Penn Live Arts Presents Rennie Harris Puremovement American Street Dance Theatre This March
Penn Live Arts (PLA) – the leading presenter of innovative and transformative performing arts experiences in Philadelphia – will present the Rennie Harris Puremovement American Street Dance Theatre, a 2023-24 season artist-in-residence.
Performances take place at the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on Friday, March 22, 2024 at 8:00 pm, and Saturday, March 23, 2024 at 2:00 pm and 8:00 pm. A Student Discovery performance occurs on Friday, March 22, 2024 at 10:30 am. Described as “the most brilliant hip-hop choreographer in America” by The New Yorker, Rennie Harris showcases a 30th-anniversary retrospective of works that helped catapult his company to the world stage.
In tour de force works Students of the Asphalt Jungle (an acknowledgment of African lineage in African American Street dance), March of the Antman (which questions the difference between the military and gangs), and P-Funk (created as an homage to street dancers murdered in North Philadelphia), Harris explores gun violence, gangs, and other themes as relevant today as when they first premiered. Beautifully crafted and ahead of their time, this trio of acclaimed classics is paired with current repertoire including A Day in the Life and The Word to showcase how Harris “expertly uses hip-hop movement to establish emotional atmosphere” (The New York Times) and tell a story we all need to hear.
Rennie Harris Puremovement performances are part of Toll the Bell, a season-long focus on gun violence. Philadelphia has experienced historic increases in gun-related crime, claiming an unprecedented number of lives and bringing immeasurable pain and trauma to our communities. This endemic issue affects us all, but disproportionately impacts urban neighborhoods and people of color.
Throughout the 23/24 season, PLA offers a range of programs that bring awareness to the issue of gun violence, while honoring the victims of this tragedy. This focus is timely, and these artists are addressing it head-on with their own interpretations, perspectives, and lived experiences. The project culminates with a major city-wide sound installation on June 7, National Gun Violence Awareness Day. A partnership with Penn’s Office of the Chaplain, Interfaith Philadelphia, Partners for Sacred Places, and many churches, synagogues, mosques, and other community partners, this event serves as a warning and a sonic device to disrupt the environment for Philadelphians, inviting them to stop and reflect on this tragic issue.
Toll the Bell is not a profile of tragedy, but rather a call to action – a literal ringing of the bell – to honor our fellow citizens who have lost their lives and raise awareness for those working to have a positive impact in our City.
The program includes Students of the Asphalt Jungle, March of the Antman, P-Funk, A Day in the Life, and The Word. Subject to change.
Penn Live Arts is the artistic home of Rennie Harris Puremovement American Street Dance Theatre. These performances are made possible in part with support provided by the Penn Live Arts Accelerator Program.
About Penn Live Arts
Penn Live Arts (PLA), headquartered at the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, is the leading presenter of innovative and transformative performing arts experiences in Philadelphia. A vital resource for the performing arts at the University of Pennsylvania, PLA is an artistic crossroads joining Penn and the greater Philadelphia region through world-class music, dance, theatre, and film on campus and at venues throughout the city, serving an annual audience of over 80,000. Penn Live Arts emphasizes artistic and intellectual excellence and diversity in its offerings; prioritizes broad inclusiveness in the artists, audiences, and groups it serves; and expands arts access by actively engaging a wide range of audiences and inclusive communities from campus, the West Philadelphia neighborhood, and the surrounding region. https://pennlivearts.org/
Dr. Lorenzo (Rennie) Harris was born and raised in an African American community in North Philadelphia. Since the age of 15, Harris has been teaching workshops and classes at universities around the country and is a powerful spokesperson for the significance of “street” origins in any dance style. In 1992, Harris founded Rennie Harris Puremovement, a street dance theatre company dedicated to preserving and disseminating street dance culture through workshops, classes, lectures, lecture demonstrations, residencies, mentoring programs, and public performances. Coining the terms street dance theatre and hip-hop concert dance, Harris founded his company based on the belief that hip-hop culture is the most important original expression of a new generation. Harris’ 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. 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 by the media.
Currently, Harris tours a collection of evening-length works as well as classic repertory works of the last 30 years. Rome & Jewels, the first evening-length work written, choreographed, and directed by Harris, uses Shakespeare’s text to tell its own story based on West Side Story and Romeo and Juliet. To date, Rome & Jewels is the longest-touring street dance theatre work in American history, with three Bessie Awards and four Black Theater Alvin Ailey Awards. It was also nominated for a Lawrence Olivier Award (UK) and received The Harman Shakespeare Theater Award for adaptation of West Side Story and Romeo and Juliet. In addition, Harris’s body of work includes evening-length works such as Falling Crumbs From the Cake, Something To Do With Love, Legends of Hip-hop, Facing Mekka, 100NAKEDLOCKS, HEAVEN, LUV American-Style, Rennie Harris Funkedified, and LIFTED. In Facing Mekka, Harris continues his quest to present street dance on the concert stage. To this end, he has developed a solo that challenges his own choreographic experiences and the audience’s expectations of hip-hop and street dance. Harris approaches the vocabulary of this work, entitled Lorenzo’s Oil, as a butoh-style hip-hop dance. Much of Harris’ work has explored his personal experiences as an African American male growing up in North Philadelphia.
At the turn of the century alongside Princess Grace Kelly, Dr. and Julius Erving, Rennie Harris was voted one of the most influential people in the last one hundred years of Philadelphia history. He’s been compared to twentieth-century legends, Basquiat, Alvin Ailey, and Bob Fosse. In 2010, he received an honorary doctorate in the Arts and Humanities from Bates College (Maine) and a second honorary doctorate in the fine arts from Columbia College (Chicago).