Flexing looks painful. It looks anatomically wrong, even. It's a street dance that started in Brooklyn and stems from 90s Jamaican dancehall. Its movements seem to reject the limits of joints, muscles, and bones. Dancers hyperextend—well, flex—their limbs in all possible directions, while they slide and turn with pure braggadocio. Over the past decade, the dance, which is also called bone breaking, has evolved into its own arts subculture in Brooklyn.
If you ask flexing pioneer Reggie "Regg Roc" Gray, he describes the dance as a "really extravagant movement that nobody would ever think of doing." In collaboration with theater director Petter Sellars, the two men and the FLEXN dance crew put on a series of performances at Park Avenue Armory last spring, which transformed the street art into stage art, incorporating a loose narrative about black lives in America, police brutality, and mass incarceration in response to the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner.
This month in Brooklyn, Red Bull Music Academy hosted a unique performance at the recently-opened venue National Sawdust. Gone was the stage that separated the audience and dancers at Park Armory, allowing the talent and viewers to interact in an intimate performance that felt closer to the stage-less environments where the art first originated. On top of Regg Roc and the FLEXN crew showing off tight contortions and liquid movements, DJ Nire, Jimi Nxir, Octo Octa, and Zebra Katz performed high octane music to electrify the mood.
Photographer Anthony Tafuro got up close and personal to the mesmerizing, mostly shirt-less dancers to document them doing an eye-popping performance in their home city.