Historically Jazz, Tap and other forms of street art have won exposure and mainstream acceptance thanks largely to the “validating” praise and analysis of academicians and historians. The artists profiled in the 2015 feature documentary, UNDERGROUND DANCE MASTERS, were rarely seen by a large portion of society, and thus were not afforded much mass media attention. 22 years in the making, this feature documentary takes viewers on a guided tour of a FORGOTTEN ERA—an underground culture and lifestyle in which a multicultural collective of urban street dancers created one of the most influential art forms in contemporary history. Just as the Wild West gunslingers engaged in to the death duels, California’s pioneering urban street dancers routinely squared-off since 1965, dominating and earning respect solely through the art of dance. The documentary is based on the book, Underground Dance Masters (ABC-Clio 2012), a landmark analysis that began in 1983. The film chronicles for the first time a revolutionary period in dance and pop culture from 1965 to 1995—a full 30-year span. It profiles a very special collective of Black, Latino and White individuals who are the innovators, originators and true masters of the Urban Dance forms known as Funk Boogaloo, Robot, Locking, Crossover Locking, Zigzag, Popping and Rocking/B-boying. These dance styles are the roots and building blocks of what the world today mistakenly calls “hip-hop dance.”
Born in the inner cities and remote suburbs of California, Urban Dance was so beyond the reach of the mainstream media, it was never properly acknowledged, examined or exploited. Thus, Urban Dance was allowed to grow and evolve, without the destructive attention widespread media attention can bring. As Thomas Guzman Sanchez reveals in his film, these Urban Dances were born as a genuine labor of love—not some get-rich-quick trend milked by the entertainment industry.
The film explores the origins detailing how each style evolved into a masterful creation. Using rare archival footage and interviews that detail the lives and careers of these OG (“Original Generation”) dance groups, Guzman-Sanchez establishes an undisputable timeline that traces the evolution of these Urban Dance forms, showing both the positive and negative sides of this underground scene. The film also shows how Urban Dance spread throughout the world, influencing dancers from Canada and South America, to Europe and Asia. UNDERGROUND DANCE MASTERS features a rare interview with KENNY ORTEGA, director and choreographer of the blockbuster Disney franchise, “High School Musical” and Michael Jackson's "This Is It." Ortega was instrumental in exposing Urban Dance to the world and offers a clear, unbiased historical perspective.
UNDERGROUND DANCE MASTERS: FINAL HISTORY OF A FORGOTTEN ERA provides the missing pieces to a cultural puzzle that has been left unsolved and unexplored for over 47 years. The documentary is cinematic testimony of the original subculture that created these unique Urban Dance forms.
With the exploitation of trends like “Break Dancing” and “Hip-Hop Dance”—two generic terms stamped onto these Urban Dance forms—the inventions of California’s trailblazing urban street dancers were almost completely co-opted or destroyed. But due largely to the resilience of the Underground Dance Masters, Urban Dance burrowed deeper below the cultural surface where it has existed in its purest form, waiting for the day when the real story was told.
That day has finally arrived. UNDERGROUND DANCE MASTERS: FINAL HISTORY OF A FORGOTTEN ERA unmasks the truth about the rise and fall of an innovative group of Urban Street Dance artists, while celebrating their unique innovations.