Blanca Li’s Elektro Kif is an upbeat jumble of street dance, observational comedy and high school clichés. The different episodes go on too long, but Li’s all-male company are bright dancers with cheerful stage presence.
Born in Spain, choreographer Blanca Li is now based in France, where she first saw students dance electro in a park. It’s a street dance style associated with Paris, mixing lots of disco and vogueing into hip-hop dance. Much of Li’s past work draws on hip hop culture, along with other styles from classical ballet to flamenco. In Macadam Macadam, she put a biker and rollerskaters on stage with hip hop dancers. Most recently, she choreographed Stella McCartney’s spectacular show for London Fashion Week.
Elektro Kif presents its eight dancers as college kids, shuffling in to class, playing games at break time, eating lunch in a cafeteria, sitting exams and waiting for the bell. The first scene presents each man as a type – nerdy, touchy, fashion-conscious – though it drops those identities almost immediately.
The introduction does put each dancer in the spotlight, giving them the chance to show flashes of personality and style. They’re a strong group, with confident moves and some good comic timing.
Moving away from stereotypes, Li’s hip-hop cast aren’t standard-issue bad boys or rebels. For a start, they’re very good at danced maths. When a teacher’s voice discusses vectors and angles, the cast dance their answers: a circled elbow suggests writing on a board, opening out into the twitches and poses of an electro dance.
Between classes, one boy gets caught up in his iPod, dancing and singing along to tracks we can’t hear – but which are very obviously Michael Jackson. Li stays too long on the same joke, but the performance is bouncy. Another dancer drifts into introspection, with a slow, lyrical number. It comes to an end, then starts up again as other dancers join him. Elektro Kif finds it hard to let some ideas go.
Li has fun with everyday body language. The repetitive movements of eating or writing build into dances, disrupted by squabbles and rivalries. The mime gestures for lunch, sports or working on computers are precise and legible, growing into stylised patterns. Tao Gutierrez’s music samples everyday sounds along with house music and afrobeat. As the students pile up chairs or struggle with exams, Elektro Kif finds its own groove.
Touring until 31 March. www.elektrokif.co.uk