B-boys to Men

Kathy Wood choreographs her troupe's dances. Books their gigs in Europe. And makes them turn off their beepers during rehearsal.

Since their reconciliation, Kathy says her relationship with all the boys is better than ever but that Ragland, in particular, is more affectionate. "We talked about some things that we hadn't talked about," she says with protective ambiguity. "I guess we just needed to do that."

At the beginning of a recent rehearsal, it seemed as if she were right. The boys showed up at 7:20 p.m. for their seven o'clock rehearsal, shaving nearly 25 minutes off their usual 45-minute hip-hop time delay. But they weren't exactly ready to work. There were haircuts to be taken care of first.

Toby put John in a smock, plugged his clippers into an outlet on the front porch and started shaving meticulously, despite the less-than-ideal outdoor conditions. At first Kathy thought the entire situation was a riot and set about teasing poor John with expressions of mock horror: "Oh, John," she grimaced. "Toby, you shouldn't have done that." But as Toby's careful cutting took longer and longer, she realized she had been had. Why were they so late? Why hadn't they warmed up yet? And where was Ragland? He just had knee surgery, but he's still included in much of the choreography. And he should definitely be at rehearsal.

As Kathy stormed around the studio trying all of Ragland's phone numbers, Mario took over her post giving the hair cuttee a hard time. The normally softspoken John would have none of that: "Man, I already got Big Mama rushing me," he complained.

At about eight o'clock, Kathy finally got the reluctant boys rounded up for their rehearsal -- all except Ragland, that is, who never showed up at all. She sighed at the partial accomplishment, realizing perhaps that the Fly guys will always be rambunctious teenagers, never the obedient children she dreams of. "You either accept it," she says, "or you make an old woman out of yourself."

With that, she set to work trying to get the boys to complete a seemingly impossible combination of fancy footwork, direction changes and drops to the floor in a few quick counts of eight. First Kathy counted a little more loudly, then she clapped out the speedy rhythm. Finally she got up and marked through the combination herself. "No, it's faster than that," she directed the dancers. As usual, the Fly guys didn't seem that interested in Kathy's sense of time.

Fly performs June 26 and 27 at the Jewish Community Center. For more information, call (713)551-7255.

E-mail Lauren Kern at lauren_kern@houstonpress.com.

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