If movement is a language, then dancing is its poetry.
Break dancing, hip-hop music and graffiti art (see Tom Horgen’s article in this issue), although quite young in historical terms, have had an overwhelming impact on many artistic genres. Over the last 25 years, different forms of breaking have continually muscled their way into contemporary dance forums. It comes as no surprise, then, that the Walker Art Center presents its “Hip-Hop Moves Festival” in celebration of this culture. The boom of boogie boys descending on Minneapolis threatens to make our steps a bit more reckless.
Philadelphia’s Rennie Harris melds influential hip-hop dance techniques together with cross-cultural music and martial arts in his choreographed production “Facing Mekka.” This very theatrical approach to dance resounds with ritual verve.
“Like most people, what got me dancing was just the culture itself,” Harris said. “Just culturally, the music was there, people were chillin’ there doing their thing. I don’t think that it was anything specific or special, just growing up. Especially with hip-hop because you start out as your own choreographer. You are your own choreographer.”
The band backing Harris’ dancers perform a range of musical variety from semitoned tarib singing to more traditional hip-hop beats. Beat-boxer Kenny Muhammad’s barrage of sound will have some wondering where the drum set is hidden.
Another highlight of the festival is meeting some of the old-school players who made the moves. Boogaloo Sam and his electric buddies bring home the “funk styles” with their names as much as their moves: Popin’ Pete, Skeeter Rabbit, Suga Pop and Mr. Wiggles.
Besides their video work with Michael Jackson, the “Electric Boogaloos” have worked with Janet Jackson, David Bowie and Madonna.
The group, under the tutelage of Boogaloo Sam, who invented the “popping” and “boogaloo” styles, will showcase their moves along with other local and national breaking innovators. Don Campbell, the “locking” legend, and the young dancing crew The Untouchables from Philadelphia will also be performing at “Hip-Hop Moves: Heroes and Innovators.”
If all that is not enough, then give in to your insurrectional itch to kick, move and groove at the master classes offered. The heroes of hip-hop Popmaster Fabel, Electric Boogaloos and The Untouchables will help others explore key aspects of hip-hop and funk dance styles.
Although hip-hop culture is still fairly young, it seems to have a way with words and moves that makes its future look more than promising.