The Brooklyn Brotherhoodby Katie de Klee / Images by Luke Daniels / 28.03.2013
Durbanville used to be a town all on its own, a sort of watering station for travellers on the move between Cape Town and the great interior. Now it forms part of the greater Cape Town metro; but it’s got a different feel. The area is distinctly rural: farms and vineyards mixed into the suburb, while Durbanville town is like a business park with huge factory stores and warehouses lining the roads. Somewhere in the centre of town, behind a huge Shoprite and on the edge of an empty car park there is dance school called Fusion. And inside the studio there is an important practice going on.
Fusion dance studio is run by Hoze Jones; coach, choreographer and the 7th member of the Brooklyn dance crew. With four of the dancers in their crew from Mitchell’s Plain, two from Belhar and one from Athlone, the Brooklyn boys are the only crew from Cape Town to have made it through to the finals of the Red Bull Beat Battle this year, and they are, in their own words: “feeling the need to represent!”
All dance studios have a long mirrored wall. You see it’s important to know what your body looks like when you’re moving, and it’s good for getting the timing just right. At 10am on this Friday morning, the Brooklyn dance crew are all lined up in front of the mirror.
They stop the music, run through it again, stop the music and run through it again. Every once in a while they’ll do the routine in a circle, so instead of facing the mirrors they face each other. Again, it’s better for the timing.
“We’re more mature dancers,” says Hoze, “we don’t watch ourselves in the mirror – we watch the unit. When we practice in the circle that’s the big practice, that’s when we really get the flow of the dance. We do a lot of shows and we stick to it until it is perfect, we won’t go on stage looking like a bunch of clowns.”
Though they are clearly taking it seriously, the fun they are having together is tangible. Brooklyn are made up of Hoze, Lyle, Nathan, Robert, Ashwin, Graham and David. They have been dancing together since 2011. Last year they danced in the Las Vegas World Hip Hop Dance Competition, the “Olympics of dance”, according to Hoze, and came 5th out of the 72 crews represented, the only team from South Africa to ever make it so far.
“We are a brotherhood, we focus to help each other. We are all different ages and have many different characters. That’s what makes us spicy.” Hoze smiles.
All of the dancers have embraced the hip hop look: big diamond earrings, chains, pants hung low, tucked into high-tops. It’s clear that hip hop is not just a style of dance, or a type of music. It’s an existence that includes everything from products and entertainment to the intangibles of attitude, vibe and swagger.
When they leave the studio, some of the sneakers are swapped for smart looking lace up leather boots and a few waistcoats go on over the white crew t-shirts. Hoze sprays cologne on his neck and locks up the studio.
Are they always as confident on stage as they are in front of the camera?
“Nervous? I almost get heart attacks!” Shouts Hoze. “We don’t focus on winning. We focus on fun. But everyone wants to win. God is our centre, we pray before and after every practice and performance. We take prayer through our whole journey.”
After finding some concrete stage sets and some pavement shots we head into a little Take Away on the outside of a shopping centre and the boys tuck into a few gatsbys. Nathan, one of the youngest of the dancers, and still at school, reckons that his friends are pretty cool about him being a dancer.
“Normally it’s the families who don’t understand what we do. It’s not good money and they want us to concentrate on studying. That’s why we need the brotherhood – we believe in each other and in what we do.”
After lunch Hoze has a last suggestion for a photo location. “It might be too pretty for hip hop. There’s grass and birds and water… But I like it.”
We drive to a park, and true to his word, there’s grass and birds and water. It’s serene compared to the urban environment we’ve just left behind. The Brooklyn crew pose for one last shoot, pulling their caps low over their eyes.
“Dance is more than expression,” says David, whose big brother first taught him how to move when he was just five years old. “It gives me purpose”.
“We don’t have money.” Explains Hoze. “When you have everything you have nothing to work for. We still have so much to learn. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain. We do it for the love of dance.”
And then adds: “Red Bull must be ready to handle us. We are going to go nuts.”
* All images © Luke Daniel