Rennie Harris Funkedified
Ford Theatres presents Rennie Harris Funkedified on Saturday, July 20 at 8:00 pm as part of its IGNITE @ the FORD! series. Celebrating the funk music and street dance of the 1970s, Funkedified challenges stereotypes and invites the audience to view hip-hop through a new lens.
Rennie Harris Funkedified will be performed by dancers from Rennie Harris Puremovement; The Hood Lockers, one of the most seminal locking groups since Don Campbell and The Campbell Lock Dancers; and dancers from LA’s own Versa-Style Dance Company. A live funk band will pay homage to the music of such funk legends such as James Brown, George Clinton and Roger Troutman, among others.
Harris has been compared to 20th century dance legends Alvin Ailey and Bob Fosse and by The Times of London to artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. He is the recipient of three Bessie Awards, three Alvin Ailey Black Choreographers Awards, an Ethnic Dance Award, and the Herb Alpert Award in the Arts for choreography; has been nominated for a Lawrence Olivier Award; and is a Dance Magazine Award honoree. Rennie Harris Funkedified premiered at the New Victory Theatre in New York in 2018.
“I am inspired to commune with the humanitarian conscious of us all,” said Rennie Harris. “The acknowledgment of one’s spirit, of one’s right to experience, to love, to worship freely as it was intended. I hope I carry on the legacy of freedom displayed in street dance and will do so by using hip-hop and funk dance as a free expression. Proving once again that we the people have a right to be heard and to be loved.”
“Immediately after our collaboration for last year’s Lula Washington Dance Theatre performance, for which the Ford Theatres commissioned Rennie Harris to update his piece Reign for the company, Rennie and I expressed a desire to work together again,” said Ford Theatres Executive Director Olga Garay-English. “We are honored to present this joyous performance and celebration of street dance – it is the perfect event to serve as the Ford Theatres’ annual benefit, with all proceeds from the evening going toward our foundation.”
Brian Seibert, The New York Times, said that “These are moves that originated mostly on the West Coast and spread through ‘Soul Train’ and even if you don’t know the terminology, you probably recognize the stop-motion animation of angled limbs, the centipede articulation of joints, the guileless joy and goofy knickerbockers and beanies. Forearms spin at the elbows like propellers, revving up then reversing. Impossibly quick feet subdivide the rhythm. Elastic bodies drop suddenly to the knees or into half-splits. Fingers point every which way, but always to the beat.”
“Funk has two sides, Harris says at one point,” Siebert continued. “It’s not just good times and getting down; it’s politics and pain, too … Mr. Harris’s previous work has done more than anyone else to expose and develop the darkly expressive potential of funk styles … He’s also an educator and a scholar, with a masterly understanding of the dance forms that funk music inspired in the early 1970s.”
Caryn Cooper, Broadwayworlddance said that Funkedified is “a lot of fun! It was filled with so much high energy it made you want to get up on stage and dance along. The breaking was so cool with their fancy footwork on the floor and spins on their heads. The poppers were just amazing. The way they can make their bodies move with such accuracy and explosion is remarkable. Not to mention the fierce vogue moves that were performed as well. The Hood Lockers were absolutely jaw-dropping!”
Pete Hempstead in Theatremania said, “besides being an excellent showcase for super-talented performers, there’s much to be learned about modern dance in Funkedified. Astute observers will see evidence of moves that Michael Jackson used for the Moonwalk, as well as striking poses that foreshadow the advent of vogue. The show is a great intro (for families with kids ages 9 and up) to the dance that gave birth to hip-hop that will inspire young budding dancers to move their feet to a funky beat.”
Lewis Whittington, culturevulture.com said, “Harris continues to create exciting vocabulary while celebrating the genre’s old school, new school and future school. The dancers attacked the checklist of dance acrobatics—V flares that keep evolving; punch fronts; shoulder bounces; torsos dropping in lotus; head pirouettes; single-hand back vaults; somersault layouts—in eye-popping and low-to-the-ground ninja moves and slides. If there were an Olympic competition, this stuff would have an off-the-chart degree of difficulty.”
Dr. Lorenzo “Rennie” Harris is atop the hip-hop heap – considered its leading ambassador. Bringing social dance to the concert stage, Rennie Harris and his company Rennie Harris Puremovement are world-renowned for creating a cohesive dance style that finds a cogent voice in the theatre.
Harris was featured in Rose Eichenbaum’s Masters of Movement–Portraits of America’s Great Choreographers with dance legends such as Carmen de Lavallade, Judith Jamison, Fayard Nicholas and Gregory Hines. In addition, he was recently awarded a medal from the Kennedy Center as a master of African American Choreography. Harris recently was awarded a Kulu Mele’ African Rooted Dance award, The United States Artist Fellowship award, and The Harman Shakespeare Theater award for Adaptation of West Side Story and Romeo & Juliet
Rennie Harris toured the Middle East – Egypt, Jordan, Palestine and surrounding countries – as one of four Ambassadors for the United States through President Barak Obama’s cultural exchange program Dance Motion USA, led by then Secretary of the State Hilary Clinton.
This event is part of IGNITE @ the FORD!, a series comprised of world-renowned contemporary artists whose work is thought-provoking and reflects the world in which we live. Proceed will benefit the Ford Theatre Foundation. Tickets are available online at FordTheatres.org and by phone (323) 461-3673. Ford Theatres is located at 2580 Cahuenga Blvd. East, Hollywood, CA 90068.