FlexN, also spelled as Flexing, is a style of street dance from Brooklyn, New York that is characterized by rhythmic contortionist perform shirtless and incorporate hat tricks in their performance for showmanship, as also used in turf dancing.
Before FlexN gained mainstream exposure, it started out at the home of a couple called Rocky and Sandra Cummings. In 1992, the couple created a talent show and a local cable TV show in New York City, called 'Flex N Brooklyn'. The dance roots are traced back to reggae, dancehall, and "...a chopped-up instrumental called the 'Volume' riddim". The producers of the new genre refer to it as FDM, Flex Dance Music. Unlike other street dance styles originating in the United States, FlexN did not come from hip-hop dance, funk music, or hip-hop culture. It evolved from a Jamaican style of street dance called bruk-up. In a 2009 interview with WireTap magazine, dancer Stefan "Mr. Wiggles" Clemente described bruk-up as a "reggae style of animation."
FlexN is represented by 8 movement styles, with flexers often mixing the styles.
- Bone-breaking is characterized by rhythmic contortionist movement.
- Bruk Up, “broken” in Jamaican Patois, is a style that resembles movement of broken limbs.
- Connecting (K'nect'N), is often compared to tutting, but is of different origins than popping.
- Get Lo integrates movements on the floor and the levels in between.
- Grooving is the foundation of the flow of FlexN with roots in Jamaincan dancehall, characterized by rhythmic movements that can be subtle or aggressive.
- Gliding is a style of illusion of air walking, sliding, and floating, using hand placements, body movement, and foot placement.
- Hat Tricks is a style that utilizes the hat for illusions, concepts, and animations.
- Pausing (Pauzn) is characterized by discrete movement similar to a movie watched frame by frame.
FlexN has been performed on the third season of America's Best Dance Crew (ABDC), on the second season of The LXD, and at the Guggenheim Museum as part of the YouTube Play event. In 2011, the Huffington Post published a brief news article on flex dancers Bones the Machine and DJ Aaron. In 2013, NextLevelSquad performed FlexN at Breakin' Convention and Adedamola "Ringmaster Nugget" Orisagbemi performed FlexN at the Vail International Dance Festival.
The 2013 independent film Flex Is Kings documents the lives of several flexers over a two-year period leading up to a dance competition called BattleFest. Flex Is Kings was screened at the Tribeca Film Festival. FlexN was also the subject of a French online dance show called "Puma the Quest". In 2014, The New Yorker published a seven-page article about flex dancer Saalim "Storyboard P" Muslim.
Notable FDM Producers
- "Flexing: the 'bone-breaking' dance craze that bubbled up from Brooklyn".
They let hundreds of people into their home,” says Gray. “Sandra used to cook for us, spaghetti and Kool-Aid. It’s always been a big circle of people coming together, making a change and doing something for the youth.
- "flexentnyc YouTube channel". October 12, 2008.
- Steyels, Mike (April 6, 2016). "Flex Tunes: Brooklyn's Own Dance Music". Pitchfork.com. Archived from the original on April 8, 2016. Retrieved July 4, 2016.
- Johnson, Kristy (December 2, 2009). "Britney's Dance Dream Team". Dance Informa. Retrieved November 10, 2010.
Living in Brooklyn and with my family being West Indian, I was into a lot of Dancehall Reggae music. I ended up being part of a show in Brooklyn called ‘Flex N Brooklyn’ that created another dance style we call Flexing, which evolved from a style called ‘The Bruk Up’ from Jamaica.
- Harrison, Darryl (October 26, 2009). "Bone flexing in Brooklyn". New York Post. Retrieved November 10, 2010.
The biggest misconception is that flexing or our style came from hip hop, and it didn’t. It actually came from reggae. It came from ‘bruk up.’
- Love, Paulino (March 21, 2009). "Power Moves: Turf and Flex Dancers Build Bicoastal Bonds". WireTap Magazine. Archived from the original on February 14, 2011. Retrieved November 10, 2010.
It's based on a reggae style of animation," explains Steffan "Mr. Wiggles" Clemente, one of the event's judges. "People compared it to poppin', but it's a reggae style of poppin'.
- Brun-Lambert, David (December 9, 2013). "Flexing: Brooklyn Goes Hard". RedBull.com. Archived from the original on December 26, 2013. Retrieved February 28, 2014.
- Flexn 101: This is Bone-breaking. The Shed.
- Pearl, Max (May 1, 2014). "Bruk Up: The Dance That Bridges Jamaican Dancehalls and Brooklyn Streets". vice.com.
- Flexn 101: This is Connecting. The Shed.
- Flexn 101: This is Get Low. The Shed.
- Flexn 101: This is Grooving. The Shed.
- Flexn 101: This is Gliding. The Shed.
- Flexn 101: This is Hat Tricks. The Shed.
- Sierra, Gabrielle (March 26, 2015). "A Brooklyn Dancer Flexes His Talents and Social Activism With New Show at Park Avenue Armory". brooklynbased.com.
Gray specializes in pausing, a style he created after losing a battle, coming home and throwing on a tape of himself dancing. “We will often record ourselves and watch it backwards, try to mimic that rewind style,” he says. “But I pressed pause and watched it move inch by inch. And I was like, ‘I want to dance like that.’”
- "Gas-Masked Dancers Hit The Subway (VIDEO)". Huffington Post. September 17, 2011. Retrieved March 5, 2012.
This music video, by YAK Films for King Bones and DJ Aaron, shows two shirtless dancers/contortionists in gas masks intertwining with each other... it's a mesmerizing, and slightly unsettling, performance.
- "NextLevelSquad (USA)". BreakinConvention.com. Retrieved February 11, 2013.
- Macaulay, Alastair (August 7, 2013). "A Whirl of Premieres, From Jookin to Jetés". The New York Times. Retrieved September 6, 2013.
- "Flex is King – A new Documentary by Deidre Schoo and Michael Beach Nichols". StreetClash.com. Archived from the original on March 6, 2014. Retrieved February 28, 2014.
- "Bonus NYC : rencontre avec le Ringmasters Crew". PumaTheQuest.com (in French). April 18, 2014. Retrieved February 28, 2014.
- Weiner, Jonah (January 6, 2014). "The Impossible Body: Storyboard P, the Basquiat of street dancing". The New Yorker. Archived from the original on February 18, 2014. Retrieved February 28, 2014.
- Meier, Gabe (May 12, 2017). "For Club Use Only: The month's best under-the-radar club tracks". factmag.com.
- Twells, John (April 30, 2019). "FACT mix 705: Epic B". factmag.com.
- "HYP 311: MUNGO X HITMAKERCHINX".
- Steyels, Mike (May 1, 2017). "Uninamise Is Bringing Brooklyn's Flex Dance Music to the World". vice.com.