Poppin', lockin', breakin' animation -- even if you're not well-versed in the different styles and nuances of Hip Hop dancing, chances are you'll take something positive away from a RENNIE HARRIS/PUREMOVEMENT performance. In fact, that's precisely the vision of Philadelphia native Lorenzo "Rennie" Harris -- to bring the universal themes of Hip Hop dance to a wider audience.Presented by Contemporary Dance Theater in the Aronoff Center's Jarson-Kaplan Theater on Friday and Saturday, the widely acclaimed company is making its first-ever Cincinnati appearance. Formed in 1992, the all-male company has been disseminating Hip Hop culture through residencies, lecture demonstrations, workshops, mentoring programs and, of course, exuberant performances.
More than a Hip Hop artist, Harris heralds the form as a contemporary indigenous one, with roots in African-American and Latino inner-city communities. Flash back to New York's South Bronx in the late 1970s. Steeped in the presence of gangs and their resulting rivalries, young people sought an escape in what would become a sort of ritual dancing. At urban neighborhood block parties, the DJs or emcees began repeating the musical "breakbeats" on dance records back to back. Breakbeats are musical measures when the top melody drops out, bringing the core instrumental rhythm -- often drums and bass line -- to the foreground. Certain dancers ("b-boys" or "break-dance-boys") would wait for these "breaks" then cut loose to those essential heavy funk rhythms. The setting contributed to break-dancing's aggressive stances and power moves -- one-handed headstands, head-spins, alongside characteristic kicks and freezes.
For their Cincinnati performances, Rennie Harris/Puremovement will present a diverse body of repertory work in a range of Hip Hop styles not limited to break-dancing. Judging by the company's list of sold-out performances in several venues worldwide, the dancing is reputed to be virtuosic, electric and highly physical, while offering broad entertainment appeal. From its urban origins as a street dance, Hip Hop, according to Harris' philosophy, has spawned "the most important original expression of a new generation." That's a bold statement -- check it out.