Jacob's Pillow--my first time up
The Financial Times wanted a piece that explained the Pillow as well as reviewing the week's attractions for people not already in the know. A fun assignment, especially as it gave me an excuse (and the means) to go up there for the first time. I thought it was only California that you could drive in for miles and still be nowhere near the border.
Here's a few paragraphs, taken from the middle of the piece, about Rennie Harris PureMovement, which performs there through Sunday. (Isn't "Adidas workout trousers" the most adorable Britishism you ever have heard?):
In spite of the range of offerings, a common thread does run through this year's Festival: hip-hop. The form is so pervasive that it has transcended its original values and circumstances. The Canadian troupes Rubberbandance (August 9-12) and Kidd Pivot (August 19-23), for example, use the low-riding, sideways-loping legs, the jigsaw body and the pliant use of the floor to create delicate interior worlds.
Rennie Harris, whose PureMovement troupe is this week's main attraction, has probably done more to make that expansion possible than anyone. The one-time dancer for Run-DMC and Kurtis Blow has turned hip-hop towards narrative, with a West Side Story set in present-day North Philadelphia, where he grew up. He's tackled big social questions via dancing as silken as a cloudy midnight. And he's masterminded a variety show that demonstrates how rapping, DJing, bucket-drumming and so forth form a whole with b-boy tricks and hip-hop steps. But whatever he's done, Harris has never forgotten the form's social origins.
"Students of the Asphalt Jungle" (1995)-- one of three early works on the programme-- begins with eight buff men in Adidas work-out trousers crouched in a sprinter's start. They blast off into b-boy manoeuvres, presented in the usual fashion: one dancer at a time trying to outdo the rest, spinning like a disc, tumbling through enough flip-flops to turn into a blur, tying himself into a tangled knot. The other men lie on their stomachs in push-up position with noses and eyes pressed to the floor. Harris doesn't offer hip-hop exhibitionism and machismo blindly. He's wondering, What's driving us-- or who-- and what are we getting for our effort? The audience on Wednesday didn't hear the troubling question. They cheered wildly at the spectacular moves.
Click here for the whole piece.
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