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Returning Williams Center sensation Rennie Harris and PureMovement will bring the hip-hop and b-boy culture of Harris’ Philadelphia to Lafayette’s Williams Center for the Arts at 8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 8, in the inaugural performance of the Fast Forward series.

The group will present “Illadelph Legends,” paying homage to the culture Harris’ choreography honors. Headliners will include the Electric Boogaloos from Las Vegas, with Boogaloo Sam, Poppin’ Pete, and others; the Untouchables from Philadelphia; Don Campbell, creator of “Campbell locking,” from Los Angeles; and music created by DJ Tracy. The event will also involve b-boy dancers and hip-hop groups from the Lehigh Valley. Any dancers interested in participating should contact Ellis Finger at the Williams Center, (610) 330-5010.

Tickets cost $10 and may be purchased by calling the box office, (610) 330-5009.

“Harris, well known for his boundary-pushing synthesis of hip-hop and modern dance, is also committed to treating the vital, evolving hip-hop dance scene as a serious tradition, deserving of documentation,” the Philadelphia Inquirer stated in a performance review.

“If Rennie Harris PureMovement were any hotter, it would incinerate before your eyes,” wrote the Village Voice.

A review in South Carolina’s Post & Courier declared, “PureMovement has reached a new level with its style … With a physicality in no way earthbound, and challenging the inventiveness and stamina of even world-class ballet, this troupe is difficult to compare to any other company … (The) over-used word “unique” definitely applies.”

Rennie Harris PureMovement seeks to encompass the African and African-American traditions of the past while moving toward the future with ever-evolving interpretations of dance. The group notes that it is committed to “providing audiences with a sincere view of the essence and spirit of hip-hop rather than the commercially exploited stereotype portrayed by the media.”

In addition to performing at the Annenberg Theatre and Painted Bride Art Center in its native Philadelphia, PureMovement has toured the U.S. as part of Chuck Davis’ Dance Africa America. The company has performed and led residencies in the U.S. and abroad at such venues as the Kennedy Center, Luckman Theatre in Los Angeles, Boston’s Dance Umbrella, Spoleto Dance Festival, Colorado Dance Festival, Bates Dance Festival, Parc de La Villette in Paris, Celebration of African Heritage in Bahia, Brazil, the Holland Dance Festival, and the Nervi Festival in Italy. The company received a 1998-1999 National Dance Project grant for its Rome & Jewels production, an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and Broadway’s West Side Story, which made its way to the Williams Center last year.

Harris grew up in the inner city of North Philadelphia. He started dancing at eight years old by emulating dance moves from the TV program “Soul Train.” He was 14 when the Smithsonian Institution included him in a folk dance program. Harris began dancing professionally at age 15 and touring at 19. The year he formed his current company, he also created Endangered Species, a solo work.

A dancer, artistic director, and choreographer, Harris is well versed in the vernacular of hip-hop, which includes the various techniques of b-boy (often labeled by the misnomer of “break dancing”), house dancing, stepping, and other styles that have emerged spontaneously from the urban, inner cities of America like the North Philadelphia community in which he was raised. He has brought these social dances to the “concert” stage, creating a cohesive dance style that finds a cogent voice in the theater. He is a powerful spokesperson for the significance of street origins in any dance style.

Intrigued by the universality of hip-hop, Harris seeks inspiration from other forms, including Angola and Brazilian Capoeira, West African dance, and performance art. As a pioneer in performing, choreographing, and teaching African-American hip-hop, he toured the country and abroad with the first organized hip-hop tour in America, the “Fresh Festival” starring Run DMC, Fatboys, Curtis Blow, and Whodini, as well as working with Kool Moe Dee, West Street Mob, Salt ’N’ Pepa, and other noted hip hop stars. Since the age of 15, Harris has taught workshops and classes at many schools and universities, including University of the Arts, UCLA, Columbia College, and Bates College.

Harris was a 1996 recipient of the Pew Fellowship in the Arts for Choreography and has received awards from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a Pew Repertory Development Initiative grant, the City of Philadelphia Cultural Fund, and the 1996 Philadelphia Dance Projects commission. He was also nominated for a Cal State Herb Alpert Award in 1996 and 1997. He has recently been voted one of the most influential people in the last 100 years of Philadelphia history.

Rennie Harris PureMovement member Brandon Albright, also known as “Peace,” was an original member of the Scanner Boys and has toured the U.S. and Europe. He has danced for major recording artists such as Schooly D, Tuff Crew, LL Cool J, and the Beach Boys, and has appeared as a dancer for the video and promotional trailer of the movie Freddie Krueger. In addition to dancing, he is pursuing a career as a rapper and lyricist.

Aleksa Chmiel, also known as Lex, began her dance training while growing up in Louisiana. In addition to hip-hop, she is technically trained in jazz, tap, and ballet. She was an original dancer for Fox Television’s Club 303, and a charter member of the Colorado-based hip-hop dance company, Millennium 2000. Chmiel teaches hip-hop at several studios in the Philadelphia area. She is also working towards a degree in advertising/graphic design.

The Fast Forward series continues with early music specialist Benjamin Bagby and his Sequentia ensemble, who (singing in Old Norse) will unveil the work of visionary theater artist Ping Chong in presenting Edda: Viking Tales of Lust, Revenge, and Family Wednesday, Nov. 6. Having made her mark with Kronos Quartet, Joan Jeanrenaud will use cutting-edge interactive video technology in her solo presentation of Metamorphosis Saturday, Nov. 7. The Bang on a Can All-Stars sextet makes a return engagement, connecting avant-garde jazz and “next wave” voices in world music, on Wednesday, Feb. 6. Rennie Harris PureMovement returns April 3 with another work-in-progress, Facing Mecca, which is inspired by the Black Muslim movement in America and features a new solo for Harris based on the traditions of hip-hop and butoh. The cost of a Fast Forward subscription is $49, a savings of $16 compared to the total cost of the individual performances.

The two residency programs that Harris will conduct at Lafayette are funded by a New Directions grant from Pennsylvania Artists on Tour, developed and funded by the Vira I. Heinz Endowment; the William Penn Foundation; the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency; and the Pew Charitable Trusts; and administered by Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation.

The 2001-02 Performance Series at Lafayette is supported in part by gifts from Friends of the Williams Center for the Arts; by provisions of the Alan and Wendy Pesky Artist-in-Residence Program, the James Bradley Fund, and the Ed Brunswick Jazz Fund; and by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, Pennsylvania Performing Arts on Tour, and New England Foundation for the Arts.

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