Profile: Street dance goes global with YAK FILMS
YAK films of Oakland, California shoot the world’s best dance crews. Yoram Savion, founder of YAK, is a guy who knows the importance of style.
YAK films are an international video crew who shoot the best in every subculture of urban dance. From small beginnings, their films are now watched by an audience of millions, and give voice to the rising talents of the scene.
Their mission to bring raw dance content to YouTube, from street-based dance videos, to dance event coverage, sees them travelling the planet to seek elite and supremely talented newcomers.
YAK’s style is uncompromising, documentary and fresh – in both senses of the word. Using filming methods that compliment the dance material, their shoots often use the urban environment not just as a backdrop but also as a symbol of the dance culture that they bring to life.
Describing themselves as both an alternative to mainstream and a visual wrecking crew, YAK, at its heart, provides a rare chance for talent to shine on a global stage.
“YouTube has given dancers the tools to promote themselves far and wide,” YAK co-founder Yoram Savion tells SYS. “The platform is still very new, and there's a whole new generation coming on board now that is raised up in this YouTube and Facebook environment. I think the future is very promising when it comes to independent, alternative artists that want to get it on their own, with their crew and in community.”
Savion arrived in San Francisco aged 16 and combined elements of multimedia and journalism in his UC Berkeley course. He went on to teach workshops in the city’s Youth Uprising programme before translating his skills into his own crew.
Working with designer/musician Ben Tarquin and dancer/filmmaker Kash Gaines, the newly-founded YAK began covering TURF dancing in San Francisco, while Savion returned to his home nation with camera in hand to cover B-Boy events – building up a loyal Euro following as well. “Savion had the foresight to capitalize on his duel French citizenship,” says Rachel Swan of the East Bay Express. “Once Yak Films built its European platform, its videos became hot.”
Now a truly global outfit, YAK are in huge demand and are servicing the needs of urban dance crews with a signature style of filming. Their style – sometimes dark and brooding, edgy and popping – is going international, but Savion knows that it’s born of Oakland.
“I started by teaching at a youth community center in East Oakland, CA, and Kash was actually my student,” says Yoram. “Through our work at the center, we met many local dancers, some who were a part of the TURF FEINZ crew. We started making videos and soon that's all we could think about and do, and we created YAK FILMS from the need to express ourselves beyond the boundaries of a single dance style, neighborhood or country.”
As YAK evolves, their style has too. From the early days of raw shooting, where they would just shoot on the street as the dancers hit it, they are now moving into a slightly more polished approach. Picking the right songs in advance, developing more elaborate concepts – it’s all part of the style. And style, Yoram admits, is part of the success of dancers who really want to make it.
“Advertisers and companies are constantly looking for the next thing, the next movement, the next look that will help them connect to young consumers,” he says. “So you might get projects and opportunities coming your way not just because you're an amazing dancer, but also because of your personal style and the way you carry yourself.
“But it should never be forced or manufactured. This style comes from within, from your genuine need to express yourself, to free yourself from any hardship in your life, and let the positive energy out into the world, and just dance.”