Hip hop dance thrives online. It evolves and innovates as dancers respond to each other’s movements beyond borders through digital media.
Hip hop dance is not only a catalyst of self-expression, communication and community, but a force for change. Creative powerhouse YAK Films began in 2008 with a project combining turf-dancing and film as a tool for grief and reconciliation after a spike in murders in Oakland, California. This inaugural film, produced at the site of a fatal car crash that took dancer dREAL’s brother’s life, garnered nearly seven million hits and set YAK on the path to becoming one of the premiere YouTube channels for original hip hop dance content.
As YAK’s online audience grew, their fans began not only learning and copying dance moves discovered through YAK’s films but riffing off of them, reinterpreting them, and responding with their own videos. Through film and digital media, dancers around the world have exploded the evolution of hip hop dance and catapulted it to new viral heights.
We recently partnered with YAK Films to create Exquisite Zombies – a film highlighting this growing trend of creative connection across the digital space and turning dance moves into messages in cinematic bottles sent across the globe.
Inspired by the surrealist drawing game, exquisite corpse, Exquisite Zombies features cascading performances from dancers in six different countries—each dancer beginning with and then responding to the final move of the prior dancer.
Among the dancers featured in the film are acclaimed French duo Les Twins, Japanese waacking sensation Ibuki, Electro dancer Wisko from Mexico, Dey Dey and Manuela, Lil Buck from Memphis, Nonstop, Bluprint from Dragon House in Atlanta, Bboy Lil Zoo filmed in Casablanca and a crew from Oakland California’s Destiny Arts Center.
Exquisite Zombies premiered at Sundance NEXT Fest, one of the Sundance Institute’s latest festivals combining unique music performances with film premieres and talkbacks highlighting “the renegade spirit of independent artists.”
Following the screening, Sundance Institute Feature Film Program Fellow and acclaimed writer Chinaka Hodge hosted a conversation with the dancers and filmmakers about how film and digital media are transforming creative collaboration.
And to keep the collaborative vibe going, a dance party broke out after the panel, with many of the featured dancers joining audience members in a spontaneous cypher.
Keep an eye out for the second iteration of the Exquisite Zombies collaboration from Project 1324, YAK Films, and the Sundance Institute this January – we hope it sparks a global block party for all creatives early next year!