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Rennie Harris PureMovement.

The Joyce Theater New York, New York May 13-18, 2003

Who could imagine that the next move on the cutting edge of concert dance would come from the hip-hop nation--and a Philadelphian? Rennie Harris PureMovement is the name, and hip-hop's his game. Harris's newest work, Facing Mekka, could be subtitled "Searchin' for My Soul," to borrow the title from Amel Larrieux's recent pop song. Throughout, PureMovement shows vital connections between hip-hop, African dance, and world music and religions.

On opening night, the exuberant audience broke out in spontaneous cheers as the six female dancers made their first entrance, with the inimitable Tania Isaac as their beacon. Brave, nubile warriors, their arm thrusts, leaps, and subtle contractions bespoke power and ascendance--a refreshing divergence from MTV's reigning female image. Seven extraordinary men completed the dance contingent. Darrin M. Ross's soundscape--sometimes almost deafening--engulfed the spectator in a boundary-blurring score played and sung onstage by Grisha Coleman, Philip Hamilton, Kenny Muhammad, and Lenny Seidman and augmented by recorded sounds.

The intermission-less, ninety-minute work is seamlessly episodic. After the hard, fast dancing and multiple entrances and exits of the first "movement," an Afro-Cuban/Brazilian section followed. The splendidly capable Ron Wood and Duane Lee Holland Jr. performed a capoeira phrase in half-time. DANCERS PROPELLED THEMSELVES ACROSS THE STAGE ON HANDS AND FEET IN A SLOW-MOTION RENDITION OF THE B-BOY FLOOR SPIN WHILE, LIKE A GHOSTLY AFTERTHOUGHT AND DRESSED IN THE LONG, BLACK COAT WORN BY SUFI DERVISHES, HARRIS CROSSED THE STATE PERFORMING HIS CELEBRATED LOCKING-POPPING MOVEMENTS.

Pulsing in rhythm to the music, the intentionally fuzzy projections by collagists John Abner and Theodore A. Harris and videographer Tobin Rothlein were most effective in the opening. Later, the calm surface of a body of water flooded the backdrop, mirroring the female chorus who moved in ripples of consummate grace, control, and sensuality, free of vanity or stereotypes of women as sex objects.

Mekka's cross-cultural currents were exhilarating and dizzying: Muhammad intoning an Islamic prayer; Seidman chanting words from the Cabala; Wood dancing like a shaman clearing the air, then playing the berimbau (capoeira's one-stringed instrument) in duet with the tabla; Harris and Isaac inhabiting a black mesh floor-to-ceiling "cage" that occupied center stage for the final movements. Climactically, Isaac extricated herself from the cage in an exquisite dance of liberation that, taken with Wood's performance, was one of Mekka's highlights. (Harris ultimately was trapped inside.)

This multimedia event conveys mixed messages, reaching beyond emotional narrative, cause and effect, joy or sorrow, black or white, or easy solutions. It's an odyssey in sound and movement, a search for spiritual self. The performers' focus was contemplative, almost meditative. Harris's Rome and Jewels evolved considerably after its premiere (see Reviews, DANCE MAGAZINE, September 2000, page 86). Certainly he'll edit, tighten, and strengthen Mekka. Even now, rough around the edges but all heart at the center, it's a winner.
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Title Annotation:Facing Mekka
Author:Gottschild, Brenda Dixon
Publication:Dance Magazine
Article Type:Dance Review
Date:Sep 1, 2003
Previous Article:Back and still the best.
Next Article:Boston Ballet.

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