GLASSBORO >> He’s been called “the most profound choreographer of his idiom” by The New York Times. Rennie Harris matches street dance with unexpected beats to challenge the boundaries and definitions of hip-hop. His company, Rennie Harris Puremovement, brings Nuttin' But A Word to Rowan University at 8 p.m. on Feb. 22 as part of the 19|20 Marie Rader Presenting Series.
Harris’ evening-length work takes its title from a phrase used among the black community in the United States: “You ain’t said nothing but a word.” Loosely translated, it means “Your words mean nothing; pay close attention, because what I do next will trump anything you have to say.” By changing the texture of the vocabulary, Harris exposes the essence of street dance and the culture that bore it.
Encompassing the diverse and rich African-American traditions of the past, while simultaneously presenting the voice of a new generation through an ever-evolving interpretation of dance, the company commits to sharing the essence and spirit of hip-hop rather than the commercially exploited stereotypes portrayed by the media.
Born and raised in an African American community in North Philadelphia, Harris has been teaching workshops and classes at universities around the country and advocating for the significance of “street” origins in any dance style since he was 15 years old. He started his career by forming dance groups during his teens, including The Scanner Boys, performing with and opening for acts like Afrika Bambaataa, Kool Moe Dee and the Treacherous Three, Grandmaster Flash, Doug E Fresh, Double Trouble, Whodini, Newcleus, Run DMC, Kurtis Blow, Madonna, Brandy, Sugar Hill Gang, Sister Sledge, Gloria Gaynor, The Tramps, and Debarge, among others. He worked for the TV dance shows Dancin' On Air and Dance Party USA before getting his own show, One House Street. At the turn of the century, alongside Princess Grace Kelly and Dr. Julius Erving, Harris was voted one of the most influential people in the last 100 years of Philadelphia history.
He founded Rennie Harris Puremovement in 1992 based on the belief that hip-hop culture is the most important original expression of a new generation. With its roots in inner-city African American and Latino communities, hip-hop can be characterized as a contemporary indigenous form, one that expresses universal themes that extend beyond racial, religious, and economic boundaries, and one that, because of its panracial and transnational popularity, can help bridge these divisions.
Nuttin But A Word is presented in Pfleeger Concert Hall on the Glassboro campus of Rowan University. Tickets are $25 (Standard) and $20 (Faculty, Staff, Alumni, Seniors/60+, Miltary, Non-Rowan students/18 & under, Glassboro residents, ADA Accessible Seating). Tickets for Rowan students are free (1 per ID). For tickets and information, visit rowan.tix.com, call the box office at (856) 256-4545, or email email@example.com.
Rennie Harris Puremovement is part of the 19|20 Marie Rader Presenting Series, which enriches the university community and the region through expanded performing arts programming. The series is made possible in part through generous support from the Henry M. Rowan Family Foundation via the Marie F. Rader Memorial Fund. Programming also is made possible by funds from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, a partner agency of the National Endowment for the Arts.