Dr. Lorenzo (Rennie) Harris is an award-winning Hip Hop dancer, choreographer, and Founding Artistic Director of the company Rennie Harris Puremovement. Born and raised in North Philadelphia, Hip Hop dance was very much a part of his life. In 1992, he founded Rennie Harris Puremovement- a company dedicated to preserving and disseminating the Hip Hop culture. His work encompasses the diverse and rich African-American traditions of the past, while simultaneously presenting the voice of a new generation through its ever-evolving interpretations of dance. Dr. Harris is committed to providing audiences with a sincere view of the essence and spirit of Hip Hop rather than the commercially exploited stereotypes portrayed in the media.
Conceived in 2007, Dr. Rennie Harris originally founded Rennie Harris Awe-Inspiring Works (RHAW) as a youth organization driven by community outreach, education initiatives, and a place of mentorship for teens and young adults who express interest to study and perform with his company- Rennie Harris Puremovement. With a focus on youth and urban culture, the mission of RHAW through theater performances and educational programming in the community- is to foster and cultivate the Hip Hop culture and preserve its legacy.
“I am inspired to commune with the humanitarian conscious of us all. My hope is to communicate to one’s primal self core being. In doing so, I have found we are reminded of who we are. This is what I call my “work”. The acknowledging of one’s spirit, of one’s right to experience, to love, to worship freely as it was intended. I am awestruck; I am inspired to continue touching people’s lives. Challenging realities through my work. This is my small but necessary contribution to the world at large. RHAW will carry on the legacy of freedom displayed in street dance and will do so by using hip hop & funk dance as a free expression. Proving once again that we the people have a right to be heard and to be loved…”
Dr. Rennie Harris
Today under the direction of Rodney Hill, the company has amazed audiences in cities across all 50 states and across the globe!
This weekend, the company RHAW performed at Flushing Town Hall in Queens, NY. The show focused on the history of Hip Hop dance technique in various styles of street dance such as Locking, Popping & Boogaloo, B-boy/girl, House, and Hip Hop social dances.
Following the performance, Mr. Hill and the core members of RHAW, invited audience members and young dancers for a dialogue to discuss what it means to be a professional Hip Hop dancer, the challenges of bringing street dance to the concert stage, and how to create works of Hip Hop dance theater.
I found this conversation to be very interesting. There were a few points that I would like to highlight:
Three laws of Hip Hop dance:
Hip Hop has three basic rules- Innovation, Creativity, and Individuality. Unlike other styles of dance such as ballet where there is only one exact way to do the step, Hip Hop is about taking movement and making it your own! It’s not about conforming to look like everyone else. Be unique, be yourself. I agree with that statement. Hip Hop dance is always changing based on where and who you are. You will never see someone do a step the same as another person. I like Hip Hop dance because I’m never wrong! I can do it my way and people like my style.
Hip Hop Dance is a Cultural thing:
Many of the dancers mentioned that they come from rough neighborhoods. For them, dance was an outlet that saved their lives and kept them out of trouble. And from that, Hip Hop dance became a way of life. Street dance is a lifestyle. Other countries such as Korea, Japan, and parts of Africa and Europe have come to do Hip Hop dance and do cool tricks from what they see in their interpretation, however, being one step removed, I personally do not think they have truly embodied and embraced the culture. I think they have made it their own, which is fine, but it is not of the true essence of the Hip Hop culture. (My thoughts on Hip Hop can go on, but I will leave it here and save that for another post).
Hip Hop Dance Opens Doors:
Despite the fact Hip Hop dance has not been accepted as a respectable art form, the dancers talked about dance changed their lives in so many ways. One mentioned that dance helped him lose weight and get in shape. Another said that dance helped him gain confidence and overcome being shy. Another said that dance has opened her view of what dance is and can be. I have had very similar experiences as these dancers. Dance is my exercise. I’ve never been big on going to the gym, but I have kept in shape because of dance. Dance kept me so busy between class, rehearsals, and performances, that I didn’t have time to get into trouble.
To learn more about the company check out their website here!