Originally published in SunPost on February 10, 2011
Welcome to the Dirty South. Repeat again, “dirty dirty” — but pronounced ‘durteh.” Geographically, Miami is part of the southern rap and hip hop tradition made famous by the Miami Bass sound of the 1980s and ‘90s. Local tastemakers like 2 Live Crew crystallized a sound and an era of dance where the hypersexualization of movement, questionable lyricism, and removal of sacred hip-hop aesthetics paved the way for the current glorification of strippers – and their shoes and the poles that love them. It’s easy to find a pole dancing class in the same dance studios teaching yoga, flamenco, hip hop, contemporary. (But I digress, and cringe).
Anyhow, Miami and hip hop have a long history. We share the pan-Caribbean demographic that peppered her New York City birth canal. We have a long tradition of MCs and b-boys and we are home to the world renown B-Boy Masters Pro Am tournament, celebrating its 15th anniversary this May, produced by local hip hop artists DJ Trails (Jonathan Fields) and Richard “Speedy Legs” Fernandez.
Miami is hip hop, like New York and Philly and L.A. But then, we are all hip hop, because hip hop is a truly American art form like jazz and blues; it’s a language and lifestyle that makes and creates its own rules and codes. Hip hop navigates tradition and innovation, weaving in local flavor and color, simultaneously referencing the motherland and architecting the borderless world only she can create and unite.
This weekend, Miami will enjoy hip hop mastery with RHAW, Rennie Harris’ Awe-Inspiring Works, performed by the award-winning choreographer’s second company with the same name (RHAW), at the Adrienne Arsht Center. “It’s a very upbeat show,” claims Rodney Hill, the company’s manager and “godfather” so to speak. He created the second company in response to new generations of dancers that wanted to work with Harris, who recently received an honorary doctorate from Bates College in Maine. The Philadelphia-based company Rennie Harris Puremovement – the first company — has an over 20-year history challenging audiences to look beyond media and corporate notions of this unique culture, and offers an organic, integrated interaction with the tenets and aesthetics of the dance.
The performance will include repertory favorites as well as new works, and has a diverse soundtrack including Queen, George Benson, and House music. The dancing will highlight hip-hop styles such as Campell Locking, popping, b-boy and b-girl styles, and miscellaneous social styles.
If you really want to get down, opening night has a b-boy/girl battle at the Arsht Center following the show, so you can experience the impromptu battle by local dancers and DJs in celebration of the Miami debut of RHAW.
While the Arsht Center frames the appearance of RHAW as part of its Black History Month celebration, RHAW is way beyond labels and frameworks. It offers a new generation of dancers and audiences a platform to reflect on what is authentic, roots, and real. RHAW gives hip hop her soul back.
“These dancers really dance with their heart,” Hill continues. “They weren’t afraid to get on a stage. If they could dance 24 hours a day they would”.
Rennie Harris Dance at the Carnival Studio Theater, Ziff Ballet Opera House at The Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts (1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami). Ticket prices are $40 and $45. Call 305-949-6722 or visit arshtcenter.org. Thursday through Saturday, February 10-12, at 8 p.m. Sunday, February 13, at 2 and 7 p.m.