The Era Footwork Crew, a movement spearheaded by Jamal Oliver (Litebulb) and Chief Manny are announcing their debut project, IN THE WURKZ; a show which will open at the ‘Links Hall’, Chicago on the 13th and 14th of December, before announcing an international tour in early 2020. The crew, by their own admission have been ‘taking footwork to the next level’ for a number of years now. In an effortless coupling of music and dance, they have used their team strength and close affiliation with crews and collectives such as Teklife, to push a culture from its central birthplace to all corners of the world.
IN THE WURKZ is a touring dance performance based on the lives and dreams of young dancers on the west and south sides of Chicago. The evening-length show unveils a history of footwork dancing, tracing its development from “the holy ghost” – the first footwork dance move inspired by spirit possession in Church – to a citywide, black teenage dance culture that keeps youth safe in dangerous neighbourhoods across Chicago. IN THE WURKZ expounds on this dance history through the movements, poetry, films and memories of Chicago’s award winning company, The Era Footwork Crew, with music by the city’s leading footwork DJs in the Teklife. The crew were recently awarded the ‘National Dance Prize’ award, which involves a $90,000 grant that is helping push both the Era and their upcoming show to the forefront of American stage dancing. As the only dance outfit from Chicago to have won this prize, they are helping to quash limitations from what once started as a small community; unapologetically breaking boundaries in their mission to push the movement from its city roots to audiences all over the world.
There is a tight correlation between expression and activism within the collective; the dance off’s are built upon the initial footwork culture of coming together in a community. Whether it be in a centre, a studio or on the street. To collaborate within a safe space – using the original footwork template as the foundation. The South and West sides of Chicago are inherently notorious for sharp crime rates and drug use, and The Era aims to help steer the younger generations away from these darker aspects of the community. Aside from a celebration of music and dance of all ages, IN THE WURKZ will also preview a video project, ‘Footwork Saves Lives’ a short documentary produced and filmed by Chief Manny and Steelo, soundtracked by the late DJ Rashad’s seminal, ‘Love U Found’. The short film draws attention to the positive impact footworking has on the city, and the lives that have been saved through dance within Chicago, in spite of the bad portrayal the city gets within the wider media.
The upcoming show hopes to shift paradigms and the traditional rhetoric that what can sometimes be deemed as simply ‘street dance’ should remain as – just that. For behind the show there are trials and often stories of anguish; with each individual drawing from an experience and coming forward with very personal expression within a wider community. Tickets for the debut show are already on sale, with later tour dates being announced next year.
Keep up to date with The Era here.
Words by @rhimarilou