Washington Post MOVING "RIZE" HAS LEGS June 24, 2005

"Rize" traces the form's evolution from "krump sessions" in people's homes and back yards to playgrounds, streets and pretty much any open space offering room for movement and an audience, to Tommy the Clown's informal competitive "circles" that grow into annual Battle Zones that fill the Great Western Forum arena, pitting teams of clowns and krumpers against one another in a cacophonous swirl of posturing, put-downs and body quakes, with winners and losers chosen through gladiator-arena-style acclaim. The deeper stakes are sanity, survival and, in some cases, spiritual redemption.


Photographer and music video director David LaChapelle documents the growth of a dance that has origins with Tommy Johnson, known locally as Tommy the Clown. A charismatic former drug dealer who turned his life around after a stint in prison, Johnson began entertaining at children's parties as "the hip-hop clown" in 1992, attracting fans and followers. He opened his own hip-hop clown academy. Today, about 50 "clown groups" practice the fast-paced gyrating he started, complete with painted faces that resemble tribal warriors more than traditional clowns.

New York Magazine BIG SHOES TO FILL July 27, 2005

Everyone loved him and his antics—the parties spilled out into the street—and an odd thing happened: Teens and pre-teens, instead of finding Tommy’s antics foolish, began to imitate him, but on their own terms. Pretty soon, Tommy had enlisted a bunch of them in his own “Clown Academy,” instructing them on how to do parties themselves. He was growing the business, but he was also growing a subculture. The kids found “krumping” (I’d guess the derivation is some combination of clowning, crunk music, and jumping), with its competitive edge (dancers gather in a circle to watch a solo or pair of performers show off new moves), its money-making element, and its opportunity to band together out of kinship, to be a viable alternative to the gangs.

Chicago Sun Times RIZE : IT'S UP, UP AND AWAY July 27, 2005

"Rize" is the rare documentary that plays as breaking news. Krump and clowning have become so big in L.A. that the fifth annual krumping competition, known as Battle Zone, was held in the Great Western Forum. Yet until this movie was made by Vanity Fair photographer David LaChapelle, it was a phenomenon that existed below the radar of the media. It's an alternative to the hip-hop style that is growing a little old; because recording labels and cable TV have so much invested in hip-hop, however, they have been slow to embrace krump. Or maybe they just couldn't believe their eyes.

Boston Herald LORD OF THE DANCE July 27, 2005

The life-affirming message of "Rize'' is that when you're too poor to afford ballet school - or ballet slippers for that matter - you turn your own body and existing wardrobe into your art form. With the addition of a little clown paint, that is. These dancers combine Asian and Brazilian marital arts moves, African tribal dancing, shadow boxing, the gesticulations of crazed street people, the sexually suggestive gyrations of professional strippers, holy-rolling and what appears to be a mime-like recreation of the Rodney King beating.

Chicago Tribune TRIBUNE ARTS CRITICS JULY 27, 2005

A descendent of 1980s break dancing, clowning, the subject of the documentary movie "Rize," is a contemporary street art all its own, characterized by speedy, flowing limbs and feverish shakes that amount to a self-induced bout of Saint Vitus' dance. Here and there are echoes of the old break dance spins and twirls, but clowning boasts its own 21st-Century style, along with an up-to-date hipness and confounding athletic tricks. For Johnson, it is more than an aesthetic pastime: In an area besieged by drive-by shootings, drug deals and unemployment, clowning is his way of offering an optimistic alternative for youngsters, a means of self-expression and a chance to channel positive energy.

Entertainment Weekly STRETCHING OUT A KRUMP July 27, 2005

As long as it showcases the art of krump, underscoring the dancers with ominous hip-hop beats, Rize is such a vibrant eruption of motion and attitude that you can forgive the film for being disorganized and too skimpy on street-dance history. We meet Tommy the Clown, the professional party entertainer who's credited with inventing krump, but we aren't given a vivid enough sense of what he created in '92 or how it developed in the hands of other performers over the next decade. That said, the Battle Zone V arena contest that provides the film with its climax could be the krumping version of Fight Club. It has the delirious force of a revival meeting that can't decide whether it's straining toward heaven or hell.

Hollywood Reporter RIZE July 27, 2005

“Rize” looks at practitioners of rubber-limbed, freestyle clown dancing and its fiercer spin-off, krumping, which best forth in predominantly black, low-income areas of South Central such as Watts, Inglewood and Compton. Clown dancing arose in response to the Rodney King riots of ’92, when a one-time drug dealer who had discovered his inner entertainer turned himself into Tommy the Clown, whose birthday parties or kids and Hip-Hop Clown Academy spawned a generation of clown dancers and krumpers. With his rainbow wig and painted face, Tommy, a father fighter to kids in need, turns the Bozo template into an unlikely expression of dignity.

Rolling Stones SUNDANCE PIMPS OUT June 27, 2005

Photographer David LaChapelle's Rize is a visual miracle; he hits the L.A. ghettos to film the krumping dance phenom and scores an unexpected knockout as social history.

Paul Provenza and Penn Jillette's The Aristocrats features more than 100 comics telling the same gross joke. You'll laugh till it hurts.

And Keep an Eye Out for...
The kinky sex in Marcos Siega's Pretty Persuasion, in which Evan Rachel Wood plays a fifteen-year-old who goes down on a nerdy boy and a lesbian TV reporter (Jane Krakowski) to help her sexual-harassment case against a teacher.

Los Angeles Times RIZE June 24, 2005

Having achieved success as a photographer, music video and commercials director and as director and designer of Elton John's "The Red Piano" show at Caesars Palace, LaChapelle now reveals he has the documentary filmmaker's gift for charting the evolution of a new form of artistic expression as a way of illuminating an entire world, that of South-Central Los Angeles, where people of goodwill continue to form a warm, mutually supportive community in the face of the omnipresent dangers of drive-by gang shootings.


Twenty-four frames per second, the rate at which film traditionally moves through a camera - and the speed at which, according to Jean-Luc Godard, cinema discloses the truth - seems too sluggish for Mr. LaChapelle's purpose, which is to record a form of dance that flourishes in some African-American neighborhoods in greater Los Angeles.
Called "clowning" or "krumping" - the terms refer to distinct but related styles - this kind of dancing is fierce, fast and frenetic, turning its practitioners into whirlwinds of flying limbs. Part of the pleasure of watching "Rize" is the sheer astonishment at their performances, which are shot and edited cleanly, with the focus on dance rather than movie-making technique.

NPR RIZE June 21, 2005

There's a great documentary called "Rize," directed by the fashion style photographer David LaChapelle, about inner-city kids in South Central LA who turn away from violence and turn towards dance, and have these astonishing dance competitions that essentially work as a kind of a de facto cultural underground. You've got to really know where to go to find these places out. And LaChapelle, who found a lot of these kids when he used them in music videos, decided to spend time with them and investigate their lives.


Iconic fashion photographer and music-video director David LaChapelle, dressed casually in jeans and a T-shirt and sipping green tea in the lobby of the Chateau Marmont (where he conducts a lot of his business) nods his head vigorously and laughs when told this story. It’s a reaction he’s used to. Krumped was the fetus phase of the feature-length documentary Rize, a hot ticket at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and one of the summer’s grassroots-hyped counter-Sith options. But before it evolved into Rize and even before it befuddled and wowed the people of Aspen, Krumped was upsetting formula.

Wall Street Journal RIZE April 27, 2005

The movie opens with a useful disclaimer: “The footage in this film has not been sped up in any way.” Human bodies don’t usually move with the wild abandon and muscular grace seen here, the here being mainly South Central Los Angeles and the nearby city of Inglewood. It looks like the laws of gravity, and conversation of energy, have been suspended. But “Rize” – the title derives from the “rise up” phrase in Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech – goes back to the phenomenon’s roots, and shows what drives the dancers to dance as they do.

Time Out New York HUSTLE AND GLOW February 20, 2005

The movie mixes music-video-like sequences with fly-on-the-wall movements and has all the garish color of LaChapelle’s cover shoots, but you’d be hard pressed to find a better slice of cultural anthropology or a more vibrant portrait of inner-city life. You want the ‘hood? Rize has it, in all its ragged glory, and LaChapelle’s film made its fictional counterpart seem even more woefully lacking in comparison.

Village Voice PARK CITY, UTAH February 1, 2009

Director David LaChapelle opens with images of L.A. ablaze in '65 and '92, and ends, after several sad turns, with a Maya Angelou poem. In between, the dancers prove more than capable of directing themselves, which makes the movie less tricky to applaud.

Variety RIZE January 31, 2010

Rize is an expansion of LaChapelle’s previous Sundance foray, his short "Krumped,” which earned an honorable mention nod last year, and continues an extremely unlikely union between one of Vanity Fairs top photographers and poor kids in the ghetto. A brief introduction establishes a historical context for Los Angeles with clips of the 1965 Watts Rebellion and what the film terms “the 1992 Rodney King riots” (which others view as the city’s second modern urban rebellion).

Out of the ’92 ashes, the resourceful Tommy Johnson created a persona called Tommy the Clown, blending a traditional birthday party clown act with hip-hop attitude and a strong anti-gang message.