Impossible dance moves seen on the streets of New York.
Pitched halfway between excruciating Soviet contortionists and Golden Age break-dancers, with handfuls of influence from ballroom Voguing and Jamaican dancehall, flexing is big in New York.
Dance has always been an important escape, and poor black neighbourhoods in the city have spawned some of the best dance trends – look at the Schmoney Dance. Street dance is showing off and having fun in a way that’s as cheap and easy as simply breaking up a few cardboard boxes and switching on the radio. Flexing has taken dancehall craze, bruk up (named for its legendary Jamaican inventor), and filtered it through the East Coast’s B-boy revival.
While some dancers like Storyboard P have become visible enough to feature in popular culture touchstones like the Flying Lotus’ short film Until The Quiet Comes and the very pages you hold in your hand; it’s still too niche a skill to have kids citywide lining up on street corners like they’re at the Rooftop bringing 1988 back.
Bone Breaking, as some know it, is not a simple thing you can just learn: they’re out here damn near snapping off their arms at the joint – popping balls outta sockets with reckless aplomb – to the beat and to the cheers of their less flexible peers.
British photographer Paul Vickery saw flexing for the first time in New York’s Union Square, Manhattan’s historic cultural intersection. It couldn’t have been a more perfect location to meet Victor Yellow, the dancer gracing this very feature. “I always scout on the street to see what’s going on,” Paul tells us. “And I spotted him on the first evening I was there. He was just stood doing his own thing, in his own world. I was captivated. I just thought ‘What on earth is he doing?’ It didn’t look human.”
This is an extract from the Autumn/Winter14 Issue of Viper Magazine. Read more from the magazine here. Buy physical and digital copies here.
Words by Sam Diss
Photography by Paul Vickery