Stevie Oakes: became enamored with dance at her first ballet performance while living in Amsterdam. Her serious study of classical ballet began soon after under the tutelage of Sandra Balestracci. After earning a degree in Chemistry and Kinesiology from the College of William & Mary, Oakes received her MFA in Dance from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. While living in New York City, she performed works by a diverse collection of artists, including Tere O’Connor, Gus Solomons, jr, Roseanne Spradlin and Gerald Casel. As a member of the team at the Harkness Center for Dance Injuries in New York, Oakes combines her passions for dance and science as both educator and researcher. Oakes joined the dance faculty as an Assistant Professor at the College at Brockport, SUNY, in 2014, continuing her active career in dance performance alongside scientific exploration. She enjoys teaching and sharing with learners of all disciplines and ages, focusing on the balance between artistic expression and dancer wellbeing with active and thoughtful choice-making at the forefront of her pedagogical practice.
Lisa Fusillo: began her professional ballet training at the Washington School of Ballet in Washington, D.C. with Mary Day, Frederic Franklin,
Oleg Tupine, and Edward Caton. Later, she studied in New York, London, Copenhagen and St. Petersburg ( Russia). The Royal Ballet School in London awarded Fusillo with the Professional Teaching Diploma. Fusillo has performed, taught, and choreographed throughout the United States, Europe and Asia. Her choreography has been presented in London, Amsterdam, Paris, Innsbruck, Heidelberg, Taipei, Chiang-Mai ( Thailand), Tokyo and the United States. She also choreographed for and coached Yuan-Ting Chuang for the 1994 International Ballet Competition. Fusillo is a Fulbright Scholar and has been a visiting ballet mistress for CloudGate Dance Theatre in Taipei.
Other awards include a Gulbenkiafn/Cecchetti Award for performance and the Massine Award for choreography. She is a two-time recipient of the National College Choreographic Initiative Grant Award, which is a leadership project of the National Endowment for the Arts and Dance/USA. Fusillo has taught at the Royal Ballet School in London, Borken Ballet Academy in Germany, the Neuilly Ballet School in Paris, Payap University in Thailand and the National Institute of the Arts in Taiwan. Fusillo has been on the faculty at the Royal Ballet School, George Washington University, Skidmore College, Texas Christian University, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and the National Institute of the Arts in Taiwan. Fusillo holds a BS in Human Kinetics from George Washington University, and the MA in dance (choreography), and PhD in dance and related arts.
Carlyle Brown: is a writer/performer/producer based in Minneapolis. He has produced The Masks of Othello: A Theatrical Essay, The Fula From America: An African Journey, Talking Masks, Therapy and Resistance, Are You Now Or Have You Ever Been…. and Abe Lincoln and Uncle Tom in the White House. His plays also include The African Company Presents Richard III, The Little Tommy Parker Celebrated Colored Minstrel Show, Buffalo Hair, The Beggars’ Strike, The Negro of Peter the Great, Pure Confidence, A Big Blue Nail, Dartmoor Prison and others. He has received commissions from Arena Stage, the Houston Grand Opera, the Children’s Theatre Company, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Actors Theatre of Louisville, The Goodman Theater, Miami University of Ohio and the University of Louisville. He is recipient of playwriting fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, National Endowment for the Arts, McKnight Foundation, the Minnesota State Arts Board, Jerome Foundation, Theatre Communications Group and the Pew Charitable Trust. Mr. Brown has been artist-in-residence at New York University School of the Arts Graduate Acting Program, The James Thurber House in Columbus, and Ohio State University Theater Department where he directed his music drama, Yellow Moon Rising. He has been a teacher of expository writing at New York University; African-American literature at the University of Minnesota; playwriting at Ohio State University and Antioch College; African American theater and dramatic literature at Carlton College as the Benedict Distinguished Visiting Artist, and “Creation and Collaboration” at the University of Minnesota Department of Theater. He has worked as a museum exhibit writer and story consultant for the Charles Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, and the Kentucky Center for African American Heritage in Louisville, Kentucky. Mr. Brown is a core alumnus of the Playwrights’ Center in Minneapolis and he is an alumnus of New Dramatists in New York. He has served on the board of directors for Theatre Communications Group, the national organization for the non-profit professional theater and is currently a member of the board directors of The Playwrights’ Center and the Jerome and Camargo Foundations. He is a member of the Charleston Jazz Initiative Circle at the Avery Research Center for African-American History and Culture at the College of Charleston in Charleston, South Carolina where his works and papers are archived. He is the 2006 recipient of The Black Theatre Network’s Winona Lee Fletcher Award for outstanding achievement and artistic excellence, a 2008 Guggenheim Fellow, a 2010 recipient of the Otto Rene’ Castillo Award for Political Theatre, and 2010 United States Artists Fellowship. For more information about Carlyle Browns company visit: carlylebrownandcompany.org/
Beto DeFreitas: Capoeira Angola. Raised in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Contramestre Beto started learning capoeira in 1991. After relocating to Chicago in 1994, Beto started studying under Mestre (master) Cobra Mansa, who is a leading figure in the studies, research, and promotion of Capoeira Angola in the world. Contramestre Beto is the founder of the International Capoeira Angola Foundation – Chicago Chapter and supervisor of the ICAF Madison Study Group. Beto has been a major force in the dissemination of Capoeira Angola in Chicago and the Midwest and has traveled extensively throughout the U.S. and abroad, both to teach and learn from master teachers. Beto continues to work diligently with diverse organizations, utilizing Capoeira Angola as a social tool to address issues ranging from cultural tolerance to health disparities among both adults and children.
She has been creating works from 1975 to the present and is known for her outrageous risk taking and experimental shows she puts on. Streb includes risk into all of her choreography, giving the audience sensations of extreme feelings while watching the performers. She inquired about movement and the suppositions that the dance world created; and integrated actions and principles of the circus, rodeo, and daredevil “stunts.” She is interested in the effects of gravity, math, and physics on her choreography. And has said, “A question like: Can you fall up? This is the bedrock of my process” and that she tries “to notice what questions have not been asked in a particular field that need to be asked and answered.” She grew up participating in extreme sports, therefore she associates a lot of her work with athletics; for example, skiing and motorcycling, and has also expressed her interest in the circus and performance artists such as Chris Burden, Marina Abramović, and admires Trisha Brown.
She wanted to gain a better understanding of the effects of movement on matter so she studied math, physics, and philosophy as Dean’s Special Scholar at New York University. Streb explains that “‘Pop-Action’ is all about the popping of the muscles, training to utilize them over the movement of the skeleton”. Custom-made trapezes, trusses, trampolines, and a flying machine give Streb a way to discover new ways for the body to move in space while being subjected to gravity and other indistinguishable forces. Moves consist of diving off 16-foot-high (4.9 m), metal scaffolding, also known as a “truss”, landing level on a mat. The performers also can be found launching through the air in “Quick succession with timing so precise that they just miss occupying the same space at the same time.”
Streb’s work is extremely demanding and necessitates endurance, dexterity, great physical strength and the ability to be daring. Streb focuses progressively more on single actions, particularly falls and collisions. By 2010 Streb stopped performing these extreme actions herself, explaining that, “I stopped because that started to become the subject of my activity. I started to hear, Wow, you can still do that and you’re 48? It was a practical decision—three hours a day to keep in that shape?…I had been training for 30 years. It’s very boring to exercise. I stopped. I let it go, which was a good thing.” But says, “I still let extreme things happen to me.”
In her recent years, productions have become less harsh and she has begun incorporating texts, videos, and projections of slides. Within her video collaborations, she incorporates camera angles that appear to evade gravity and making the dancers bound off and crash into the edges of the monitors. They also are often swung from cables and are seen leaping off platforms or hurling against padded walls or mattresses. The dancers who are trained under Elizabeth Streb are taught to follow movement’s natural force to the edge of real danger. Collaborators on the videos include Mary Lucier, Nick Fortunato, and Michael Macilli
Communication between dancers includes verbal cues and in place of music the dancers’ grunts and gasps were electronically recorded and amplified as well as the thuds of their landings and the clank and clatter of the stage equipment. With her newer choreography, Streb incorporates music as a part of the show being experienced by the audience. However, she has always upheld that “[m]ovement has its own timing, unrelated to music.” Streb has always tried to contact more than just usual dance audiences.
She is also known for generally seeking out performance spaces that are out of the norm for most dance performances. Her works are showcased at high art venues such as the Lincoln Center, the Spoleto Festival, or the French Festival Paris quartier d’été but also Grand Central Station, the boardwalk at Coney Island in New York, and in a mall in front of the Smithsonian in Washington D.C.
Streb has expressed her philosophy thus: “Go to the edge and peer over it. Be willing to get hurt, but not so hurt that you can’t come back again.” She has also said that, “Movement is causal; it’s a physical happening. You can stick a high C next to a low F-flat, whereas you couldn’t connect a move where you’re 30 feet in the air and falling, then skip a spot in space, land on the ground, and walk away. So I thought the arbiters of dance training and presentation were lying at the first basic step. Dance does not address its compositional methodology. It’s not true to the form. This form is movement.”
Donlin Foreman: As a principal dancer with the Martha Graham Dance Company (1977 – 96), Mr. Foreman was directed by Ms. Graham in all her major male roles. As co-founder of Buglisi/Foreman Dance (1993 -2005), he choreographed over 35 dances presenting seasons at the Joyce Theater; Jacob’s Pillow, America Dancing series/Kennedy Center, Melbourne International Festival. He holds numerous honors with critical acclaim for his performing and choreography. As Associate Professor of Professional Practice at Barnard College/Columbia University (1994 – 2010), he published Out of Martha’s House, a book of poetic writing, several articles in dance magazines, and for two years chaired the Dance Panel of New York State Council on the Arts. Mr. Foreman lives in Harrisville, NH, teaches master classes around the country and with his wife Jennifer Emerson develops dance education and performance projects through their dance organization On Common Ground. Mr. Foreman is presently on staff at the New England Center for Circus Arts, adjunct faculty at Dean College, visiting faculty of Dell’Arte International School of Physical Theater in northern California, teaches at Brattleboro School of Dance and is featured, as one of five artists from the Peterborough, NH area, in a documentary sponsored by Comcast.
Diádié is an accomplished dancer, choreographer, instructor and costume designer. He has danced professionally for over 30 years on stages in Africa, Europe and North America. Diádié’s specialty is West African dance. He has conducted master classes and workshops throughout Europe and north America and has performed with or choreographed for such notable companies as the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble (Denver, CO), the Katherine Dunham Centers for Arts & Humanities (East St. Louis, IL), Ecole de Danse et d’Echange Culturel with Ms. Marie Rose Guiraud (Ivory Coast) and Broadway Dance Center (New York, NY).
Diádié is the recipient of the n’gowa Prize for dance in Ivory Coast and has performed at the United nations, the Village of Arts and Humanities in Philadelphia and many festivals and events around the U.S
Ting-Ting Chang: a visiting assistant professor in dance at National Taiwan University of Arts, currently is also the artistic director of DreamDance. She was an Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in dance at Washington University in St. Louis during 2008-10. Her creative journey has taken her through Africa, Asia,
North America, and Europe.
She has worked with numerous choreographers, including Victoria Marks (APPEX), Donald McKayle (Etude Ensemble), Takuya Muramatsu (American Dance Festival: ICCP), Cheng-Chieh Yu, Li-Hua Tsai (Taipei Folk Dance Theatre), among others. She has received numerous awards, including the Sliver Award from the 2012 National China Lotus Cup Contemporary/Modern Dance Competition, the Grand Award in the 2007 Dance Under Stars Choreography Festival at McCallum Theater and the Choreography Excellence Award in the 6th China National Dance Competition. She was also invited to teach at ADF-China, ACDFA, Hong Kong Dane Festival, University of Arkansas Little Rock, among others. Chang holds a PhD in Dance from UC Riverside, an MFA in Dance from UC Irvine, and a BA from UCLA.
Rachel Boyajian: Rachel M. Boyajian (Choreographer) was born and raised in Wichita, Kansas. She completed her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Dance at Wichita State University. She has worked with such notable artists as Rachel Berman, Alyce Finwall, Taye Diggs, Andrew Palermo, and Shelley Senter. Boyajian began teaching dance at the age of 14 at studios in and around the Wichita area. Upon graduating college, she became a part of the Wichita State University dance faculty. Boyajian has created works for three American College Dance Festivals, the Wichita Contemporary Dance Theatre, the Contemporary Music Festival, the DanceIS Festival, Diavolo Unplugged, the University of Arkansas and Wichita State University. She is currently a member of the Alithea Mime Theatre and recently completed her Master of Fine Arts in choreography at California Institute of the Arts.
Japhy Weideman: designs lighting environments for theater, opera, and other live events. His designs have been presented throughout the United States, Europe, and Asia and his studio is located in Brooklyn, New York.
In New York City, his work has been seen on Broadway and at Lincoln Center Theatre, RoundaboutTheatre Co, New York Theatre Workshop, The Public Theater, LAByrinth Theatre Company, Playwrights Horizons, Second Stage, Primary Stages, NY City Center, Juilliard Opera Center, Manhattan School of Music, Ma-Yi Theatre Co, and Soho Rep. Dance includes Chase Brock Experience and Tami Stronach.
Internationally, Japhy has designed on The West End-London, The Royal Shakespeare Company (Stratford upon Avon), Teatro alla Scala (Milan), The Nederlandse Opera (Amsterdam), The Edinburgh International Festival (Scotland), Opera de Lyon (France), The National Theater of Greece (Athens), and The National Theatre of Korea (Seoul). He has also worked on productions in Tokyo (NHK and Bunka Kai Kan), New Israeli Opera (Tel Aviv), Theater an der Wien (Vienna), Theater del Liceu (Barcelona), Festspielhaus (Baden Baden), and Saito Kinen Festival (Matsumoto, Japan).
U.S Regional Theatre credits include American Conservatory Theatre-San Francisco, Alley Theatre-Houston, Arena Stage-DC, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Berkshire Theatre Group, Cincinnati Playhouse, Cleveland Playhouse, Huntington Theatre-Boston, La Jolla Playhouse, Kansas City Rep, Kansas City Opera, Arkansas Rep, Minnesota Opera, The Old Globe-San Diego, San Jose Rep, Santa Fe Opera, Signature Theatre, Westport Playhouse, and Williamstown Theatre Festival.
Originally from Asheville, North Carolina, Japhy studied lighting design at The University of New Mexico in Albuquerque under his mentor John Malolepsy.
Jack Heifner: is best known for his play Vanities, which ran for five years in New York and became one of the longest running plays in off-Broadway history. His is also the author of Patio/Porch, Natural Disasters, Running on Empty, Bargains, Boys’ Play, Home Fires,Heartbreak, Comfort and Joy, The Lemon Cookie, Dwarf Tossing and over thirty other plays produced in New York, Los Angeles and theatres around the world. Mr. Heifner has written the book to six musicals, including Leader of the Pack on Broadway and Vanities—A New Musical, which opened in New York in 2009. He has also written for television and film. Mr. Heifner was born in Corsicana, Texas and lives in New York City. Since 1997 he has been playwright-in-residence at SFA where he teaches play, screen and television writing one semester each academic year. He is the director of The Festival of New American Plays at SFA featuring works by major American playwrights. At SFA, he has also directed Home Fires, The Seagull, The Member of the Wedding and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.
Bill Hastings: has performed in over fifty musicals and plays including Broadway and National touring productions of The Most Happy Fella, A Chorus Line, Cabaret, Rags, Bob Fosse’s Dancin’, and Sweet Charity. Bill has choreographed numerous productions for U.S., European, and Japanese theater, television, video, industrial, and concert dance companies.
In Texas, Bill served for six years as Resident Choreographer for Houston’s Theatre Under the Stars and Humphrey’s School of Musical Theatre. While there, he choreographed over twenty productions including; Peter Pan, The King and I, The Pajama Game, My Fair Lady, South Pacific, Where’s Charlie?, The Wiz, Grease and Pinocchio. He served as dance captain for Houston Grand Opera’s The Merry Widow starring Beverly Sills and danced in Houston Ballet’s Prodigal Son starring Edward Villella.
In California, Bill was Artistic Co-Founder of The Dance Connection, a studio dedicated to pedagogic and theatrical excellence. There, he created “Orange Crush” and “Local Motion” two award winning performance groups for youngsters and teens. He also was president of South Coast Ballet, a member of the Costa Mesa Arts Council, dance critic for The Arts In Orange County Magazine, and co-producer of the Bal Mystique Gala Benefit for South Coast Repertory Theatre.
As a five-time guest artist at the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, Bill has not only taught for the Jazz and Musical Theatre Workshop, but also lectured on the life and work of Jack Cole and twice choreographed for the Jacob Pillow’s A Jazz Happening. His piece, Nabta Playa, created for the modern dance company, RhythMEK, and with an original score by well-known composer, Marty Beller, premiered at the Ted Shawn Theatre for the 2000 Gala Opening of Jacob’s Pillow, and subsequently, was performed in concert at the Doris Duke theatre and was featured on the PBS/Metro 13 modern dance series hosted by David Parsons.
For the Cuyahoga Youth Ballet, Bill’s full-length ballet, Mole Music, based upon the children’s book by David McPhail with an original score by William Wade received critical acclaim. Also garnering high praise was “…it will whisper your name,” an anti-war piece commissioned by the High School of Performing Arts in Orange County, CA. Critics also rejoiced in the joyous Tony’s Gone Fishing, which was created for the Colorado Jazz Dance Company. For Dance Kaleidoscope in Southern California he created the charming, The 4-Minute Egg, and for the Laguna Beach Arts in Motion, Pink Tofu. For New York’s Rockland Youth Dance Ensemble, Bill has choreographed I’ll be Bach…Shortly, It’s Greek to Me, The Letter, Dans L’Fond d’leau (a tribute to the survivors of Hurricane Katrina), Hernando’s Hideaway, Arabian for the Nutcracker, as well as Children of the Wind for The Lauri Strauss Leukemia Foundation tribute to Charles Strauss at Carnegie Hall with the NY Pops. Bill conceived, produced, directed and choreographed the original work entitled Lotti: the Girl with the Golden Knot…a highly lauded full-length dance opera performed at Riverspace Theatre in NY.
Bill has been on the faculty of four universities. In 2004 he received the coveted NEA Dance USA Grant to restage works of Bob Fosse at the University of Nebraska. He recently was a recipient of The Willson Center for the Arts and Humanities Visiting Artist Residency, the most prestigious grant of its kind awarded by the University of Georgia; and, has twice received grants to the University of Richmond to stage original works. Most recently Bill served as a guest choreographer at Manhattanville College. In 2009, he was awarded an Arts in Education grant from the Arkansas Arts Council for his annual workshops with the Thea Foundation.
Mr. Hastings has taught for festivals, workshops, and schools worldwide including; The Boston Summer Dance Festival, The American Theatre Dance Workshop at Hofstra University, the American Ballet Festival at Vassar and the Ohio Dance Theatre in Oberlin. At the Royal Danish Ballet in Copenhagen, he was the first teacher of American theatre dance for the famed Bartholin Dance Institute. Bill is a returning Professor at Baardar Academy in Oslo; and, annually a jurist in Portici, Italy for the Accademia dello Spettacolo’s year-end exams. He proudly served as President of the Jury for the National Dance Competition in Brazil. Bill has also taught for the Legacy Weekend at Hunter College, the Dance Master Weekend at Wesleyan University, the David Howard Workshop for Teachers, and at The House in Brussles, The School of National Dance in Madrid, The Renato Greco School in Rome, and for IAC in Tokyo.
Bill is privileged to have worked with such dance luminaries as Bob Fosse, Graciela Daniele, Michael Bennett, Ron Field, Tony Stevens, Phil Black, Luigi and the great teacher Harvey Hysell. He proudly assisted Chet Walker and Gwen Verdon with the creation of Fosse, the 1999 Tony Award Winner for Best Musical; and, assisted Scott Salmon with The Christmas Spectacular at Radio City as well as The Miss America Pageant at Atlantic City.
For further information and letters of recommendation please go to Bill’s website: www.billhastings.org
Sheila Callaghan: Sheila Callaghan’s plays have been produced and developed with Soho Rep, Playwright’s Horizons, South Coast Repertory, Clubbed Thumb, The LARK, Actor’s Theatre of Louisville, New Georges, The Flea, Woolly Mammoth, Boston Court, and Rattlestick Playwright’s Theatre, among others. Sheila is the recipient of the Princess Grace Award for emerging artists, a Jerome Fellowship from the Playwright’s Center in Minneapolis, a MacDowell Residency, a Cherry Lane Mentorship Fellowship, the Susan Smith Blackburn Award, and the prestigious Whiting Award. Her plays have been produced internationally in New Zealand, Australia, Norway, Germany, Portugal, and the Czech Republic. These include SCAB, CRAWL FADE TO WHITE, CRUMBLE (Lay Me Down, Justin Timberlake), WE ARE NOT THESE HANDS, DEAD CITY, LASCIVIOUS SOMETHING, KATE CRACKERNUTS, THAT PRETTY PRETTY; OR, THE RAPE PLAY, FEVER/DREAM, EVERYTHING YOU TOUCH, ROADKILL CONFIDENTIAL, ELEVADA, and WOMEN LAUGHING ALONE WITH SALAD. She is published with Playscripts.com and Samuel French, and several of her collected works are published with Counterpoint Press. She has taught playwriting at Columbia University, The University of Rochester, The College of New Jersey, Florida State University, and Spalding University. Sheila is an affiliated artist with Clubbed Thumb and a member of the Obie winning playwright’s organization. Sheila is also an alumni of New Dramatists.
In 2010, Callaghan was profiled by Marie Claire as one of “18 Successful Women Who Are Changing the World.” She was also named one of Variety magazine’s “10 Screenwriters to Watch” of 2010.
Madeleine George: Madeleine George’s play The Most Massive Woman Wins premiered as part of the Young Playwrights Festival at the Public Theater in 1994. Since then, her plays, including The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence, Seven Homeless Mammoths Wander New England, Precious Little, and The Zero Hour, have been produced and developed by Playwrights Horizons, 13P, Clubbed Thumb, Soho Rep, New York Theatre Workshop, Manhattan Theatre Club, Berkeley Rep and Shotgun Players in Berkeley, City Theatre in Pittsburgh, About Face Theatre in Chicago, Two River Theater Company in New Jersey, and the O’Neill Playwrights Conference, among other places. She has received a MacDowell Fellowship, the Princess Grace Playwriting Award, and the Jane Chambers Award, as well as commissions from Manhattan Theatre Club, Playwrights Horizons, and Children’s Theatre Company in Minneapolis. Seven Homeless Mammoths… was a finalist for the Susan Smith Blackburn Award; The Zero Hour was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award. Madeleine is a resident playwright at New Dramatists, an alum of the Soho Rep Writer/Director Lab and the Lark Playwrights’ Workshop, and a founding member of the Obie-Award-winning playwrights collective 13P (www.13p.org). She lives in Brooklyn.
Shouze Ma: Mr. Ma earned his M.F.A. from the University of Iowa. He was a founding member of Guangdong Modern Dance Company, the first modern dance company in China. He taught and performed internationally in France, the United Kingdom, Korea, Hong Kong, India, the United States, and China. His choreography received enthusiastic critical praise at numerous international festivals such as the American Dance Festival, international dance competitions in Paris and Japan, the India International Dance Festival, and the Beijing International Dance Festival. Mr. Ma is also the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships from the Walker Arts Center, State Arts Minnesota, and the Jerome Foundation. His performance and choreography has been praised as “an intensity so strong that it seemed at a breaking point.” by The New York Times. Currently, Mr. Ma is an associate professor in the Department of Dance at ASU.
Ray Castrey: has created music for more than 75 theatre and dance works. He has taught and played at workshops and festivals throughout the U.S., and has performed in most every imaginable musical setting, as well as some unimaginable ones. Ray is presently the director of the Missouri Fine Arts Academy and is an emeritus member of the Theatre and Dance Department at Missouri State University. He lives in Springfield, MO, where he plays in the quartet Distant Relative, conducts music workshops and drum circles, and dotes on his grandkids. He is pleased to be part of UALR’s America College Dance Festival.
Rennie Harris: Lorenzo (Rennie) Harris, Artistic Director and Choreographer, celebrates hip-hop culture on his own terms by using some of the world’s most influential forms of movement, music, and storytelling to revolutionize contemporary concert dance. Born and raised in North Philadelphia, 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. The mark of Harris’ career began as a performer and choreographer through performing for crowds at clubs, parties and within his community with his first company, the Scanner Boys in the 1980s (a hip hop performance group of which Harris was a founding member). According to Harris, he didn’t become a part of the “legitimate” dance community until 1992, when he was invited to participate in the Susan Hess Choreographer’s Project.
In 1992 Harris founded Rennie Harris Puremovement (www.rhpm.org), a hip-hop dance company dedicated to preserving and disseminating hip-hop culture through workshops, classes, hip-hop history lecture demonstrations, long term residencies, mentoring programs and public performances. Harris founded his company based on the belief that hip hop is the most important original expression of a new generation. With its roots in the inner-city African-American and Latino communities, hip hop can be characterized as a contemporary indigenous form, one that expresses universal themes that extend beyond racial, religious, and economic boundaries, and one that (because of its pan-racial and transnational popularity) can help bridge these divisions.
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. As Harris develops as a choreographer, he continues to profoundly influence the field of contemporary dance.
Harris shows us the integral connections between body movements through the philosophy inherent in the company’s name, “Puremovement of mind, body, and soul.” Since establishing the company 15 years ago, Rennie Harris has continually demonstrated his outstanding talent for utilizing his distinctive and compelling contributions to dance vocabulary based on his personal choreographic vision. At the age of 43 Mr. Harris is at the top of the hip hop heap.
Anjali Austin: Anjali is a former member of Dance Theatre of Harlem and has worked with choreographers such as Agnes de Mille, Alexandra Danilova, Glen Tetley, Geoffrey Holder, and Frederick Franklin. Her performance credits include Swan Lake (Act II), Flower Festival, Concerto Barocco, Prince Igor, Paquita, Giselle and Frankie and Johnny. During Ms. Austin’s career she enhanced her performing and technical skills with intensive training in Pilates and is a Master Trainer in the GYROTONIC EXPANSION SYSTEM.
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