It all started with a movie.
When Yvon Soglo was growing up in Aylmer, Quebec, his preferred method of physical expression was channeled through sports. Then in high school he saw a film called Breaking, and a new world opened itself to him.
The film was about b-boys and girls (break dancers, to the uninitiated), and Soglo was hooked.
“After seeing that movie, I said to myself, ‘if I am ever going to dance, that is what I’d like to do,” he says.
Break dancing emerged as an art form in the early ’70s when concertgoers would dance exclusively to the percussion-heavy segments of songs known as “breaks.”
It was the combination of muscular athleticism and emotional resonance that attracted Soglo to the art form.
“What fascinated me was the way people could express themselves through physical movement, from anger to joy and everything in between.”
Before long, he was funneling his creativity into dance and was bestowed with a moniker that echoed his style of performance.
“I was dancing with T-Swift, a Canadian b-boy legend, and he asked if I had a name. I didn’t”
So after watching him perform, T-Swift dubbed him Crazy Smooth—”crazy” because of the exuberance of his moves, and “smooth” because even his mistakes ended up looking pretty good.
Now, Crazy Smooth is the artistic director and choreographer of a new b-boy dance-show called IZM that is touring Canada and will be staged at the Yukon Arts Centre on October 2 and 3.
The spark of origin for IZM dates back to 2005, when Crazy Smooth moved to New York City to study with the best b-boys in the business.
Philosophical by nature, Crazy Smooth began reflecting on the mysterious quality certain dancers possess that separate them from the rest of the field.
“You can see two dancers do the exact same thing, but you’ll like one a bit more than the other,” he says.
Failing to find a word that properly captured this phenomenon, Crazy Smooth invented his own.
“When a dancer has a little bit more than the others, that’s his ‘IZM,'” he explains.
So Crazy Smooth assembled a dance troupe of 10 b-boys and girls who possess their own individual IZM, and designed a show that demonstrates this quality.
While he maintains that this new show is appropriate for all ages, he doesn’t shy away from a truth some viewers might find uncomfortable.
“The audience will have to work to understand certain parts of the performance. There is comedy in the show, but there are also moments when it can be quite dark and serious,” says Crazy Smooth.
Among the concepts he hopes IZM will cause people to reflect on is the constant tug-of-war between art and entertainment.
“Art’s primary purpose isn’t to entertain,” he maintains. “Art is meant to express something, to say something.”
Given this, Crazy Smooth hopes the tension between the audience’s desire to be entertained and the artist’s desire to express personal truths will manifest itself in IZM.
The hope is that viewers will exit the show feeling both challenged on an intellectual level and entertained on a visceral level.
“Every audience is different,” says Crazy Smooth. “But mostly people have a sense of happiness and joy when they come out of a show.”
He recalls one incident where an elderly woman in a walker struggled to her feet to give IZM a standing ovation at the conclusion of the show.
Indeed, one of the merits of IZM is that it exposes a little known, primarily urban art form to a wider audience.
“It’s interesting to bring IZM to a formal setting (like the Yukon Arts Centre), and see older people come because they are curious about hip-hop dance,” he says.
“They can see what we do and see that it is every bit as professional, profound, and intellectual as any other style of dance.”