Bates Dance Festival presents the high voltage hip-hop senasation Rennie Harris PureMovement

Rennie Harris PureMovement, an electrifying eight member dance company rooted in hip-hop culture, will perform two powerful new works at The Bates Dance Festival, northern New England’s leading contemporary dance presenting and training program, at 8 p.m July 25 and July 26, in Schaeffer Theatre, 305 College St. The productions feature new works inspired by prison life, personal experiences and contemporary black culture. The performances contain strong language and may be unsuitable for young audiences.

Tickets are $14/$8 (students and seniors) and may be purchased by calling 207-786-6161. A pre-performance lecture focused on Harris’ work will be given by Washington Post dance critic Suzanne Carbonneau at 7:15 p.m. July 26, in Schaeffer Theatre. Free and open to the public, the lecture is part an educational program of the Bates Dance Festival, Inside Dance, funded in part by the Maine Humanities Council.

Rennie Harris PureMovement bridges the disparate worlds of street and theater in a synthesis of drama and dance-defying categorization. Blending African retentions with American improvisations, the company displays remarkable technique. The Philadelphia-based choreographer uses the various forms of hip-hop as a vehicle for tough messages about racism, street shootings and prison. Closely related to the complex and driving rhythms of “street” music, the company’s dance style challenges and uplifts as dancers tumble, spin, intertwine and hurl their bodies through space.

In “Fallen Crumbs from the Cake,” the opening piece in the Bates Dance Festival, Harris blends experiences from his own residency in a Pennsylvania prison with projections, film, funk music and monologues. Harris’ solo performance “Endangered Species” offers a powerful lament about molestation, while the final work, “Students of the Asphalt Jungle,” is “virtuosity,” according to The Boston Globe, inspired by Harris’ travels in Africa. According to Harris, the piece is: “an affirmation of our African-American heritage through movement, which we believe has been handed down through spirit and instinct.”

Critics consider Rennie Harris a visionary pioneer in the evolution of hip-hop dance and well-versed in the vernacular of popping, step, break and house dance and other styles that have emerged spontaneously from the black community. “Harris bridges the usually disparate worlds of street and theater, self-empowerment and artistic inspiration. He is an exceptional artist,” The San Diego Inquirer said.

Self-taught, Harris has designed his own unique moves since he was eight years old. He and his group PureMovement have performed with Run DMC, Curtis Blow, and LL Cool J, and were featured in videos such as Ricky Scaggs’ “Country Boy.”

The recipient of many distinctive awards, Harris has received a Philadelphia Repertory Dance Initiative grant from the Pew Charitable Trust, a 1996 Pew fellowship in choreography and a 1996 Dance Projects Commission made possible by the Rockefeller Foundation.

In addition to its critically acclaimed mainstage performance series of 17 concerts, the festival offers two intensive training programs, one for adults and one for younger dancers. For more information, or to request a brochure, call the Bates Dance Festival at 207-786-6381.

The Bates Dance Festival receives support from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New England Foundation for the Arts, the Maine Humanities Council, the Maine Arts Commission, Harkness Foundations for Dance, Capezio Ballet Makers Dance Foundation, the Bingham Betterment Fund, G.G. Monks Foundation, the Shapiro Family Foundation, the Sequoia Foundation, Tom’s of Maine, LEF Foundation, L.L. Bean, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Portland Newspapers, Androscoggin Savings Bank  and People’s Heritage Bank.

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