The Lock In mixes hip hop with traditional English folk dance
Demon Barbers bring new show to 2013 Edinburgh Festival Fringe
This article is from 2013.
Mixing hip hop with traditional English folk dance, the Demon Barbers are on a mission to make clogging and Morris dancing as cool as breakdance. Kelly Apter finds out how
The Demon Barbers describe their show, The Lock In, as ‘the UK’s No.1 folk and hip hop dance extravaganza’. While it seems a fairly safe bet that it’s the only folk and hip hop dance extravaganza the UK has to offer, plaudits have not been thin on the ground for this unique mix of live music, English folk dance and hip hop.
Set in a local pub after hours, the show came together when Damien Barber, founder of electric folk band the Demon Barbers, and choreographer Bobak Walker had a chance meeting at a dance studio in Leeds.
Barber and his band brought Morris and clog dancing to the table, Walker brought hip hop and contemporary dance. A short way into rehearsals, however, they discovered these seemingly disparate worlds were not so far apart.
‘We stripped away the music and costumes from Morris dancing, and looked at which moves were the closest to our hip hop material,’ explains Walker. ‘Then we put the two dances next to each other and they were really similar in many ways. We knew there might be some similarities – obviously everyone has only got two arms and two legs – but actually seeing the two styles next to each other like that was a real crunch moment in the rehearsals.’
Having worked out their commonalities, they then set about celebrating their differences. At the start of The Lock In, each style gets a chance to shine on its own, but as the show progresses, the two dance forms come together and an already lively show gets even livelier.
All of which is backed up by one of the UK’s finest folk bands performing live, something the clog and Morris dancers are familiar with – less so the breakdancers, who are all used to performing to pre-recorded beats.
‘It’s completely normal for the folk dancers, and they’ve all got a great relationship with the musicians,’ says Walker. ‘But as hip hop dancers, we’ve had to learn about that. Which might have been difficult if the Demon Barbers were very traditional, but because they’re a more modern rock / folk band, and open to trying new things and listening to our music, it made it a lot easier.’
Does Walker feel that he and Barber are helping people appreciate that English folk dance can be just as dynamic and exciting to watch as hip hop? ‘Yes, that’s basically our mantra,’ says Walker. ‘One of the reasons I’ve attached myself to this project is that I think culturally it’s really important for people to know about English folk dance. I didn’t really know that there was a scene out there before this – and what little I did know was just from the media making fun of it. So it’s nice for us to have the two styles next to each other, and keep pushing that mantra.’
The Lock In, Zoo Southside, 662 6892, 4–16 Aug (not 13), 7.10pm, £12 (£10). Preview 3 Aug, £5.