Director Michael Beach Nichols talks documentary “Flex Is Kings,” which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival.
“Flexing” is a dance style forged in far east Brooklyn, at the dead-end of a handful of subway lines. Flex dancers channel the grittiness and crime of East New York into choreographed violence with gun movements, simulated bone-breaking, and the mimicked ripping of hearts from opponent’s chests. Through battles dancers gain respect, craft an artistic identity, and sometimes find a sanctuary from the poverty and violence that saturates their neighborhood. No other style of street-dance is this violent, scary, or beautifully theatrical. In this purely do-it-yourself scene, creativity and ambition bring a community together around frequent dance-battle showcases that have begun to attract an international audience and may catapult the best dancers into careers in theater or film. Following a group of dancers for over two years, Flex is Kings explores the hopes and realities of this under-acknowledged and totally unfunded group of urban artists.
Q: Where does your love of dance come from?
Michael Beach Nichols: I ‘ve always have been into dance. My sister danced as a kid, so I would go to her recitals and stuff and I’ve always been into Hip-Hop, so I just had sort of a peripheral interest in it just thinking it’s really cool. Then when I moved to New York in 2009 a mutual friend introduced me to Deidre Schoo who had been taking photos of thing called Battle Fest out in East New York. So I went out and helped her with that and I saw like these crazy moves and I was just floored. It was unlike anything I had seen before. It was like a guy just opened his mouth and a bird just flew out. I was like what is this…this scene. It took us about a year until we just said let’s just make a film out of this.