Dance and the Inner Mystic

Part 2: Mysticism and community converge in Brazil with krump urban dance

BY Jocelyn Edelstein

Editor’s note: In this three-part travel series, Jocelyn Edelstein journeys to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to take a closer look at three prominent dance manifestations that speak to our mystical natures.


fter exploring dance and tradition in Part 1 of this series, our second journey into the manifestation of mysticism and community begins on a piece of asphalt in a city park. A circle is formed and dancers enter one at a time to become what an innocent bystander might describe as live catharsis, or angry animals, or a purgative gospel of electric delight. There is calling out and hollering—men and women slapping open palms on chests and making sounds that are both feral growl and cacophonic cheer. It is so constant, this background accompaniment, that it almost drowns out the music coming from a small speaker beside their circle.

In his book, The Four Agreements, Migues Ruiz says, “Don’t resist life passing through you, because that is God passing through you.” It’s this line that comes into my mind as I watch the raw surge of energy animating each dancer with ferocious expression.

I first had contact with this dance style, called krump, eleven years ago in a movie theater, where I held my breath through the documentary Rize. On screen, bodies shook and contracted—they rattled down to the ground and reached back up to the sky, revived. Rize told the story of a the krump movement that was emerging in South Central Los Angeles. Krump was a new urban dance outlet that engaged the talent of young people and gave them space to physically process the violence in their community, to create art about the intensity of being young, and to remember the resilience that resides in human beings.

Krump is a communal dance and it revolves around what krumpers call a session. Sessions allow dancers to bear witness to each other, to feed off each other’s energy, to provoke each other within the safety of their dance space, to take their moment in the center of everyone’s attention and to grow together.

Krump Dancers

Krump dancers prepare to come together and commune Photo credit: Rodrigo Lima

The rapid power of global dance dissemination brought krump to Rio de Janeiro where it captivated members of an already established hip-hop dance community. Enter Bruno Duarte, a man who appears possessed by an otherworldly force, regardless of whether he is casually spinning in a circle or catapulting across a well-lit stage.

Bruno, who entered into the world of dance as a break dancer, says that, “For every dancer there is a dance that they meet themselves inside of.” For him, that dance was krump. It was where he found what he describes as a sense of freedom.

“Freedom had always been something I sought through dance,” Bruno notes. “Krump is a style that evolves everyday and it forces you to evolve with it. You have to let go of what you think you know.”

After making his way to Los Angeles to study with one of krump’s pioneers, Tight Eyez, Bruno returned to Rio to nurture his own crew and to expand the scene in his community. Although it takes place largely outside of a classroom setting, krump classes can be found in many urban dance studios today. Most trainings, however, revolve around group sessions where a communal experience of strength and release takes place. The goal of a session is not just to train the body and integrate foundational movements and technique into one’s improvisation—it’s to let a primal force take the body over. It is to be wide eyed in the presence of mystery as a spontaneous movement message comes through.

Watching Bruno and his community of krumpers, a universal thread of wisdom makes itself visible. We dance to be both the center and the circle that contains it. We dance to find safe passage between the light and the dark parts of ourselves. We dance to embolden our hearts in the presence of mystery. We dance to revive the sacred instinct of our own precious passion. We dance to be in communion with other hungry souls.

Jocelyn Edelstein

Jocelyn Edelstein

Jocelyn Edelstein is a writer, filmmaker, and choreographer based in Portland, Oregon. When she’s not seeking dance communion internationally, she is sitting very still, holding her handsome cat and pretending that he’s a tiger. Her feature length documentary, Believe The Beat, tracks transformation through street dance in Rio de Janeiro and in her blog, Shameless Joy, she aims to activate the code of empathy and hunt our humanity with a tender arrow.

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