Review: Cultural Renegades, Adelaide Fringe (SA)

An inclusive blend of hip-hop and spoken word that will get you moving.

Cultural Renegades brings street dance indoors, never dropping a beat with its well-crafted hip-hop sequences and fun audience engagement. This is a show for those ready to clap, cheer and groove with a diverse dance crew. The show uses poetry to develop an inclusive environment, where everyone feels safe to dance. However the combination of dance and poetry fails to push any boundaries, only relaying that hip hop is meant for everyone, just like societal acceptance.

The Rhino Room’s downstairs space is snug but left completely empty besides the thin platform at the front. The audience gathers at the fringes, becoming a fully formed circle as the show begins. The dancers move out of the crowds and into the central space; already the divide between audience and performance is gone. The audience is encouraged to get involved mostly as a group but sometimes individually. The first interaction is a follow-along, with the dance crew on the platform demonstrating. All the movements are simple: side stepping and some arm waving. Each move is a little trickier than the last and turns into flailing limbs as those at the back can’t easily see what to do. The follow-along does reinforce that it’s more than okay to get involved and so each opportunity to participate is met with enthusiasm.

Poetry intersects the multitude of dances with each poem iterating what it means to be a cultural renegade: looking beyond colour, focusing on the soul and treating others right. All of the poems are rapped by the same dancer and he uses this opportunity to provide structure to the show. The MC utilizes the poems to smoothly transition into new dance sequences. The poetry also provides meaning to the show by highlighting that hip-hop embodies social inclusion. Amongst all this careful arranging, the poetry feels lacklustre. It’s performed with heart that get people clicking their fingers in agreement but the content doesn’t feel challenging – it’s more an artful presentation of what we already know. 

The dance crew of about 10 is immensely skilled and each member embraces their favourite moves. One releases their robot-style hip-hop, while others launch into brilliant floor work, turning and rolling. They intertwine their skills to present movements and sequences that are impressive and fun. These dances are predominately to traditional, instrumental hip-hop music but they don’t let tradition stop them from testing themselves. One dancer uses the MC’s poetry as music. The MC challenges the dancer to push her limits in pace and technique as he talks faster and faster. Every dancer has their moment to show what they’ve got through solo movements or leading a group performance. It demonstrates the poetry’s message succinctly. There’s only a couple of holes in their great work. It’s often hard to see more than one dancer at once so group dances lose their wow-factor. The songs never have any lyrics that could support the show’s message of inclusivity, feeling like a missed opportunity.

Cultural Renegades creates an inclusive environment and then piles on the fun. The audience involvement is simple but generates enthusiasm. The numerous dances are full of strong technique and balanced between the crew. The gaps in this show are small and limited. By finessing the poetry, the show could be more poignant, and selecting some songs with meaningful lyrics would reinforce the message. Nonetheless, get your dancing shoes on when this show comes to town and don’t miss out.

4 stars out of 5 ★★★★

Cultural Renegades
28-29 February 2020
Drama Llama, Rhino Room, Adelaide SA
Tickets $22

Presented as part of Adelaide Fringe

Anita Sanders
About the Author
Anita Sanders is a writer based in South Australia. She has written for radio, print and stage including The City street magazine, Radio Adelaide and South Australian Youth Arts Company. She is a graduate of Flinders University’s Bachelor of Creative Arts (Creative Writing) and Deakin University’s Graduate Certificate of Business (Arts & Cultural Management).