Rennie Harris’ “Legends of Hip Hop”
REDCAT at Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles, CA
November 3–7, 2004
Reviewed by Victoria Looseleaf
Rennie Harris wants the world to know about hip hop—that it’s not just street dance but also a culture, a way of life, with a history that’s longer than one might realize.
Wanting to spread the “h” word, Harris founded his Philadelphia-based troupe, Puremovement, in 1992. But during the last seven years the award-winning dancemaker has also toured with an all-star lineup in “The Legends of Hip Hop.” The high-voltage show features Harris as emcee, some cool ’70s film footage, and a zoomin’ roster of nearly two dozen dancers and musicians.
Although Harris doesn’t get down with dancin’, his crews do. Don Campbell, the eternally young godfather of locking, jammed with his signature funky robot moves. Elsewhere, Sugar Pop, Mr. Wiggles, Skeeter Rabbit, and Poppin’ Pete—the Electric Boogaloos—kicked it up a notch with their leader, Boogaloo Sam. Zoot-suit clad, they torched the stage with sliding legs, deft slo-mo popping, and classic split jumps (easily traceable to those iconic tappers, the Nicholas Brothers).
But the night belonged to the new generation, especially the megawatt B-Boy Crew—six dudes who ruled with armless flips (“floats”), adrenaline-fueled head-spinning, and leg-whipping midair drills, their unison noggin-twirling finale nothing short of mind-blowing.
Hip hop is also about the music. Three virtuoso DJs—Evil Tracy, Razor Ramon, and Swift—each on his own criblike platform, may have been deafening, but their vinyl scratchings were akin to Heifetz noodling on a Stradivarius—if the fiddler had also plunked out tunes using his back and butt.
Anointed S, another musical novelty, solo vamped with a microphone that had some audience members reaching for earplugs. Alternately sounding like 1,000 subways or a frog ribetting, a little of S’s sonic bling went a long way. So, too, did Tokyo City Lockers, a sextet decked out in baggy knickers with lamé cummerbunds and striped leggings. Their East-meets-West sensibility, with karate-inspired kicks accenting isolated body-part moves, proved more filler than phenom.
Although “Legends” isn’t the groundbreaker that Savion Glover’s tap extravaganza Bring in ’da Noise, Bring in ’da Funk (another African American show with a historical bent) was, Harris and pals deserve piles o’ props.