Rennie Harris Puremovement American Street Dance Theater performed "Nuttin' But A Word" at The Egg on Friday night. (Photo by Brian Mengini)
Rennie Harris has no peers.
He’s the only choreographer of street dance that is elevating the art so it can speak to the masses. And thus be appreciated by them too.
His dances tell a story. His dances take advantage of stagecraft, creating a world audiences are willingly to immerse. His musical choices surprise, but are strangely ideal.
Harris knows too what is pleasing to the eye, synchronicity and symmetry, so that attention remains trained on his amazing dancers.
Watching his company, Rennie Harris Puremovement American Street Dance Theater performed on Friday night at The Egg, all I could think of was Harris is the George Balanchine of hip-hop.
Harris lovely pushes the art beyond its roots without destroying its heart. He gives agency to hip-hop and club dance, thus proving its power should not be contained in the small display box it is now placed.
All this could be seen in “Nuttin’ But A Word,” a work that lit up the stage.
The program with just six dancers was an invigorating suite that acknowledges Harris’ innovations while upholding this highly personal dance style.
It opens with Danzel Thompson-Stout, alone on stage, in “Worth.” He presents his struggle, revealed in his twisting and shaking and his falling and rebounding. He’s a seeker in world that doesn’t always allow entry to all. But as his spotlight disappears, so too do his barriers. It’s a somber and sobering opening to what follows, an explosion of unified energy that is staggering.
The dancers – all in black loose fitting street clothes and sneakers — then join together in “Continuum,” where they recreate the dance circle, with each taking turns to show off their moves. Here, one sees the astounding technical capabilities of Harris’ dancers – fluent in street and club dancing as well as traditional African – a mix that is vibrant.
While all of the dancers are wonderously adept, two stood out, Joshua Culbreath and Emily Pietruszka. Culbreath, slender and slight compared to the others, he dominated with his agility, speed and fluidity.
Pietruszka, who somehow appeared in nearly every piece, was tireless and perfect — hitting the right moves hard and precise throughout the 75-minute duration of the show.
Moreover, the musical selections were nothing one would expect – Al Jarreau’s syncopated “Round, Round, Round;” Cinematic Orchestra’s “Man with a Movie Camera” and Dharfar Youssef’s “Sacre The Wine Ode Suite.” Again, it shows Harris’ ability to move outside of hip-hop's current narrow confines that many artists indeed like to keep it.
The evening ended with the exhilarating “Get Down or Lay Down,” set to Mandrill’s “Can, You Get It,” proving that Harris' company is tops, a giant growing and serving the art.