Sunday, June 3, 2018

One more to see: Rennie Harris gets funky at New Victory

Performers from
Rennie Harris: Funkedified,
a world premiere at New Victory Theater
(photo: Brian Mengini)

Two acclaimed Philadelphia dance crews--Rennie Harris Puremovement and The Hood Lockers--are tearing up the stage at New Victory Theater, now through June 10. If you love popping, locking, breaking and all things street dance, go see Rennie Harris: Funkedified.

The premise of this expert world premiere production is a remembrance of the funk music and dancing of the 1970s--think James Brown and Soul Train--that set Harris on his path to becoming one of the world's best-loved masters of hip-hop artistry. A marvelous five-piece band, led by guitarist Matt Dickey and drummer Doron Lev, brings the funk in a big, joyous way. Several cloth panels, hanging above the band like a quilt, capture projected imagery--some hazy, some abstract, some psychedelic--as well as Bob Steineck's luscious, saturated lighting as we hear Harris's musings on his cultural past. His voice--echoey and phantasmal--seems to emerge from out of a cloud or the depths of a dream--but the ingenious, passionate dancing and music speak for themselves.

The New Vic is a family-oriented theater and, at this Saturday matinee, most folks in the audience were small kids in booster seats sitting quiet and polite throughout the show. I kind of longed for an audience of Black teens who'd know just what to do with what we were seeing and hearing! It took a while for any heads to start bopping to the fantastic music--and they were adult heads. I just hope there were youngsters in the audience checking out, in particular, Puremovement soloist Leigh “Breeze-Lee” Foaad whose fluidity, range and poignancy should prove a powerful inspiration.

Rennie Harris Puremovement: Shafeek Westbrook, Katie Cruz, Joshua Culbreath, Phil Cuttino Jr., Tatiana Desardouin, Leigh “Breeze-Lee” Foaad, Mai Lê Hô-Johnson and Yuko “Uko Snowbunny” Tanaka

The Hood Lockers: Ricky “Glytch” Evans, Joshua “J Peazy” Polk, Andrew “Riot” Ramsey and Marcus “Epic” Tucker

Musicians: Shareef Clayton (trumpet), Matt Dickey (Music Director; guitar), Doron Lev (Music Director; drums), Nicholas Marks (keys), Osei Kweku (bass) and FKAjazz (saxophone)

Sound design/composition/production: Darrin Ross
Visual design: Jorge Cousineau
Lighting design: Bob Steineck

Rennie Harris: Funkedified runs through Sunday, June 10. For information and tickets, click here.

New Victory Theater
209 West 42nd Street (between 7th and 8th Avenues), Manhattan

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