Tanzkomplizen: Ich Kann’s Nicht Lassen

Podewil, Berlin
November 18, 2023

Ich Kann’s Nicht Lassen (I cannot avoid) a show by Tanzkomplizen at Podewil in Berlin, headquarters of the Kulturprojekte Berlin, a non-profit organisation for young public, is a participatory family-friendly piece where the spectators become protagonists themselves, each performance thus being unique.

Choreographed by Janne Gregor, the show is based around the question, ‘Who owns the stage?’ Krump dancers Queen Buckhype, Iran Gele, Kofie DaVibe and Baby Wave ask themselves this as the audience joins them in the spotlight.

Krump is an African-American style of street dance highly popular in the United States. It’s characterised by free, expressive, exaggerated, and highly energetic movement, specifically stomps, jabs, chest pops, jumps and arm swings. Wavy, scatty movements are composed into various patterns.

Ich Kann’s Nicht Lassen by Tanzkomplizen
Photo Rene Loeffler

It started as a way to escape gang life and the oppression perceived by gang members. Also based on a rebellion against social inequality and discrimination, krump is sometimes seen as a refuge and family substitute, the krump community being about cohesion and support, which makes its use in a family setting somewhat appropriate.

Only recently has krump started to be choreographed for the stage. It is generally performed freestyle and danced in battles and sessions. Stylistically different from other hip-hop styles, krump is quite aggressive and is danced upright to upbeat and fast-paced music but it doesn’t itself promote aggression or fighting. The moves are meant to challenge other dancers, in the case of Ich Kann’s Nicht Lassen, the spectators, who feed off and return the energy.

There is an entire language that is part of krumping, which was visible in the interaction between the four krumpers. There is ‘get-off,’ a set of movements that determines that a dancer’s ‘round’ is over; ‘kill-off,’ a set of movements that excites the crowd to the point where the battle is over and the crowd surrounds the krumper; the more self-explanatory ‘jab,’ ‘stomp’ and ‘arm swing;’ ‘chest pop,’ an upward motion of the chest in the same manner as breathing into the lungs; and ‘hype,’ the intense feeling of being swept away that was indeed perceivable on the faces of the dancers as they moved around the space.

The dancers, full of energy and enthusiasm, helped the audience to loosen up and be part of the show, dancing together. It was strongly interactive and very participative. People did happily join in.

The music was very loud, way too loud for me, however. That might be part of the krumping experience in the streets but it cannot be the same in a theatre where there’s no way of taking refuge from it unless you leave. I find it somewhat absurd that spectators need to be informed that the music is so loud that it’s deemed necessary to give out earplugs for free. And even then, I found the decibel level too much. Having the volume turned up incredibly high seems to happen more and more. Does no-one care about the potential damage to hearing, especially in shows like this where the audience was mostly children.

But the children were blown away by the experience. The feedback during the post-performance talk and discussion, when many spoke about how they felt, was unanimously positive.

And although I found the music incredibly loud, the show did bring together children, parents and relatives, who all seemed to enjoy moving with the dancers. Ich Kann’s Nicht Lassen clearly ignited their enthusiasm to feel and be part of the performance, which became a sort of dance playground. It brought people together. It made them want to dance together. That has to be good. It is essential that children and adults have such opportunities and dance does have the power to make them happen. The outcomes can only be positive, at the individual and community level.