Hip-hop dance, all grown up, in ‘Unreal Hip-Hop’
BECKET — Hip-hop dance, once the upstart new kid on the block, has now been around long enough that one of its biggest revolutions — the prominence of women in this formerly highly sexist genre — seems like it has always been thus, and one of its evolutions — the move from the street to the stage — is no longer just a sideshow attraction to the main event.
Certainly at Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival, which is presenting three groups in its exclusive "Unreal Hip-Hop" show, fully staged hip-hop performances have long been a regular part of its summer lineup. Meanwhile, among the 12 performers in the program's four pieces, seven are female and two of the three groups are led by women.
Jennifer Weber's 10-year-old Decadancetheatre was initially conceived as an all-female hip-hop company, but this time out, Weber includes a man in the cast of "4," her abstract dance set mostly to Antonio Vivaldi's "Four Seasons." The über-familiar score, gently remixed by DJ Boo, provides the accompaniment for the meat of the work, three main duets and one solo, beautiful and private set pieces that celebrate the range of physicality and expression within the group. In the final moments, Weber gathers the seven dancers ever so briefly into an ensemble, before, wonderfully, releasing them, like so many spinning tops, into recapitulations of their earlier sections.
Ephrat "Bounce" Asherie also invited a man, James "Cricket" Colter, to perform with her. In the duet "Step 4.2," Asherie challenged herself to push the form beyond two dancers performing side by side; the spirited result is more like a pas de deux, not in the content (Asherie's considerable ballet training aside, she's a bona fide
b-girl, and this piece is largely composed of hip-hop and breaking vocabulary) but in the powerful connections she and Colter make physically and emotionally. Though stylistically different — Asherie here the frisky extrovert to Colter's comparatively reticent introvert — this is a great match, the two bound by a palpable chemistry.
In her 2011 solo "brothers," Asherie is both tough and vulnerable: swaggering and gripping her crotch like one of the guys one moment; running her hands softly down her undulating torso the next. Asherie has an authoritative stage presence and can convey even archetypical behavior without succumbing to cliché.
And, indeed, hip-hop dance has also been around long enough that it's cycled through the public's eye from something unfamiliar to wildly popular, to, finally, sometimes, the occasional cliché. With their eccentric, funny, sometimes goofy "Broadway to Hip-Hop," The Wondertwins (Boston-born identicals and veteran poppers Billy and Bobby McClain) take us on a rambling tour through some of the highlights and influences of hip-hop's history, tossing in some of those clichés along the way.
Their ultimate reverence for it all — even the stuff that we may laugh at, affectionately — is infectious. Seems like the cool world of hip-hop can handle some grown-up love.