Robert Muraine brings his b-boy bravado to BuskerFest.
BUSKERFEST with ROBERT MURAINE, aka MR. FANTASTIC, MOOKIE MORRIS and others, Thursday through Sunday (August 21-24), Thursday 12-10 pm, Friday 12-11 pm, Saturday 11 am-11 pm, Sunday 11 am-8 pm. St. Lawrence Market (Front Street between Jarvis and Church). Pwyc. torontobuskerfest.com.
If you're a fan of TV dance-off So You Think You Can Dance? Robert Muraine needs no introduction.
The 21-year-old from Los Angeles won over audiences earlier this year with his otherworldly "pop‘n'lock" technique, prompting judge Nigel Lythgoe to label Muraine one of his favourite dancers of the year.
Now riding a wave of buzz following his memorable stint on prime-time, Muraine is prepping to wow audiences at T.O.'s annual BuskerFest street party.
His brief foray into reality TV proved as unconventional as his robot-meets-contortionist b-boy dancing style.
After making it through the initial auditions and winning a spot in the Las Vegas tapings, Muraine abruptly took himself out of the competition - a decision that was unfathomable to the show's other diehard contestants. Despite Muraine's obvious talent as a unique mover, the show's structure demanded that he switch styles and compete in areas he had no training in.
"When I got to Vegas and had to do hip-hop choreography, I was like, ‘Nah, I'm just going to go home.' I did what I wanted to do, so I went out on my own terms," he says on the phone from his L.A. apartment.
Drama aside, the show's producers took a shining to him and welcomed him back twice as a guest performer, when he delighted both
audiences and network executives, who saw ratings spike whenever he appeared.
"The show completely launched my career," he admits of the international TV exposure, "but there's also this whole other five-year story before the show that people don't know about."
Muraine first got serious about dance in the summer of 2003, practising "popping" - a street style where dancers rhythmically relax or contract muscles to execute a series of jerky "hits" - in front of a mirror for hours a day. His style, he says, is influenced more by "miming and entertaining than by any other form of dance."
Things that "aren't human or alive, things that move mechanically or differently" are what fuel his creativity.
Inspired by early West Coast poppers like Heckle and Jeckle and Playboy Eddie, Muraine took to the streets, slowly honing his craft in dance circles and making some decent coin from curious passers?by.
Considering his street-performance roots, it's fitting that Muraine will be one of the top draws at this year's four-day BuskerFest. Throughout the fest, you can catch Muraine performing as one-half of the duo Pulp alongside his pal Garvin Tran (aka Gyroe), who's an 11-year popping veteran.
"Our shows aren't very long. We get straight to the point and we blow it up real fast," says Muraine of the duo's routine. Their rapid-fire assault should work well at BuskerFest, where there's no set schedule. Instead, artists perform multiple times spontaneously throughout the day.
Toronto Canadian Idol contender Mookie Morris busks out.
The festival, which benefits Epilepsy Toronto, will also feature another reality TV star, Canadian Idol current season top-five finalist Mookie Morris, as well as 80 other performers ranging from stand-up comics to "fire artists" who hail from all over the globe.