Photo by Alexander Iziliaev. Courtesy BalletX.

Why Philadelphia's Dance Scene is Totally Underrated

You know Philadanco and Pennsylvania Ballet. But other than those staples, you may not think of Philadelphia as a huge dance hub. We're here to prove that Philly is filled with underrated dance talent—and these six companies are just the start.


Kun-Yang Lin/Dancers

Founded by Taiwan native Kun-Yang Lin, KYL/D uses eastern philosophies like Buddhism and Taoism to create a repertory comprised of spiritual yet highly athletic movement. Every few months they host InHale Performance Series, where they invite artists from around the country to perform in Philly.

Just Sole: Street Dance Theatre

Power couple Kyle and Dinita Clark co-founded Just Sole in 2011 with the intention of preserving the hip-hop community through storytelling. They educate dancers about the pioneers of hip hop and blend these classic styles with house dancing. Their classes are jam-packed with positive energy, challenging movement and groovy house beats, and they always provide the context behind their movement so that dancers can develop a cultural dance vocabulary.

BalletX

Contemporary ballet troupe BalletX is one of Philly's hidden gems, performing daring work by co-founder Matthew Neenan and choreographers like Trey McIntyre and Annabelle Lopez Ochoa. One of my personal favorites is Neenan's The Last Glass, which uses music by indie rock band Beirut. The dancers are diverse and have huge personalities onstage—I feel like I know each of them.

Eleone Dance Theatre

Eleone Dance Theatre is dedicated to preserving the history of modern and African dance. Every year, the company puts on Carols in Color, a recreation of the black nativity story, complete with a live baby Jesus and a choir, who invites the audience to join in throughout the show. The theater is filled with love, pride and breathtaking dancing.

Rennie Harris Puremovement

Rennie Harris is a huge name in the Philadelphia dance scene and beyond. His goal for Puremovement? Keeping street dance alive and reflecting on hip-hop culture through performance and discussion. Talk about raw talent—his dancers can literally tell every detail of a story through their bodies.

Brian Sanders' JUNK

JUNK uses objects we find in everyday life and creates movement that blends dance and physical theater. Founder Brian Junk has used doors, trash piles, ropes, ladders and bungees in the most unconventional ways to take his artistry to the next level. His dancers are ripped (how can you not be when you're hanging off doors and flipping porta pottys?). Even Pennsylvania Ballet has taken on his challenging work.

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Jason Samuels Smith, photographed by Jayme Thornton

Moving Forward by Looking Back: A Week at the L.A. Tap Festival Online

I turned to tap at the outset of the European lockdown as a meaningful escape from the anxiety of the pandemic. As a dance historian specialized in dance film, I've seen my fair share of tap on screen, but my own training remains elementary. While sheltering in place, my old hardwood floors beckoned. I wanted to dig deeper in order to better understand tap's origins and how the art form has evolved today. Not so easy to accomplish in France, especially from home.

Enter the L.A. Tap Fest's first online edition.

Alongside 100 other viewers peering out from our respective Zoom windows, I watch a performer tap out rhythms on a board in their living room. Advanced audio settings allow us to hear their feet. In the chat box, valuable resources are being shared and it's common to see questions like, "Can you post the link to that vaudeville book you mentioned?" Greetings and words of gratitude are also exchanged as participants trickle in and out from various times zones across the US and around the world.

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