The City is my Playground: A New Take on City Streets

In the last several years, we’ve seen hip hop share its vibes with a wide range of art forms. From fashion to grammar to lifestyles and every imaginable facet in between, the reach of hip hop culture’s influence is undeniable. London athlete, b-girl and movement artist, Nicola Geismar, aims to continue that influence through pioneering her City is my Playground style of physical expression.

Photo credit to Shanna Gibbs

Photo credit to Shanna Gibbs

At her New York launch of the method last Monday, Geismar, who is also known as NCG, mingled through Harlem’s Hi-ARTS space as guests observed video, photos and a canvas mural of her work. NCG shared that she is also hoping to make a second attempt at a debut in London, as her first show there was not as successful as she had hoped.

Hindered by an injury and Influenced by hip-hop culture and her training as a pilates teacher, dancer and b-girl, Geismar has created her own method of movement surrounding the idea that the city she loves is the only space she needs for self-expression. Taking to the streets with various photographers for her showcase, NCG documented her newly developed style, which relies on the lampposts, doorways, and various other attributes of city living to facilitate movement and strengthening of the body. NCG’s method draws heavily from the freezes and poses of Breakin as well as the core strength obtained from the ideals of pilates and other core strengthening moves.

While this new movement seems sure to catch on across cities with its reliance on street life and heavy hip-hop influence, presenting the style in a way that appeals to others as achievable may prove to be Geismar’s first challenge. Each photograph and video clip provided at the New York exhibit displays an impressive set of skills and a highly disciplined body. However, in speaking to Geismar, it is obvious that she intends for this to be a movement in which anyone can participate. Though she did lead a workshop last Thursday to bring her knowledge and method to interested parties, the exclusivity of her shows seem to emit the vibe of a highly trained, admirable athlete rather than a self-expression accessible to the public.

Photo credit to

Photo credit to

NCG’s work is also in infancy as an art form. Through the work of certain photographers, some of her poses were captured beautifully, granting a modern, abstract art flavor to the moves of her body. Unfortunately, the majority of the poses represented at her show Monday night seemed to be lacking in creativity and originality, which does not coincide with the novel nature of the movement itself. While it is obvious that her work requires an immense amount of training and discipline, it seems NCG is still struggling to find the right combination of representation and creativity for her movement to fully shine.

That said, City is my Playground is most definitely a movement that New York can, and most likely will, be quick to adopt. Coupled with society’s growing focus on physical fitness, hip hop culture will raise this method to another level, as it does with almost all art forms with which it comes into contact. Whether or not she has fully grasped the necessary actions to bring her idea to the forefront, Nicola Geismar is working to pioneer and share her brainchild and has absolutely chosen the right city for the task.

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