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The Independent Culture

Women aren't over-represented in hip-hop. The style's music and dance have plenty of macho swagger, sometimes tipping over into misogyny. B Supreme, now in its second year, is the Southbank Centre's festival of women in hip-hop, covering music, dance and workshops. The dance performances I saw were strongest when they focused on hip-hop itself. The dramatisations of sexism were thinly earnest; the juice was in the pure dance numbers.

Dramatic weakness isn't limited to female hip-hop. There have been plenty of attempts to stretch this street-based style into narrative shapes, but I've yet to see a hip-hop drama that really carries a story. It's the dance confrontations, the virtuoso moves, that make most impact.

In this evening, gleefully hosted by hip-hop star Kymberlee Jay, the strongest performance came from the Danish group Haus Fraus. This group moved in and out of unison, soloists stepping forward, lines of dancers crossing. The steps were fast and crisp, feet crossing and kicking rhythmically, shoulders swinging. Performances were bouncy and confident, with some lovely group moves.

The US troupe Decadance made the best job of addressing misogyny. A soloist stalked on with a 1980s tape recorder, hopping channels and finding one sexist song after another. It was a simple point, simply made, and left plenty of space for the dancing. This is a group of soloists, with women stepping forward in turn to show off spins and/ or dancing.

Another US crew, Venus Fly Trap, filled their show with simplistic dramas of rejection and threat. The larger group pushed a lone woman away; hooded figures dragged her off into the wings. The chugging, strutting dance scenes were much more interesting.

Evoke is an international group of soloists, led by hip-hop star Asia One. Alas, they spent most of their set doing anything but dancing. They strutted around pretending to be male scientists, soldiers, businessmen; they set up a game show that would make one of these cardboard characters president of the world; they waffled and moralised. They got moving at last, but only in the final minutes of the show.

Asia One stretched and shimmied on the floor, tying herself in gymnastic knots with fluid ease. Another woman flipped upside down for some effortless headspinning, fast and clear.

The evening ended with Decadance in a neon-lit number. As the lights went out, zigzag lines on their costumes lit up, leaving a stage full of dancing scribbles.

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