Last week was one of those weeks full of a series of small annoyances that led up to a feeling of general grumpitude. I won’t bore you with the entire litany, but as some examples:
– Mother Nature and the poor driving habits of my fellow man led to three consecutive days of wretched commutes.
– As a result, I had to bail on rehearsal with my DWTS partner and missed a couple dance classes, too.
– I was soothed by the knowledge that a master class scheduled at our studio on Friday. I had switched my work from home day so that I would be sure to be able to attend this… but then got word that the class was being been cancelled due to low enrollment.
So Friday found me moping around the house, drowning my sorrows in a virtual pile of medical records of patients with heart failure (if nothing else, my job serves to put my woes in perspective).
Then a text message came across my phone from a friend. She was supposed to bring her daughters to see a hip-hop company perform that night, but her house had been taken over by vicious microbes and they weren’t well enough to go. Her tickets were up for grabs if I was interested. I hemmed and hawed still being in my general funk. Another teacher/friend ended up taking the tickets for her and her daughter and then she texted me to see if I wanted to take the third.
Alright, alright, I’ll go!
The company was Rennie Harris Puremovement from Philadelphia. Regular readers may know that while ballet is my primary dance form, I like to dabble in others, and I’ve done some hip-hop. Of course, the hip-hop I’ve done is nothing nearly as hard-core as this kind of hip-hop. Maybe because of that I have the utmost respect for the things true hip-hoppers and b-boys/girls can do with their bodies.
Before the show started there were some cool jams emanating from the typically staid auditorium to set the mood. I was disappointed when I got in the room, though, to see how many empty seats there were! I don’t think this had anything to do with the performers, by the way. As I mentioned above we were coming out of a string of lousy weather days and it was also the final day of school before February school vacation, so I’m sure a lot of people were getting ready for their adventures there. But still… I expected more of a packed house. On the plus side, it was intimate and we had a (nearly) front row seat.
The curtain was open and remained so throughout the show, which was kind of cool. The first half of the show was entitled “Something to do with Love (Volume 1).” There were seven dancers — four women and three men — who danced this piece, coming on and off stage at various times. What struck me the most about this work was the perfect balance of harmony and individuality. Take the costuming: the women were all in a bright tank top with a black vest-ish sort of thing over and black pants. The men were in button-down shirts, jeans, and vests. But none of them wore the same style. It was obviously a “costume” of sorts, not a come-as-you-are thing, but each person had their own take on the uniform. And this translated throughout the dancing. They were SO in sync even in very fast choreography: the steps, the turns, the changing of positions were all spot-on. And yet… each dancer had his or her own distinct style that came through. This in no way distracted from the choreography and, in fact, enhanced it. This work seemed to be a compilation of stories about the joys and struggles love, and not just romantic love. I saw the excitement of meeting new people, misunderstandings, rejection, shared fun and support. The costuming and personalities of the dancers added to all of this. Oh, and the music was kick-ass, too.
This was followed by a 15 minute intermission in which the music kept pumping to keep the energy up in the room.
Then the second half, featuring three works from the company’s earlier days: “P-FUNK,” “March of the Antman,” and “Continuum.” I’m not sure about this, but based on the casting in these pieces I’m guessing the dance company was originally comprised of only (or mostly) men. This isn’t a bad thing, of course. The pieces were fantastic and served to showcase the wide-ranging skills of the men in the company, but I kind of wanted to see more of the ladies. The second half had a very different feel to it. There was a fair bit of spoken-word, a lot more aggression, strong emotion, raw power in this half. I almost would have preferred the show to be reversed in order so that this stuff came first and “…Love” second, but I guess that’s the eternal desire for a more happy ending to a show, even a show of mixed rep.
All in all, very powerful, invigorating, and impressive. A nice break from my typical ballet/contemporary viewing and made me want to get back to hip-hop class.
Found this clip online from a promotional video a few years ago. Gives you a sense of the breadth of their work.