Tribeca Film Festival alum documentary “Flex Is Kings” follows East New York urban dancers as they battle it out at underground showcases.

When I saw the documentary Flex Is Kings at the Tribeca Film Festival last year, it blew me away. That’s partly because the film, about urban extreme dancing, has a poetic, raw quality to it. It’s rough on the edges but that’s part of what I loved about its representation of flexing, a hard-core version of break dancing, and the young men (do women flex?) who do it, competing in events in the outer boroughs of New York City.

To the film’s credit, it stuck with me. But that’s also because, as a New Yorker, I can’t help encountering guys on the subway, in the street, or in the train stations who do similar dancing for money. When I see these guys, I am reminded of directors Deidre Schoo and Michael Beach Nichols’ film, and I am so impressed at how they brought to life dancers Flizzo and Jay Donn, one of whom seems to have a future in a dancing career and the other, perhaps not.

Over the months, I’ve thought about Flex, and so I was particularly delighted when I was watching the Broadway show, After Midnight, about the Cotton Club Jazz Age era in Harlem, last week, which features an incredible dance-off performance by two young dancers, Julius “iGlide” Chisolm and Virgil Gadson, who have clearly been influenced by flexing. These guys are phenomenal talents, and the sequence is an awesome mashup of contemporary street dance with African-American cultural history.

I had lost track of Flex, so I looked it up and, lo and behold, the film just went to theaters last Friday! The run at Village East Cinema in New York is until this Thursday. You can also see the film here, or you may be lucky enough to have the documentary coming to a city near you. Check out the screening schedule here.

Update: Flex Is Kings run at the Village East Cinema is extended to Thursday, April 17, 2014.

And if you can’t make it to After Midnight, check out Chisolm’s skills here.

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Tom Roston
Tom Roston is a guest columnist for POV's documentary blog. He is a former Premiere magazine senior editor, who graduated from Brown University and started his career in journalism at The Nation and then Vanity Fair. Tom's freelance work has appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, The Los Angeles Times, The Hollywood Reporter and other publications. He has written several Kindle Singles, including the bestselling Kindle Singles Interview: Ken Burns. Tom's current list of favorite documentaries are: 1. Koyanisqaatsi by Godfrey Reggio; 2. Hoop Dreams by Steve James; 3.Stories We Tell by Sarah Polley; 4.Crumb by Terry Zwigoff; 5. Montage of Heck by Brett Morgen