Hip Hop Dance was in rare form at the Bates Dance Festival last weekend. Rennie Harris Pure Dance Movement showed the audience how the excitement of Hip Hop can be enhanced with skillful staging and choreography. Harris knows how to bring the level up to not only a fevered pitch, but he also has the skill to evoke subtle and quiet scenes that show off the full range of hip hop movement vocabulary. Oh yeah...also going for this troupe were eleven very exciting and strong dancers.
The evening consisted of eight dances choreographed from 1992 to 2010. Beginning with "Breath" we watch four b-girls moving in rhythmic and dramatic patterns. Each dancer brought a personalized style to the work. When they were working in unison doing the same steps, they each had a distinctive presence adding individual nuances to the steps. Harris showed the women's power in "Nina Pah-Tina's Troubled Man" where the guys just can't get an edge over the force of the b-girls. It's a light-hearted take on who gets an upper hand, and it's clearly the girls here as the strut and dance and over shadow the guys.
The second half of the show featured some of Harris ground breaking work. An excerpt form "Rome and Jewels" his modern day hip hop take on the Shakespeare classic, featured a performance by Rodney Mason who co-wrote the revised monologue with Harris. Using modern day phrases and words with a rapper personna he revisits Shakespeare and West Side Story using the world of Graffiti and MC's.
The show ended with the 1995 wow-er "Students of the Asphalt Jungle." Watching the six b-boys was breath-taking. Harris has crafted a dance that shows the sheer physical power of hip hop with brilliant staging and use of the intense music of The Good Men. The dancers show incredible strength and virtuosic dancing with tricks and moves that had the audience cheering and clapping. You must watch some of this piece now from the YouTube clip.
Harris is a master craftsman and ingenious contemporary choreographer. Go see this company perform.
Rennie Harris Pure Dance Movement, Friday July 13 at The Bates Dance Festival in Lewiston Maine.