Rennie Harris Puremovement passed through the Colony Theater in Miami Beach on Nov. 30, as part of its 20th anniversary tour. A native of North Philadelphia, Lorenzo (Rennie) Harris has been dancing since he was 12 and educating since he was 15 years old. He has brought to the proscenium stage the world over the very live and electric dance of the real world stage, the inner-city streets of African-American and Hispanic communities. Rennie Harris Puremovement is committed to the essence of hip-hop, which he states in his program’s biography “is the most important original expression of a new generation.”
The performance last Friday was more a dance party than a show. The fourth wall was non-existent as company co-director Rodney Hill encouraged the audience in his opening speech to join the block party, get up and dance, clap along, and yell out “if you like something and if you don’t like something.”
Stepping, breaking, popping and locking, the company of five men and three women gave name and truth to a virtuosic form of dance that you don’t perform but embody. In the midst of this celebration of, if not life, then the act of living, is an artistic form of whole body, vocal and dramatic expression that claims ownership of personal experience, language and communication. And at its heart is both the signature style of an urban and cultural identity married to the generosity of hip-hop, inviting everyone to partake and participate. Rennie Harris Puremovement was Pure joy.
The first half of the program was a suite Something To Do With Love Volume (1). In four acts, the company moves unrelentingly through many facets of the relationship between men and women to the music of Rain, Ayo and Marvin Gaye’s I Want You, mixed by Kenny Dope. The suite segues into Harris’ Nina Pah-Tina’s Troubled Man with music again by Ayo and Nina Simone and mixed by James Wilcoxson. The piece was a vehicle for the three women of the company, Cystal Frazier, Dinita Askew, and Melanie Cotton, to showcase how soul meets skill and precision.
The second-half opener, 1997’s Continuum, with music mixed by DJ Lee, was reminiscent of circle dances at a party where each person would take a turn in the circle and tag the next one in. The dancers, dressed individually instead of in uniform costumes, showcased their personalities and individual virtuosity as each took a turn in the center spotlight.
The P-Funk piece opens with an astounding spoken word performance by D. Sabela Grimes, an artist/choreographer/dancer from Los Angeles. While contorting his voice using his entire chest, he physically embodied his query, “will these lungs collapse enough for there to be no more breathing?” Set to music by P-Funk and Parliament, it’s a playful and show-stopping romp between the five male dancers.
March of the Antmen turned street dancers into camouflaged soldiers. The piece drew a somber parallel between trench warfare as the dancers crawled along the floor and death by drive-by as one of the company is lost in a gunfire exchange and carried out by the rest.
The final piece Students of the Asphalt Jungle had hints of Brazilian influences with Darrin Ross’s rewrite of the samba styled music by Dutch house artists Goodmen. The piece showcased the men of the company again, bare chested and wearing white capoeira pants. The dance was a climactic, no holds barred performance by the men, in the eclectic mix of martial arts and gymnastics yoga that is break dancing. With head spins, jackhammers, windmills, hand hops, air flares, deadman floats and no-handed somersaults, the men brought the house down and the audience to its feet.
The audience clapped, cheered and yelled along during the whole evening, proving as Grimes said in his earlier spoken word, we truly are “one nation under one groove.”
Pureimprovment came here thanks to MDC Live Arts, mid-way through its 22nd season.
It’s an offspring of Miami Dade College (MDC), which has been a cornerstone of the cultural and artistic life of South Florida for decades. The home of numerous centers, programs, and institutions such as the Miami Book Fair International, the Miami International Film Festival, and the New World School of the Arts, it’s helped shape our literary, theatrical and performance world. That’s reflected in the programming of MDC Live Arts.
Formerly known as Cultura de Lobo, MDC Live Arts was created in 1990, and is now celebrating over two decades of bringing diverse performers from all over the globe to South Florida. The rich artistry is equally matched by the diversity of art forms and cultures that are showcased each year. Its ongoing mission to represent both the diversity of our community and to expose it to globe-spanning artistic disciplines is well represented in their 2012-2013 season.
Along with Rennie Harris, this season’s offerings include dance with the American premier of Spain’s Nuevo Ballet Español and Abraham.In.Motion. Musical performances include Poncho Sanchez at Jazz Under the Stars featuring local artist Nicole Henry; the South Florida premier of Yemen Blues’ Yemenite and blues fusion; and the tribute to tango master Astor Piazzolla by the Argentinean influenced- and Brooklyn-based Pablo Aslan Quintet.
Programming and ticket information for other MDC live 2012-2013 season performances can be found at http://www.mdcliveart