RENNIE HARRIS/PURE MOVEMENT
June 11, 2018
There is a funny universal reaction from kids sitting in a theater when the lights go down: they immediately scream in delight and anticipation. This week at the New Victory, Rennie Harris' Funkedified delivered a wonderful show that dances "the day before hip hop" by tracing the evolution of break dancing in relationship to music - be it soul, funk, R&B, or rock - and the dancers and musicians brought the house down.
Lorenzo "Rennie" Harris has been making dances for decades and is dedicated to preserving street dance culture through workshops, classes, and public performances. Using spoken word, we hear of his early days growing up in Philly ("I didn't get the girl" and "what could be better than breakin'"), while a b-boy in dark glasses wearing a classic red gym suit and very big gold bling walks through a slow-motion street crowd. Expert lockin,’ in duos and trios show us the old school break dance moves while the fantastic band plays onstage, led by Doron Lev and Matt Dickey play Darrin Ross' composition that seems to riff of everything from James Brown, to Santana, to Prince.
In one memorable moment, three women pop as they toss a beam of light to each other, igniting their friends' electric dancing. Another highlight had four guest dancers ("The Hood Lockers") each in a pool of light, each doing a solo with lots of jumping and those impossible splits to the floor, where then jump back up in a split second.
In an impressive virtuoso moment, one dancer with liquid arms dueled with the lead guitar player, as they walked around each other on the stage seemingly in conversation, in a spectacular display of "seeing the music:" the dancer's body seemed to sing out and sharpen our ability to hear the sounds from the electric guitar. It was long, intense, and riveting, even for the elementary squirmy crowd. Although Harris is nostalgic about the displacement of breakin' by hip-hop, he pays homage to both.
The one hour and ten minute show captivated its young audience, ending with the classic semi-circle with upbeat music where each dancer gets to shine. A Q&A revealed that it took two years from conception to execution to create show - well worth it, as everyone walked out of the theater Funkedified with delight.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY-- Nicole Duffy Robertson