Decadancetheatre: Brooklyn Breaks at the Arsht
In their 2004 performance, Decadance vs. the Firebird, the company remade Stravinsky's classic ballet. For their Miami debut at the Adrienne Arsht Center, they will perform When the Sky Breaks 3D, a live performance set in dimensional video.
Regardless of their experimental attitude, these dancers never forget their ties to the underground. As artistic director Jennifer Weber was warming up in the Miami sunshine, we got a chance to ask her about her company's philosophy.
New Times: Tell us about Decadancetheatre and what you do.
Jennifer Weber: Decadance is an all-female hip-hop crew based in Brooklyn. We basically experiment with hip-hop to push it in new theatrical directions. So we're looking at hip-hop as a language, and as a culture. We're looking at ways to use that language to tell stories that don't necessarily have anything to do with hip-hop itself.
From your perspective, what is the original culture of hip-hop?
We talk about hip-hop as a culture based on four elements: DJ-ing, MC-ing, graffiti, and dance, and a lot of people talk about a fifth element of hip-hop culture, which is knowledge. When I think about hip-hop culture, I think about participation and community, and the people who keep the culture alive. Which is very different than the commercial rap industry that's being sold.
I think people get confused about what hip-hop actually is.
A lot of people feel that way -- and a lot of people confuse hip-hop and rap. The simple way I think about it is that hip-hop is a culture you participate in, rap is something you can buy, like sneakers or champagne. If you can buy it, it's not a culture. It's just an industry.
What is the Brooklyn style?
New York is very based in foundation and technique. The further you get away from New York, the more experimental people get with hip-hop, in my opinion. Especially in Europe, they're doing some crazy fusion work. But I think that what is the same, everywhere, is that it is the language of people making something out of nothing-- where people who feel their voice is not heard come together to be heard.
Why do you think hip-hop is so big in Japan?
I spent a month there; it was crazy. Hip-hop in Japan is huge. In Tokyo alone, there must be 40 different studios that focus on hip-hop, where in New York, there are one or two. I think it's because Japanese culture is so restricted, it's all about following the rules, or the path that your parents set out for you.
Back in New York, where is hip-hop culture growing and happening?
I think it's growing in so many different places. The club scene in New York is unbelievable -- the parties and what's happening in the clubs with people coming together. People from all over the world come to New York, so we get this crazy mash-up of global voices. But it's not just in the clubs. It is also on the streets, it's also in dance studios and in theaters, it's in all these places. It's growing simultaneously underground, above ground, mainstream, counterculture.
And you bring it to the theater.
Yes, that's our main focus, bringing that underground energy, and rhythm, and heartbeat and vibe to the stage.
Decadancetheatre comes to the Carnival Studio at the Arsht Center for the Performing Arts on Friday, Feb. 3 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, Feb. 4 at 2 and 7:30 p.m. Tickets cost $35; go to arshtcenter.org.
-- Annie Hollingsworth, artburstmiami.com
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