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Rennie Harris Puremovement returns after 10-year hiatus

Charmaine Patricia Warren | 1/30/2014, 3:49 p.m.
Hip-hop dance fans and the dance community at large will be pleasantly pleased to see the return of Rennie Harris ...
Kyle Clark

Hip-hop dance fans and the dance community at large will be pleasantly pleased to see the return of Rennie Harris Puremovement (RHPM) after a 10-year hiatus at the Joyce Theater, running from Jan. 28-Feb. 2. RHPM has been busy touring nationally and internationally, and now there is also a junior company, Rennie Harris Awe-Inspiring Works, formed in 2007.

When asked if it’s good to be back, Harris said with a laugh, “Yeah, it feels likes home … no pun on the work.” Like “home,” th work staged by the Alvin Ailey Company.

Although Harris “wanted to bring some new stuff,” the request was for older works, but not to worry—the Joyce run is filled with award-winning audience favorites, plus more.

The list of returning works includes an excerpt of “Rome & Jewels” (1999), Harris’ first evening-length work, in which he juxtaposes Shakespearean text with Ebonics. Ozzie Jones, the dramaturge, narrator and collaborator from the original cast, returns, and so does Rodney Mason, who garnered a Bessie Award for his role as Rome in “Rome & Jewels.” Mason and other alumni company members like James “Cricket” Colter who are returning for the season “still perform with the company,” said Harris. “I keep bringing them back so that they help usher in the younger ones … plus, the young ones get to see the level that they bring to the performance, and that’s good.” Composer and sound designer Darin Ross is the other collaborator for “Rome & Jewels.”

The other works on the bill are all from the early years: “P-Funk,” an energizing work from 1992 that follows the words from the music of the same name; the politically charged “March of the Antmen”; and the very memorable “Students of the Asphalt Jungle,” which was first presented to New York dance audiences as part of BAM’s “DanceAfrica” program under the direction of Chuck Davis in 1995. “Students of the Asphalt Jungle” is a tour de force for the men of RHPM, where they get to show off their hip-hop bravado and finesse.

The Philadelphia-born Harris, inspired by Don Campbell’s dance group, the Campbell Lockers, began popping and locking and making routines as a child and formed his first company when he was just 12 years old. He is now honored with a doctoral degree from Bates College. We must now call him Dr. Harris.

The well-deserving Harris, since forming RHPM in 1991, has been educating dance audiences about hip-hop through workshops, lectures and classes. Most important to his teachings is making the connection to his African roots and acknowledging the ones who have come before him in the hip-hop world. This is a must-see event! For more information, visit www.joyce.org.