Tag Archives: Dance

Degrassi Star Becomes An American Idiot

Jake Epstein in American Idiot

Jake Epstein in American Idiot

Team Risky Fuel was so full of existential angst after checking out the Canadian debut of Green Day’s American Idiot musical that we had to dig a little deeper.

So Sarah tracked down Jake Epstein, one of American Idiot’s main performers, to get the lowdown on what it’s like channeling Billie Joe Armstrong every day. Along the way Jake, who played Craig Manning on cult series Degrassi: The Next Generation, also dished on his former castmate Drake, Glee, and subversive musical Spring Awakening.

You can read the story at Spinner by clicking here.



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Green Day’s American Idiot Awakens Angst

American Idiot cast member Scott J. Campbell

American Idiot cast member Scott J. Campbell

Aaron and I went to the opening of American Idiot at the Toronto
Centre For The Arts on Thursday night. He went out of a slightly
morbid curiosity. I went because I was reared on alternative rock and
show tunes in almost equal measure, and the show seemed like it was
made especially for me.

As a rocker, I was more amused than satisfied with the production. But
as a Broadway baby, I was completely entranced.

The 90 minute musical based on Green Day’s 2004 concept album of
the same name isn’t a perfect marriage of rock ’n’ roll and musicals,
but it is a very good musical that is fueled by the spirit of rock.
Much like Spring Awakening (director Michael Mayer’s other
groundbreaking show that infused popular music with a more traditional
theatre structure) used pop to express sexual frustration and coming
of age melancholy, Idiot harnesses Green Day’s fury, frustration and
passion to tell the story of a trio of friends facing a post-9/11

Indeed, American Idiot is almost a companion piece to Spring
Awakening, or at least its angsty big sister. If Spring Awakening is a
pubescent teen flailing around, furiously masturbating and learning
about love and loss for the first time, then Idiot is on the verge of
adulthood, clad in combat boots and existential crises, writing angry
poetry about an empty world that is nothing like the one they were

The plot is bare bones to the point of abstraction (it’s really not
much more complex than the high concept pitch I tossed out two
paragraphs ago) but Idiot is more about feeling than story. And
everything from the choreography, the balls-out performances by the
cast, and the brilliant stage design really nails that essence. It’s
not quite as in-your-face as an actual rock concert, but American
Idiot is one of the most visceral musicals I’ve ever seen – although
experienced is probably a more accurate description.

American Idiot runs until January 15 at the Toronto Centre For The Arts
The cast will also be performing as part of CityTV’s New Year’s Eve
Festivities tonight.

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Filed under Concerts, Dance, Music

The Murga Dancers Of Carnival, Caprichosos De San Telmo

Caprichosos De San Telmo

Of the five music-related documentaries that I saw at the Toronto International Film Festival this year, four were about internationally famous pop and rock artists, and the other was about a group of working class musicians who live on the fringes of society in Buenos Aires and perform a style of African-influenced song and dance known as Murga.

This might sound like a particularly easy game of One Of These Things Is Not Like The Other, but the film, Caprichosos De San Telmo, really isn’t so far removed from its more famous and mainstream counterparts. The group, also known as Caprichosos De San Telmo, might face a different cultural and financial reality than U2, Paul McCartney and Neil Young, but their musical experiences — the sacrifices they make for their craft, the creative process, and the pure joy and beauty of expression — are remarkably similar.

I had a chance to talk to director Alison Murray about the film, the band and the politics of Murga dancing during the festival. Here are some of the highlights:

How did you first discover Caprichosos De San Telmo?

About two and a half years ago, I was walking around in the neighbourhood of San Telmo, pushing my daughter in her stroller, she must have been six months at the time. I was trying to get her to stop crying, and I heard this drumming. I started walking towards the drumming and, as the drumming got louder, she fell asleep. I thought “OK, this works,”  so I kept going until I found the source of the noise, and I saw this Murga rehearsing in the park. I was just fascinated by the rhythms and the dancing, but particularly the dancing, because I have a long relationship with dance and filming dance. It just seemed so obviously African, and yet there were no African faces in the group. That led me to explore the history of Africans in Buenos Aires and I learned that there had been a huge African population that’s now pretty much gone.

Did you know almost immediately that you wanted to make a film about them, or did the idea grow on you over time?

I thought that it would be a good subject and then I think I mentioned it to my producer, Kathleen Smith, who I work with a lot and she said I should do it. It was long after that that I just took my camera and started shooting kind of randomly, not really knowing if it was going to lead anywhere or not. And once I started, it kind of gained momentum and I realized that it was going to be a project worth completing.

Were the members of the group reticent when you first started showing up with your camera?

Not at all. They loved it. In particular, some of them were real kind of clowns who jumped in front of the camera every chance they could. And that’s my experience with documentary making, at least for me. I made a film about carnival workers in the U.S. and also about people hopping freight trains and often people really like to be filmed. If you’re respectful and you’re not making a spectacle of them and it’s not kind of a reality TV treatment, then I think people feel validated by having someone who’s interested in their lives and it makes them feel good.

Did you know anything about the Murga before you discovered Caprichosos?

No. I didn’t know what it was. I didn’t know the origins. Nothing. I just encountered them. I went to Buenos Aires because I was interested in tango, and I didn’t realize there were other dances that were part of the culture of the city as well, like Murga.

Pop culture seems to have some influence on the group, at least in terms of the way that its members decorate their costumes with famous logos and characters. Is it also an influence on the music and the dance?

That’s an interesting question. That’s a kind of controversial question, in a way. Some of them have Bart Simpson or The Rolling Stones tongue on their costume, but other people have Che Guevara, which is very political. So there is a little bit of interchange with pop culture in that respect. But in terms of the dance,  somebody said to me once, “Oh yeah, but those movements that those guys are doing, that’s from hip-hop, that’s not Murga.”

Well,  hip hop-has African routes as well as Murga has African roots. You can say that’s not traditional Murga, but it’s coming from the same source, so I think it’s all valid. Amongst some of the dancers, there was some contention over whether something from hip-hop fit into their vocabulary. You could see movements in hip-hop and other movements in Murga that probably have both come from African dance somewhere along the lines, but the Murga dancers didn’t learn those moves from watching MTV, they learned them because they’ve always been in the Murga vocabulary.

Do you think that the Murga is a malleable art form?

Yes. Definitely. You can see different communities and different neighbourhoods have a distinct style in each area, but that’s starting to change a little bit now. Pichi, the leader of the group that I filmed was a little bit disparaging of that because he said that… it’s a double-edged sword. There’s a little more support for Murga in terms of them getting grants and things, but that means that there’s people who are learning Murga and then going into another community and teaching it, like teaching it in a community college. That’s a new thing that’s just started. Pichi doesn’t like that because he thinks each Murga should develop its own style within the neighbourhood,  and if people start traveling around the city,  taking different styles in different places,  then those styles are going to get all mixed up and watered down. I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing, but he’s a little uncomfortable about that idea.

I loved Pichi’s story in the film. He’s almost like KISS or Cher, in the way that he keeps threatening to retire from music.  Is he still with the group?

Oh yeah. I don’t think he’s ever going to stop, and this film is just kind of given him more passion to keep on going.

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David Guetta Won’t Abandon His Original Fans

David Guetta

David Guetta

David Guetta says he’ll always be loyal to his original fans.

That’s refreshing. ‘Cause let’s face it, once you’re arena-level, it gets pretty easy to forget the little people.

Sarah talked to Guetta about this at the I Heart Radio festival in Las Vegas for the AOL Music Blog. You can read the story here.

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LMFAO Explain Shuffling

Sarah interviewed LMFAO, they of party rockin’ in the house fame, and asked them to explain their dance, “shuffling.”

We here at Risky Fuel think it’s important to stay on top of dance trends and so should you. As such, please go here and read the related AOL Music Blog story about this crazy new wave.

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