From the streets to the stage
An exploration of a unique dance by Jessica Koslow MA ’12 for her thesis project sparked a relationship that culminated with the first live performance of krump on a mainstream stage.
“The Underground: From the Streets to the Stage,” an event held at Bovard Auditorium on Sept. 5, coincided with the 10th anniversary of krump, a form of impromptu street dance now performed nationally.
“When I was going to go to grad school, I thought if I can do anything I want and I can pick my topic, I want to do street dancing,” Koslow said.
Through her research, she developed relationships with Marquisa Gardner, who is better known by her stage name, Miss Prissy, and Christopher “Lil’ C” Toler, two of the four founders of krump, which started locally in South Central Los Angeles. Koslow then produced a documentary about a weekly gathering of krump dancers in North Hollywood and later wrote her thesis about it.
After krumping on the streets for years, Miss Prissy said she wanted to take the dance to the next level by performing on stage. Koslow helped make that dream a reality by approaching individuals working for USC Visions and Voices, the arts and humanities initiative.
“I tried to emphasize that this was a dance born basically in South Central,” Koslow said. “Why should it be someone else giving this dance form recognition? Why can’t it be USC? And they really caught on. They said, ‘We get that, and we want to be the ones to honor krump on the 10th anniversary.’ ”
Koslow described krump as a combination of street dance elements and African dance. It originated, she said, among a circle of people who perform it every Wednesday at midnight in a North Hollywood parking lot.
“It feels like you just walked into another galaxy,” Miss Prissy said, describing the feeling of watching the performers. “It’s so fresh.”
Lil’ C said the group celebrates its victory over adversity. Though there is pain associated with krumping, that pain serves as motivation, he added.
“There is victory in acknowledging the fact that you are triumphant, enough to recognize that you have overcome your struggle,” he said.
Visions and Voices was attracted to the event because of its ability to bring members of the local community onto campus, said Sasha Anawalt, who served as the adviser for Koslow’s thesis.
With support from Visions and Voices, it’s possible the dancers could return to campus for another performance next year, Anawalt added.