws before daring to come to the 818 Session. “They asked me: ‘Are you gonna watch?’ I said no, I’m going to dance,” Oldz Kool says. “I got a circle around me and I started dancing. It was the greatest experience of my life.”
Krumping is a form of freestyle hiphop born right here in South L.A. I found out about it at USC, where I recently served as adviser to a small group of Specialized Journalism grad students involved in The L.A. Project. Each group was assigned to produce a short documentary about an L.A. neighborhood. For my group, I chose the NoHo Arts District (and here’s a link to the fine website they created). And I found out about krump from another project adviser, Jessica Koslow, a graduate of the USC program.
Koslow became passionate about krump after taking a studio dance class with Marquisa Gardner, a.k.a Miss Prissy, who invited her to the 818 Session. She ended up following Miss Prissy and the krump dancers for months for a documentary class. The 15-minute video tells the story (or visit the website). And, for a real krump krash kourse, check out USC’s upcoming performance event: The Underground: From the Streets to the Stage.
Back to Heidi’s new name: The circle discussed what Heidi’s krump handle should be. Nothing immediately seemed to stick. “She has to find herself in the circle,” observed Dov Rudnick, a contemporary dancer inspired by krump. “The first dog who krumps. That would be something.”
Heidi has some good moves in her repertoire – in fact, when she attempts to play dead, her flailing paws somewhat resemble the krump dancer’s arm throws. That night, however, she was too dazzled to do anything but watch, grinning her approval while wearing her bling-iest glitter bandana.
Finally, Koslow said she thought “paws” should be part of the name, because of dancing feet and the double meaning, “paws” and “pause” – krump thrives on multiple layers of interpretation. “Maybe ‘Big Paws,’ or ‘Li’l Paws,’ ” Koslow suggested.
Not being sure whether 70-pound Heidi is big, li’l, or something in between, I decided to make it “Miss Paws,” a mash-up in honor of Miss Prissy, the Queen of Krump, whom Heidi hopes to meet someday. Although, if Miss Paws ever really masters this dance form and takes it on the road, we’ll all be calling her Krumpdog Millionaire.