NEW YORK, August 3, 2011 — Steady rainfall did nothing to stop crowds from packing the auditorium for "Hip Hop Kung Fu," a martial arts-powered exploration of hip hop culture at Asia Society New York.
Dancers, musicians and martial artists of Dancing in the Streets and the Casita Maria Center for Arts in Education showed off their skills through a variety of performances ranging from martial arts forms to violin-infused rap.
Hip Hop Kung Fu, the brainchild of director Emilio "Buddha Stretch" Austin Jr., was choreographed by Michel Byrd-McPhee, Val "Ms. Vee" Ho and Austin himself. Drawing inspiration from kung fu pop culture of the '70s and '80s and the Wu-Tang clan, the show was created to show audiences hip hop's reciprocal relationship with Asian culture.
After starting the show off with a spot of kung fu, the dancers launched into a series of colorful set pieces which included, among many segments, a high-octane trio of Power Rangers engaging in an explosive breakdance number, ninjas rocking out to Lenny Kravitz's "Are You Gonna Go My Way" and a hypnotic black-tie and white-gloved robot routine.
Hip Hop Kung Fu also offered music in an eclectic sample of drummers, a rapper-violinist duo and a DJ. The percussionists brought their beats to the stage with a combination of drumming styles — Japanese taiko, West African djembe, and bucket drumming — creating a convergence of cultures into a single rhythm while DJ Daniel "DP-ONE" Pinero mixed and scratched tracks out on a turntable in an intense solo performance.
Sisters Mina and Michele Joo — one the emcee "Knewdles," the other the classically trained violinist "Sos," respectively — performed two of their songs, providing a unique musical fusion of classical and rap.
To top the show off, all the performers came out on stage to break out of their routines and allow their creativity to flow in a freestyle music and dance exhibition that closed Hip Hop Kung Fu on a high-energy note.