Mom Theatre Blogger: RHAW: Family Show Review by Robin Gorman Newman
Alvin Ailey Award recipient and choreographer Dr. Rennie Harris has returned to The New Victory Theatre with his company of young performers, Rennie Harris Awe-inspiring Works (RHAW), in LUV: AMERICAN-STYLE running through May 17th.
In LUV: AMERICAN-STYLE, Dr. Harris’ laws of hip hop—individuality, creativity and innovation—rule as the energetic young RHAW crew rocks out using popping & boogaloo, B-Boying and hip hop to vividly tell the story of a teenage boy searching for his purpose and place in society.
Brandyn (Mr. Harris’s eldest son Brandyn) likes a girl (Katia Cruz) but has trouble approaching her. Seen as a daydreamer by friends and family, he feels pressured to grow up, get a job and be responsible, and then suddenly finds himself wrongly incarcerated for a crime he did not commit. Inspired by and performed to such classic rock songs as “Flash” by Queen, and “Colour My World” and “Free” by Chicago, the performance for the song “Flash” is particularly compelling. The young, athletic cast is appealing, and some of the high energy acrobatics are spectacular.
This show was more impressive than I imagined. Not only were the performances strong, but the message was equally powerful….and, certainly timely….in light of recent racial profiling incidents in the country. With spoken word referencing the Hip Hop war days and deaths of Tupac and Notorious BIG, Dr. Harris took a stand on rap through the years, feuding, the justice system, and ultimately the power of love. Dr. Harris is clearly a fan of the movie “A Few Good Men,” having the character of the police officer spout the words made famous by Jack Nicholson, and he also opens up the show by, in a joking manner, arresting Dr. Harris, seated in the audience, for texting. The show endeavors to mix humor with a heavy dose of seriousness…the humor perhaps attempting to play to a younger set, but ultimately it’s the message that wins out.
Inspired by the overwhelming interest from local teens and young adults who hoped to join his internationally renowned company Rennie Harris Puremovement, Philadelphia native Dr. Rennie Harris founded RHAW to serve urban youth in the City of Brotherly Love. RHAW cultivates hip hop culture and preserves its legacy by demonstrating discipline and focus through performance, dance education, outreach programming and mentorship. An accomplished dance company that teaches its members professionalism, show production, street dance history and technique in various styles, RHAW is the next generation of Puremovement.
LUV: AMERICAN-STYLE is directed by Dr. Rennie Harris and features dancers Jenay Anolin, Davion Brown, Joshua Culbreath, Katia Cruz, Richard Evans, Brandyn S. Harris, Mai Le Ho Johnson, Rodney Mason, Joshua Polk, Andrew Ramsey, Neha Sharma, Samantha Shepherd, Shafeek Westbrook and Raphael Xavier. The company is managed and directed by Rodney Hill. Raphael Xavier also serves as artistic director and Crystal Frazier serves as assistant artistic director while Amith Chandrashakar is the technical supervisor, lighting designer and production manager.
LUV: AMERICAN-STYLE has a running time of 60 minutes with no intermission, and is recommended for everyone ages 7 and up….though honestly, an older child or teen will better grasp the material. My son, age 12, particularly liked the music and the scenes with the policeman. He was able to grasp a good amount of the story, though the Hip Hop references were a bit beyond him.
General Ticket Information
Tickets for LUV: AMERICAN-STYLE at The New Victory Theater (209 West 42nd Street) are $10, $13, $18 or $25 for Members based on seat locations, with full price tickets starting at $15. Purchase tickets online or by phone at 646-223-3010. The NEW VICTORY box office (209 West 42nd Street) is open Sunday and Monday from 11am-5pm and Tuesday through Saturday from 12pm-7pm. For more information, visit the NEW VICTORY website.
About Dr. Rennie Harris: Dr. Rennie Harris started teaching hip hop at the age of 15 with the Smithsonian Institute and continues to teach worldwide. In 2001, for Rome & Jewels, Dr. Harris received three Bessie Awards, two Black Theater Alvin Ailey Awards, a Herb Alpert Award nomination and a Lawrence Olivier Award nomination. He was honored by the Kennedy Center as a Master of African-American Choreography, received a 2010 Guggenheim Fellowship for recognition of his work as a choreographer, was awarded a 2007 United States Artist Fellowship, and was presented with honorary doctorates from Columbia College and Bates College. At the turn of the century, Harris was voted one of the most influential people in the last one hundred years of Philadelphia history. In 2011, Puremovement was chosen to serve as a cultural ambassador for President Obama’s DanceMotion USA campaign in the Middle East.
About The New Victory Theater: The New Victory Theater introduces extraordinary performing artists from around the world to extraordinary audiences in New York City, bringing kids to the arts and arts to kids. Created in 1995 for young New Yorkers, their families and schoolmates, The New Victory Theater presents a diverse season of international companies at low ticket prices year after year. Through the theater’s award-winning education programs, The New Victory continues to provide access to schools and communities of New York City who seek to experience and engage with the work on our stages, often for the very first time. The theater’s contributions to the cultural landscape of the city were celebrated by The Drama Desk with a Special Award for “providing enchanting, sophisticated children’s theater that appeals to the child in all of us, and for nurturing a love of theater in young people.” Most recently, the New Victory Usher Corps received the 2014 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award for using engagement in the arts and the humanities to increase academic achievement, graduation rates and college enrollment.