“Exuberant. … The dancing is spectacular. Join the celebration.” – NYTheatre.com
“Thrilling… [Rennie Harris] knows how to move bodies in space, how to layer his phrases and, above all, how to make dancers look good.” – The New York Times
RHAW (Rennie Harris Awe-Inspiring Works) features today’s hottest ad brightest young street dancers who explore the evolution of street dance and hip-hop through innovative choreography.
On Saturday, February 6th, Flushing Town Hall will present a three-tiered special event: a performance, workshop and 90-minute symposium in which dancers are welcomed to talk about the challenges of bringing street dance movement to the concert stage and creating works for hip-hop dance theater.
RHAW performs various styles of hip-hop and illustrates hip-hop’s roots in African tradition and culture throughout the Diasporas. These include African-American, Afro-Brazilian, Afro-Cuban, and Puerto Rican cultures from the early sixties through today.
Ultimately RHAW teaches its dancers professionalism, production, street dance history, and technique in various styles of street dance. Downplaying the abstract while pushing its dramatic aesthetic, RHAW forges new paths for young hip-hop hopefuls and presents hip-hop in its “RHAW-est.” form, taking it back to basics.
Rennie Harris originally founded RHAW in 2007 as a youth organization driven by community outreach, education (lectures and classes), as well as mentorship. Dr. Harris’ inspiration for this youth-driven company was inspired by an overwhelming interest from teens and young adults to join his internationally renowned company Rennie Harris Puremovement.
“Basically we needed to create a training company due to the overwhelming need to hire street dancers with experience in theater as well as versed in more than one style of street dance,” Rennie Harris says.
“As I understand it, Hip-hop culture originated in the South Bronx,” he says, noting that what elevated hip-hop into mainstream culture was, “Music -specifically the popularity of Rappers Delight by Sugar Hill Gang, the first rap song to hit mainstream.”
Ultimately, RHAW is a training company that teaches its pre-professional dancers professionalism, production, Street Dance History, and technique in the various styles of street dance, such as Campbell Locking, Popping & Boogaloo, B-boy/girl, House, and Hip hop social dance.
Asked about the state of hip-hop today, he says, “What’s understood as Hip-hop in today’s media is actually not Hip-hop dance and music; it’s pop culture’s interpretation of Hip-hop dance and culture,” he says. “What is known as Hip-hop in the media, studios, theaters, film, etc. is nothing more than the result of cultural theft. [Hip-hop] is in disarray and lost right now. It doesn’t realize there’s a thief in its home.”
Prior to the performance, company members will introduce you to movements and techniques used in hip-hop, including: popping, locking, stepping, break, house and other styles.
Immediately following the performance, Rodney Hill, Managing Director of Rennie Harris RHAW, and core dancers of RHAW, invite young dancers to discuss what it means to be a professional hip-hop dancer, the challenges of bringing street dance movement to the concert stage and creating works for hip-hop dance theater.
Combined, all three present opportunities ripe for understanding the culture and evolution of hip-hop.
“‘Culture’ is defined as: one: arts collectively; two: knowledge and sophistication; three: shared beliefs and values of group; and, four: people with shared beliefs and practices,” he says. “This is Hip-hop culture and its expression, its walk, its talk (language); type of music listened to; style of dress; visual; literary; and, musical expression – all equates to culture.”
Tickets are on sale now at www.flushingtownhall.org. You can get a taste of what’s in store from the video below.