‘The Missing Element’ Brings Beatbox and Dance Together at The Guggenheim Museum

From House of Yes to the Guggenheim stage, the Works & Process premiere explores the limits of human capability through natural expression

| 09 May 2022 | 03:51

Works & Process, the performing arts series at the Guggenheim Museum, presents the world premier of “The Missing Element” on May 15 and 16 in the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Peter B. Lewis Theater. The genre-bending music of beatboxing and the powerful dance of breaking, krumping and flexing join together to push the boundaries of human artistic expression.

Creative directors Chris Celiz, a world champion beatboxer, and b-boy Anthony Vito Rodriguez “Invertebrate” assemble a formidable cast that comprises krumper Brian “Hallow Dreamz” Henry, flexers Joseph Carella “Klassic” and King Havoc, breakers Graham Reese “B-boy Kilo” and Rodriguez, and members of the Beatbox House, including Amit Bhowmick, Celiz, Neil Meadows “NaPoM,” Gene Shinozaki, and Kenny Urban.

The two crews were first introduced when Urban and Rodriguez performed at the same bar mitzvah, and informal collaborations quickly ensued. There were parties at The Beatbox House, a hip hop festival in Brooklyn, and the first official production of “The Missing Element” at a pair of shows at House of Yes in 2017 and 2018.

In the show’s early days, Celiz and Rodriguez relied on their collaborators’ improvisational skills to fill the run of show. When Works & Process invited them to direct a full version of the show, Celiz and Rodriguez knew they would have to expand on the original concept. The improvisations from the early iterations of the show were “so hip hop,” recalls Celiz, and became the bones of the full production.

Four Natural Elements

COVID hit, and the group workshopped the concept at Kaatsbaan Cultural Park in upstate New York as part of Works & Process’ bubble residencies, incorporating a narrative built around the four natural elements: earth, wind, water and fire. Beatboxers and dancers were paired to represent elements, and the directors stepped back to let their talented peers run the show. The lack of direct guidance, says Rodriguez, leaves room for dancers beatboxers and audience members alike to consider “what is this element is to you?” What’s the missing element of beatbox? Of dance? Of hip hop?

After the bubble residencies, the group performed abridged versions of the show at Little Island, the Guggenheim Museum rotunda, Kaatsbaan Cultural Park, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, and NY PopsUp during the pandemic.

The freestyling of the early days are at the front of the performers’ minds, but they are ready to bring a long-form, narrative driven version of “The Missing Element” to The Guggenheim stage. “We are not conveying the similar story that you normally would expect from a hip hop show,” says Rodriguez. “But you definitely feel the hip hop. And we’re excited to share that.”

After the world premiere on May 15 and 16 in Manhattan, Works & Process will take The Missing Element on the road, first to the Guild Hall of East Hampton in July and then to the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao in October.