For Christa Davis, KRUMP started three springs back at a national conference in San Diego, Calif. But for Thomas Johnson, aka Tommy the Clown, it began more than 20 years ago.
Davis, a University of Idaho doctoral student studying Physical Education Pedagogy with a dance emphasis, teaches UI classes, such as children’s dance, to pre-service teachers. When she attended the national conference three years ago, she spent half a day with Tommy and his crew in order to learn more about “krumping” or KRUMP, which stands for Kingdom Rejoicing Uplifting Mighty Praise.
Tommy the Clown created KRUMP.
“He was born in the inner-city,” Davis said.
One day in his early teens, he visited a cousin in inner-city Los Angeles. His cousin was doing a drug deal and Tommy decided to join in and conduct a drug deal, too.
“He made lots of money,” Davis said. “It became his vocational vision.”
In a few years, he moved to Los Angeles, set up his own space as a drug dealer and eventually got caught. He spent five years in prison.
“He had a lot of time to think,” Davis said. “He thought he needed to do something positive that was not destructive.”
Once released, he found a job as a typist clerk. One of his co-workers asked if he’d be a clown for her daughter’s birthday. He had no idea how to be a clown, Davis said, but he bought a rainbow-colored afro-wig and thought, “I can do hip-hop dance, so I’ll be a hip-hop clown.”
“The kids loved him,” Davis said.
From there, he decided his “clown dance” was the positive thing he was looking for.
“So he used what he knew as a drug dealer and translated it into dance,” Davis said.
Tommy rainbow-painted a van, played music through loud speakers and danced in the streets. Children were attracted to the music and dancing, and eventually requested to perform at birthday parties with him. So, he developed an academy for KRUMP.
“The kids could dance as long as they were gang-free, drug-free and doing well in school,” Davis said.
KRUMP took on new forms and morphed into its own style. It was a way for dancers to release what they were feeling, whether it was happy, frustrated, mad or sad.
“KRUMP is unique,” she said. “It’s initiation-motivated movement.”
She said your first step leads to your second. For example, if your chest pops forward, your foot will step forward.
Tommy’s academy was full, as was his crew, and other crews began to break off.
“And from there, it exploded,” Davis said.
Some crews, sometimes gang-like, leaned toward more sexual or violent dances, but Tommy and others stayed true to his dance.
And so will Davis as she leads two KRUMP workshops as part of the 2013 Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival.
“Krumping allows people to be healthy emotionally, based on how they’re moving,” she said. “There are no mistakes and you don’t have to be perfect.”
Davis will give a brief history of KRUMP and lead two krumping combinations. She said there may be a chance for a KRUMP battle or an improvisational session.
Lindsey Treffry can be reached at email@example.com