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‘Ignite: A Hip Hop Dance Experience’

High energy in an intimate space

Jul. 17, 2013
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Rare in Milwaukee and a first for Danceworks, “Ignite: A Hip Hop Dance Experience” is a concert devoted entirely to this highly personalized, richly varied, energetic contemporary dance style. Eight Milwaukee choreographers will contribute. Among them are Rasheeda Panniell and Jeffrey Yang, both hip-hop teachers at Danceworks, and Richard Brasfield, artistic director of Milwaukee’s Remix Dance Company.

These artists agree that local hip-hop dancers usually tour to other cities for this kind of opportunity. In Milwaukee, they have to rent space, share the stage with other entertainment in variety formats or dance in informal settings. Brasfield, who has toured the country for years as a soloist and with groups, expressed frank amazement that Danceworks is producing this focused concert in the organization’s intimate Studio Theatre as part of its summer season. His piece for eight dancers is a story of people in love and on the run.

Panniell, a New Jersey native, discovered hip-hop as a UW-Milwaukee student and has danced with several local companies. This is her first work as choreographer. Six carefully chosen dancers from the community will perform it. Her subject is love in its stages from romance to unconditional acceptance.

“I think all hip-hop dancers are self-taught to begin with, free-styling in front of the mirror,” Yang says. “Like Rasheeda, I started publicly dancing in college. This is fun, I thought! I grabbed people and formed a group at Michigan State.”

Yang thought his dancing days were over when he moved here from Grand Rapids two years ago. Then he discovered Danceworks. Now he teaches at three local studios. His work as a dance videographer led to the formation of a dance company here, HomeGrown Turnups, whose members have all contributed moves to the hard-core piece they will perform. A unifying concept is emerging in rehearsals.

Kim Johnson, the show’s organizer and Danceworks’ artistic manager, expects all three performances to sell out. “If you like to see a dancer’s personal flavors, see hip-hop,” she said. “These dancers are as committed and hard working as anyone in the styles I’m familiar with. I would love to see a show like this happen here several times a year. The energy of the dancers and music combined with the intimacy of the room—it’s going to be a great time!”

Performances are at 8 p.m. on Friday, July 19, and 6:30 and 9 p.m. on Saturday, July 20, at Danceworks Studio Theatre, 1661 N. Water St. Tickets are $10-$18. Call 414-277-8480 (ext. 6025) or visit danceworksmke.org for guaranteed seats.


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