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Affinities: Trading Tutus for Tutting

A pictorial study of uniquely Bay Area tribes.


My-Linh Le

(1 of 8)

Algerion TheKrow Bryant

(2 of 8)

Arthur V. Gardner

(3 of 8)

Michael Chicago

(4 of 8)

Tatiana Barber

(5 of 8)

Hector Ascencio

(6 of 8)

Darlyn Perez

(7 of 8)

Marcus McCray

(8 of 8)


See all the Affinities photo shoots here.

As a student of both ballet and popping—a jerking style of street dance—while growing up in San Jose, My-Linh Le earned the nickname Coppelia, after the classic ballet starring a robot-like doll. “Everyone’s pretty familiar with my weird fusion,” she says. So it was fitting that the culture-splicing Vietnamese American would found the Mud Water Project last year, an avant-garde dance collective that combines ballet and turfing, an Oakland-born form of street dance. She recruited six turfers and six ballet dancers, some discovered after attending Alonzo King’s training program showcase. Once the group was formed, rehearsals presented a challenge: The ballet dancers would arrive 15 minutes early, while the turfers would show up an hour late. When everyone finally came together, recalls Le, “It was way more awkward than I imagined it would be.” So they kicked off a cipher, in which dancers take turns showing off their moves, to break the ice. “Turfers aren’t shy when they see something inspiring,” Le says. “They’ll whoop and holler and run around in circles like someone just scored a goal.” Mud Water’s choreography is a collaborative effort based on improvisation between dancers. The group’s first performance, a 20-minute piece for the political dance festival D.I.R.T., showcased both tutting and pirouettes. “Sometimes you can’t even tell the dancers apart,” Le says. “It’s mind-blowing.”

Originally published in the May issue of
San Francisco

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