Tuesday, April 7

Pure hip-hop


Multimedia and history blend in 'facing mekka'

Audiences of Rennie Harris’ “Facing Mekka” can
expect one thing plain and simple from the eclectic dance
performance: an experience.

Harris, whose company, Puremovement, is performing this week at
Freud Playhouse through April 27, sets out to remove labels
surrounding the dance world, rather than fitting into them.

“Just because I do it doesn’t mean it’s
hip-hop,” he said. “I don’t know if “˜Facing
Mekka’ is completely hip-hop or whether it’s moving
into another space.”

“Facing Mekka” is a show that uses movement, rhythm,
poetry, sound and image to trace hip-hop from its roots in
ceremonial African dances and Brazilian Capoeira to its incarnation
on the urban streets.

Whether you leave the playhouse inspired or turned off,
“Facing Mekka” aims to offer a genuine experience and a
sincere communication with one of modern dance’s most
acclaimed innovators and his team of dancers.

While he avoids limiting hip-hop to one distinct definition,
Harris does acknowledge the need to preserve the legacies of
pioneers of the genre.

“Hip-hop has evolved,” said Harris.
“It’s important to recognize its evolution because
otherwise you lose a sense of what the authentic movement
was.”

In his own work, Harris tries to incorporate hip-hop movements
that respect where hip-hop has come from as well as where it is
going. Harris was inspired to create “Facing Mekka”
during a trip to West Africa with Chuck Davis in 1996.

One of the most striking realizations that came with the trip
was the understanding that Western Africa was made up of a largely
Muslim community.

“You always think of Africans as being very tribal,”
he said. “You don’t think of them as having a religion
that you understand. So that’s what blew me away, I got
inspired culturally.”

During the trip, he was subconsciously affected by the reality
of African culture, and his own internal revelation is mirrored in
the show.

“I didn’t consciously set out to go and study
different stuff, other than I drew from my unconscious things that
looked like they were indigenous movement,” Harris said.

“Facing Mekka is about facing the god within
yourself,” he added.

Although Facing Mekka involves the understanding of individual
identity, it is in no way responsive to current global
politics.

“I don’t want to assume that I’m going to be
the one to tell people what’s going on. My experience is my
experience, and if (audiences) relate to it, then that’s
great.”

As for audience expectations, Harris feels very strongly that
people can’t truly experience a performance if they enter
with preconceived notions.

“By having an experience, you’re confronted with the
truth,” he said. “Words are the worst things to
communicate with; it’s through your actions that you will
inspire.”

When recruiting new dancers, Harris says that the main qualities
that he looks for are sincerity and heart.

“I look for those people who can bring that monster club
spirit to the stage,” Harris said. “When that energy
and spirit builds in the nucleus on stage, it radiates
out.”

Remaining performances of Rennie Harris’ “Facing
Mekka” are April 24-26 at 8 p.m. and April 27 at 7 p.m. Visit
the CTO for tickets or call (310) 825-2101. Admission is $35,
students $15.


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