Edge

Hip-hop group talks 3-D choreography, gender roles

Courtesy Decadance

Decadancetheatre is bending gender roles through a 3-D hip-hop performance at the Adrienne Arsht Center this weekend.

The Brooklyn-based company, an entirely female group, is composed of dancers from around the world who strive to break the gender barriers of the hip-hop world by bringing dancers out of the background of music videos and onto center stage. The Miami Hurricane got a chance to talk to founder and artistic director Jennifer Weber about the group and what she does.

The Miami Hurricane: Let’s start at the beginning. What initially sparked your interest in hip-hop?

Jennifer Weber: I like that it is not just a dance, but that it’s also a culture. My introduction to hip-hop really came from the club scene in New York, and in London and in Philly. I guess that is what I thought was so cool about it – it was not just a dance style, but something greater.

TMH: What, then, inspired you to start your own company?

JW: When I first moved to New York, I realized that there were so few opportunities for hip-hop dancers – especially female hip-hop dancers – to do their thing. Most of the work for them is just being in a commercial and selling something, or being in a music video behind an artist. But there are just so many brilliant dancers who don’t get the opportunity to express themselves in full-length forms. I wanted to create opportunities for the artists who are part of hip-hop culture, to bring the art outside of the club scene, and to make it accessible to more people.

TMH: So what has the response been?

JW: It’s been amazing. People feel really inspired by us because we draw both a hip-hop audience, who might not think of hip-hop being longer than three minutes, and we also get more of a classical dance audience, who are used to seeing ballets in a certain way. But we’re really fusing the idea of concert dance with the vocabulary of hip-hop. So we’re bringing all these different audiences into the theater and everywhere we go, everyone has just loved it.

TMH: What is the message you hope they take away from one of your performances?

JW: I just hope they feel inspired – that’s my main goal – but I also hope that when they hear “women in hip-hop,” they don’t just think of booty dancers in a music video. In the old school roots of hip-hop, men, women and everyone did the same stuff, so I hope that people see that women can do everything that men can do, and dance doesn’t need to be about gender.

TMH: Have you seen any new trends in hip-hop? Are there women at the professional level?

JW: I’m seeing just more of everyone in hip-hop; now the culture is all over the world. You can go anywhere – Australia, Japan, France, England – and there are people participating in hip-hop, creating art with hip-hop, really using it as a language to express themselves. Our dancers in particular are very diverse, from Norway to Nigeria. We all know hip-hop, we all grew up on hip-hop and we all use it to work together.

TMH: What can the audience at the Arsht Center expect?

JW: The piece that we’re doing at the Arsht Center is called “When the Sky Breaks.” It’s a piece inspired by water. It has 3-D video projections, so the audience actually wears 3-D glasses, and we interact with the 3-D environment.

TMH: Wow, that sounds really fun to do and really fun to watch.

JW: We actually do a couple of pieces, but that’s the big piece in the show, we have a couple others as well. It’s really showing how beautiful hip-hop can be, and how strong women dancers can be.

TMH: On that idea of women and strength, what would you say to young women trying to challenge the gender barriers in any field?

JW: Just go for it, do it! For us, that means rocking stages all over the world, but there are so many ways for women to get involved and change the community.

Decadancetheater’s performances at the Arsht Center will be Friday at 7:30 p.m., and Saturday at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $35.00 and can be purchased at arshtcenter.org. For more information about the crew, visit decadancetheater.com or like their Facebook page.

January 29, 2012

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The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly on Thursdays during the regular academic year.