I've been a New Yorker subscriber for over 20 years now. As a kid, a blind admirer. As I've gotten older and gained more experience, seeing more and more the magazine's biases (while still more-than-occasionally being blown away by its actual profundities).
In the Jan. 6 issue, a story on "Storyboard P," a Brooklyn street dancer on the rise. The article's subhead "Storyboard P, the Basquiat of street dancing" completely turned me off. I absolutely hate the "Basquiat" tag. Too liberally applied by middle-aged intellectuals to any young "person of color" (in the parlance) with artistic inclinations.
But some of the quotes from/about "Storyboard P" in the article were interesting:
"I would cry when I saw Michael [Jackson]. His energy would scramble your frequency."
For a time, he developed choreography by sitting alone and staring at a wall until it came to resemble a projecting screen for strange, imagined shapes; he would then attempt to replicate what he was seeing with his body.
At home, deprivation forced him to be crafty. "Not having a lot, you're going to create... When I got a toy, I always broke it apart, put a new arm on it reinventing it....When my brother left me for his friends, it was back to not having a new toy, but knowing I can create one for myself. That's where the storytelling came from, that fantasy. Like people who play house and shit -- you're creating alternative realms to cope with where you are."
Dancers started battle by slamming a clawed palm into an opponent's chest, right above the heart, as if trying to tear it loose. "It's not 'Let's dance,' Storyboard said. "It's 'Gimme that!' He needs my energy to survive."
"We can all communicate without words, but we're asleep. We've dumbed down our clairvoyance.... So that girl there is standing. But the world is spinning, so what's really happening to her? She's not really standing, she's hovering... I'm just revealing what's really there. Revealing unseen forces -- that's what illusion is. Utilizing them unseen forces to manipulate a moment."
Wow, I thought. When I was young, I had similar freakouts/insights. I was deeply curious about where these took his dancing. I wanted to be blown away by Storyboard P's dancing based purely on his words. But when I looked him up on YouTube, this seemed to be the dancing highlight:
Nah. The New Yorker article, to me, much more profound than the subject's actual work. Not a kudo to The New Yorker; rather, a slam on its attempted false buildup. In fact, while watching this video, I soon became much more interested in what the mother and her kids behind Storyboard were doing in the sprinklers. (Oh, but where's the "Basquiat reference" in THAT story?)