Review: Rennie Harris’s Hip-Hop Dance Mixtape

BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn in the middle of the opening set! on thursday Rapper and performance poet Decora He dedicated the song to Pete Seeger, the folk singer he called his mentor. Performed by a full band with horns and electric guitars, the song was a riff on Seeger’s “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?”

Despite the surprises, this was a good introduction to the main act, Lenny Harris Pure Movement Dance Group. For decades, Harris has continued to stray from her stereotypes and expectations of hip-hop dance while staying true to her dance roots. As he explains in one of the video segments interspersed with the touring show “Nuttin’ but a Word,” which he brought in for this free performance at Prospect Park, the three laws of hip-hop are individuality. , creativity and innovation. So hip-hop is fundamentally progressive and constantly changing. “Changing your perspective is progressive,” he says.

“Nuttin’ but a Word” is formally less innovative. It’s a series of numbers, a mixtape dance. However, much of the music is not what you would expect from a hip hop dance show.of the cinematic orchestra “Man with Movie Camera” It’s a bit like the “Mission: Impossible” theme with killer drum beats. It’s so much fun to watch these dancers tackle Aljarreau’s vocal his version of Dave Brubeck’s “Blue Rondo Ara Turk”, a 9/8 meter maniacal jazz standard.

Vocabulary is similarly nothing new. A combination of house, beeboy, and campbell rock moves, the arm, elbow, and fingers are bouncy in all directions. There are occasional fireworks flashes such as flips and headspins, and some of the amazing footwork is too fast to be seen. But the emphasis is on subtlety and groove. They are very musical dancers, physically aware of every subdivision and stutter, yet never losing touch with their underlying rhythm.

For a master like Harris, the choreography is a little lacking in expressive groupings and stage patterning. Once or twice he would move the opposing forces so that one line of dancers would stand still and another would eat up the space. But most of the night it’s just unison or solo. I’m really good at hip hop dance.

The most influential number is called “A Day in the Life”.set to A hauntingly quiet song by Darfur Youssef It creates a muezin-like acuity, and it’s a story. Joshua Carbres and Philippe Cattino Jr. are two guys skating sideways in corners, stopping to look around and smoking joints. They are attacked by an unseen force, presumably the police, and Cattino is shot dead. Calbreth’s Dance of Sorrow is a bit inorganic in its miming, but it exploits the expressive potential of the B-boy’s step, spiraling on its back and moving pinwheels to a violently moving effect.

“Rappers can always tell stories, so why can’t hip-hop choreographers tell stories?” Harris asks in the next video segment. This is a question he answered long ago by showing just how narratively expressive hip-hop’s dance vocabulary can be. But in these video segments, Harris still explains himself, continuing a battle he seemed to have won early in his career.

True to the laws of hip-hop as Harris defines it, “Nuttin’ but a Word” relies heavily on the dancer’s personality. Compared to the superhuman performers of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, which Harris often choreographs, these dancers seem more mundane, less sophisticated and positional, if always rhythmically accurate. is also not accurate. But each one is eye-catching with its smaller wonders and attractions. Calbres shows off air guitars and moonwalks, and Emily Pietruschka jumps out like a ferocious robot.

The show begins with the dancers circling to the house track and doing a solo turn. It ends with a satisfying mandrill funk song, but this kind of music was made for this kind of movement. In this way, “Nuttin’ but a Word” can be viewed as progressive and conservative at the same time. This follows Harris’ mantra: “Keep moving.”

Nuttin’ But A Word

Playing at Prospect Park on Thursday.

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