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Krump: Dance Alternative To Gangs

Lil Mama in Lions Gate Films' Rize - 2005
LIONS GATE FILMS
The new documentary film, "Rize" looks at a grassroots dance movement that started in South Central Los Angeles, called krimping or clowning.

This unique dance form is the brainchild of Thomas Johnson, aka "Tommy the Clown," who first started performing the hip-hop moves at birthday parties. Soon clowing and krumping - a more gritty and aggressive version - began sprouting up all over urban Los Angeles.

"Back in 1992 when I was doing it," Johnson tells The Early Show co-anchor Rene Syler, "it was a movement called Clown Dancing that the kids were attracted to. It gave them a chance to not be in gangs and an environment where they could do some krumping. This started a show called, "The Battle Zone." It was a tool that drew people from all over, like 60,000 kids."

Johnson, along with two of the dancers from "Rize," Lil C and Miss Prissy, showed Syler how to do some of the moves.

Miss Prissy is featured heavily in the documentary. "I'm just excited that I know that there's other children out there, and especially ladies, who look up to me. And they're looking and seeing that girls can do this, too," she says.

Though the dance is very aggressive, Miss Prissy says her job is to show that it is not necessarily just for guys.

"That's why I'm here. I put the sauce on it for the ladies," she says.

The krumping/clowning dance is a grassroots phenomenon that fuses hip-hop music and moves with the raw emotions of ghetto hardships. Though "Rize" focuses on the dance, it also effectively examines the people and environment that made krumping/clowning a reality.

"It's a movement because it bears all characteristics that a movement needs," Johnson says. "It has fundamentals. It is not a trend. It's a way of life. It is not a dance move. It is not a dance style. In order for you to embody this, it is going to enhance all your characteristics. If you're timid, it will make you a more aggressive person. You're choosing a path of creation rather than destruction."

The dance form is hard to describe and the movements are so difficult that director/producer, David LaChappelle included a disclaimer at the start of the film, assuring viewers that the film was not sped up.