The UK, and in fact the rest of the world, has been waiting for a release of Alastair Siddons’ b-boy documentary Turn It Loose to get distribution for over a year. Finally, after countless months on the film festival circuit it’s available to buy on DVD and has adopted a new suffix to its title: Real Street Dance.
The marketing hijack of the term ‘street dance’ may be to pursuade people to spend their pocket money a week before the release of Streetdance 3D on DVD, but Turn It Loose: Real Street Dance is a documentary, not a movie, and shouldn’t be confused.
Turn It Loose explores the backgrounds of six of the world’s finest b-boys (Lilou, RoxRite, Ronnie, Taisuke, Lil’J and Hong 10) ahead of the Red Bull BC One competition in Soweto, South Africa, through a series of flashbacks and back stories.
It serves as an introduction to the world of b-boying and much of the stigma around the culture of breakdance many might not take into consideration, and that includes many aspects the judges might not know when judging – all most people see is the dancer on stage, out of context of their daily lives. Turn It Loose shows the stark comparison in backgrounds between breakers and what ties them all together for one event, and it’s all so very different.
Lil’J lives in Senegal where hip hop isn’t understood as it is in western culture, visiting the wise man in his village to explain his calling to BC One. He’s told: “Go out and get what’s yours. Nobody will fight you for it,” being one of the fortunate few people that get a chance to represent Semegal internationally. Algerian-French Lilou shows the camera the different countries he’s visited thanks to dancing, yet still lives comfortable in the ghetto. He even has the cheek of showing off his Red Bull BC One champion belt which was meant to be returned the following year!
Meanwhile in Las Vegas, BC One veteran Ronnie has a dance studio in his apartment. Even still, his perseverance is dedicated to his late brother who died in a diving accident. RoxRite of a poor Mexican background suffers the stigma of being perceived by others that he lives well because he lives in the US, before it cuts to him delivering fast food to customers.
You might have guessed by now that most of the stories are told through dual storylines, comparing and contrasting between dancers: Lilou and Lil’J representing the African continent; A montage of training scenes between Ronnie and Hong 10, who both met in previous BC One competitions, pushing themselves.
A light sprinkle of humour helps lighten the stories of each of the dancers. Hong 10 may have been reclusive in his reflections to a friend, but Taisuke, who at only 16 at time of filming and representing Zulu Nation, admits on camera that school girls in uniform give him a thrill!
It’s this exploration of character that humanises the story, after so many are used to idolising their heroes through online video.
Alastair Siddons, while not a b-boy or even a hip hopper at least, has done a great job at understanding the form of breaking. From building the suspense of the dancers entering the arena to capturing the subtleties that can cost a dancer their round in battle, like repeated moves and minor falls caught using time-bending slow motion, as far as understanding the elite b-boys of the world, Turn It Loose shows consideration. As a result you see it from that perspective as it underlines those aspects for the viewer.
That said, some observant viewers will notice the soundtrack is off beat during some battles with the producers opting for license-free generic hip hop loops, which looks wrong. For a film with enough product placement it might have been nice to include the original songs – thankfully Turn It Loose and The Apache both had clearance.
Real street dance?
Besides having a slightly misleading extended title (most breakers will recognise it the film simply as Turn It Loose, and it was fine as it was), the film isn’t to do with street dance, but a ‘real’ introduction to breaking. Low camera angles capture the detail in the footwork during battles, while the it captures the dancers at their most personal, which with all the hype surrounding dance at the moment, no other documentary can boast.
It’s also worth checking out the Turn It Loose website for detailed dancer backgrounds – there are no extras on the DVD.