Dance Magazine reached out to us with the
questions: Over the years, how has increased
acceptance and visibility on concert-dance
stages affected hip hop and its artists? And how
has hip hop in;uenced concert dance?
Our response? Whoa! Acceptance? Visibility? Immediately we knew that any conscientious attempt to unpack these questions would
easily exceed the maximum word count. But
we also acknowledged that questions like these
affect what we do as dancemakers and artist-citizens. So we interviewed our colleague Nicole Klaymoon and mentor
Rennie Harris to contribute to a conversation. We are all multilingual
dance artists with our own unique voices in hip hop and street-dance
theater. We are from different backgrounds and generations whose
work is presented as concert dance and builds on the groundwork of
Rennie Harris Puremovement.
To begin, our use of the term “street dance” aims to encompass multiple dance cultures that do not necessarily identify as hip hop, yet broadly
get lumped into the category of hip-hop dance.;Street, club, party dances
and dance forms associated with hip-hop culture have been happening on
proscenium stages for a long time. We are sharing a few of our responses
and asking our own questions to hopefully spark some dialogue.
ON HIP HOP’S IMPACT ON CONCERT DANCE
AMY O’NEAL: These questions make the assumption that dances from
hip-hop culture need the concert-dance world to have visibility. They
have a ton of visibility outside the concert-dance world.
RENNIE HARRIS: Concert dance basically has appropriated everything
D. SABELA GRIMES: The movement vocabulary that’s been absorbed has
under the sun, which has affected it in every way. So I think you have
to ask, “How has hip hop not affected concert dance?” Hip hop has
affected all of mainstream culture, aka white culture. It has affected the
language of an entire nation when you have white kids speaking the slang.
expanded the lexicon of non–hip-hop dance forms. I think about how
the moves in breaking, for example, have opened up a gateway for fresh
ways to explore the ;oor and multiple surface areas of the dancer’s body.
NICOLE KLAYMOON: I am not an authority ;gure on this conversation,
but I do know that when I get a job in institutions, they want to call it
“hip hop,” but I call it “street” because it speaks to a community vibe
and a social-dance form. So when we are innovating by taking a social
dance out of context, how do you do that responsibly without disrespecting the culture?
HARRIS: Ballet dancers were dancing with breakers back in the ’80s, so
nothing is new. I performed with Ailey and ballet companies. We were
doing this stuff way before Rennie Harris Puremovement.
ON WHAT GETS PROGRAMMED
HARRIS: When you look at the scope of it nationally, how many street-
dance artists are working at a high level in the theater? Not many.
Although, for a while, the Hip-Hop Theater Festival was going to a lot
of countries and places and giving some shine to local artists.
GRIMES: There seems to be an overwhelming preference for “hybrid”
work. Which usually translates to
modern or contemporary with a dash of
O’NEAL: Even though there are more
O’Neal’s Opposing Forces in rehearsal Harris’ Lifted